Referrals come to Test cricket

Look out for the 'T' sign. Player challenging umpiring decisions will become a reality starting with the India-Sri Lanka Test series.

updated: July 26, 2008 12:56 IST
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Look out for the 'T' sign. Cricket is going the tennis way. Player challenging umpiring decisions will become a reality starting with the India-Sri Lanka Test series.

A player can use the sign if he feels he was wrongly given out. Each team will get three referrals per innings and just like in tennis, those referrals will count as used only if they are unsuccessful.

The umpiring system had one big failing - viewers and players could see an umpire blundering but the TV umpire wasn't allowed to intervene. The controversial Sydney Test, where Steve Bucknor hogged the limelight for his mistakes, probably fast tracked the decision to enhance the use of technology in cricket.

Mark Benson, an umpire on ICC's elite panel, says, "I gather that India have got on the wrong end of a few wrong ones but when England were playing South Africa at home, they didn't want the referral system and a few have gone against them. In my day, everyone used to walk, and nowadays, no one walks, you see. We used to say that in our day, if someone didn't walk then you have to expect to get the wrong decision sometimes."

Speaking of wrong decisions, Rudi Koertzen publicly apologised to Kumar Sangakkara for handing him a shocker in Australia last year. Interestingly, Koertzen becomes the first TV umpire to have these extensive powers. His on-field colleagues though certainly don't envy him.

Billy Doctrove, an Elite Panel umpire, says, "I feel more comfortable on the field. When you're an on field umpire, you've to depend on the producer giving you the pictures that you need to take a decision. Even now, the TV umpire has to pass on information to the guys out in the middle. But generally I prefer to be out there."

Doctrove will be in the hot seat during the Third test and will be able to use Hawkeye when a batsmen or fielding captain challenges an LBW - but only in a limited way.

The third umpire can use Hawkeye to see where the ball pitched and hit the batsman, but he can't use it to predict if the ball would hit the stumps for the LBW. This is a contentious aspect of these trials.

And the question is just who will decide when to appeal a decision.

Anil Kumble, India's captain, says, "Whenever we're fielding it's the captain's call, when I'm bowling it's my call, it'll be a little more easier when I'm bowling and maybe I'll ask the wicketkeeper before we decide. And then when we're batting, it's only obvious errors, when we won't go up for everything. If a batsman's nicked it and he's been given out LBW, then he has to refer to it."

One of the main factors in whether this umpiring trial is successful or not will be based on time. Some feel the challenges will further slow down the game and wreak havoc on the already poor over rates. But others feel that's a small price to pay for making the game error free.