Umpire review system comes under fire

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> The umpire referral system currently on trial in Test cricket is causing problems, not solving them, according to many former players and officials.

Updated: March 12, 2009 16:24 IST
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The umpire referral system currently on trial in Test cricket is causing problems, not solving them, according to many former players and officials.

Teams participating in the trial are allowed to make an unlimited number of successful challenges, but only two unsuccessful referrals are allowed per innings. Critics claim the process is inconclusive, time-consuming and damaging to the on-field umpires.

In the recent series between West Indies and England, umpires had access to television replays but were not allowed to make full use of either the "Hawkeye" system that predicts the movement of a delivery or the "Hotspot" technology that can detect whether or not a batsman has hit the ball.

West Indies batsmen Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Brendan Nash were both given out lbw by the third umpire to balls that were missing the stumps in the fourth Test in Barbados, even though decisions are only supposed to be overturned if there is compelling evidence a mistake has been made.

Former West Indies captain Alvin Kallicharan said the system should be scrapped unless officials can have access to all available technology.

"If you're not going to get it right, I don't see how you can use it," he told the Associated Press. "The whole reason for doing it is to help umpires make correct decisions, but that doesn't seem to be happening. They're supposed to get access to all the technology."

That has eroded players' faith in the system, according to South Africa captain Graeme Smith.

"I don't have a lot of confidence in it at the moment, probably both teams are sheepish about it," Smith said after the second Test of the ongoing series with Australia in Durban. "I'm not too sure what I can and can't say, there were decisions that were wrong on the referrals in this match. If you are only using technology in a halfhearted way, it is only going to create more frustration."

Smith argues that television replays can't always prove whether a batsman has hit the ball.

"It's difficult to pick up those slight edges, whether you've nicked it or hit your pad," he said.

This in turn means umpires are spending far too long examining replays, says Kallicharan, who believes umpires' confidence is being undermined.

"There is a lot of conversation between umpires and most of them are not confident enough to stand by their decisions," he said. "So, they've got to go back and look at it again. If they can't get it right, they've got to stop using the replays and go back to the original (idea of) cricket."

Players have also been accused of exploiting the system. In the fifth Test between West Indies and England in Trinidad, Chanderpaul was given out by the on-field umpire after apparently nicking a delivery from Graeme Swann to wicketkeeper Matt Prior.

Chanderpaul initially appeared to accept the decision but was told to refer it by his teammates, and he was reinstated when third umpire Aleem Dar was unable to determine whether he had hit the ball after repeatedly watching replays of the incident.

Former England bowler Dean Headley argues players and umpires should also use commonsense when replays prove inconclusive.

"I played in one Test when (Australia's) Michael Slater was run out by about two feet," he said. "We knew it, Slater knew it, but the umpire couldn't see the wicket and the player all in one frame, so he didn't give it. There's got to be commonsense."

Headley agreed with Kallicharan about giving the umpire the best possible tools for the job.

"If you're going to have the technology, let's have the best," Headley said. "There's always in a Test match one passage of play when a game's won or lost, so let's eliminate the mistakes."

Headley says the system is "probably a good idea," but argues that the speed at which Test cricket is played makes it difficult for a player to be certain about what has happened on the field. He believes this adds to the pressure on players not to waste referrals.

"The bowler always thinks he's got the guy out and the batsman always believes they're not out" he said. "In the heat of battle you're emotional, and because it's limited to two referrals it's not always right to appeal."

Dave Richardson, the ICC's general manager, told Sky Sports the experiment has been worthwhile, if only to reveal its flaws.

"We wanted to be quite sure what technology worked," Richardson said. "Part of the trial was to determine what exactly would work and to show the system, warts and all."

Richardson also defended the ICC's decision to conduct the trials at the highest level, saying there was insufficient television coverage of domestic cricket.

The results of the trials will be assessed by the ICC in May.

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