Udrs: Albatross Around The ICC Neck
Inderjit Bindra, the former BCCI chief, had boasted after the World Cup was allotted to the subcontinent that the tournament will bring India to a standstill. Everything will stop except cricket in the country around of one billion because as he put it “it is not only a passion but a religion”. Well Cricket World Cup is half way through and surprisingly nothing has stopped, the matches not involving India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh (in their respective countries) has failed to attract the fans, most of the stadia are not even half full when the host teams are not involved. But the World Cup is more than the crowd, it is all about the sponsors and TV commercials and as per the reports they are doing very well and that serves the purpose of hosting this world cup in the subcontinent.
Unlike World Cup football, where the game’s body FIFA makes it mandatory for the hosts to look after the comforts of the fans, the International Cricket Council (ICC) is a toothless body which is just interested in earning the huge money. So it is not surprising that fans get lathi-charged, be it in Mirpur, Bengaluru or Nagpur while they stand in long queues for tickets because the organisers are just not interested in them. They are more bothered about the sponsors and the people who wield clout and have financial muscle.
Cricket in India is all about money, glamour and glitz in which ordinary people (fans) have a very peripheral role. Despite being the richest cricket body, the BCCI has never bothered about the comforts of the fans and it has become evident once again in the ongoing tournament. It is the sheer financial clout of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) which is running the international cricket as was evident when Eden Gardan was deprived of India-England match, or Wankhade stadium was given all clear certificate to host the final, despite several objections.
However, on the field, not every thing is going as per the BCCI script and it has decided to take on the ICC openly on the issue of Umpires Decision Review System (UDRS). The BCCI was well aware of the fact that ICC had decided to implement the UDRS in this World Cup but because one decision did not go in favoure of India, it came out against the system saying: “It is still not convinced about the UDRS in the World Cup.”
The Indian board rushed to the defence of skipper MS Dhoni who criticised the UDRS after England batsman Ian Bell was not given LBW in the match at Bengaluru despite TV replays showing that the ball was in line with the stumps. The incident happened when Bell was batting on 17 and he went on to score crucial 69 that helped England tie the game. Dhoni called the UDRS ‘adulteration of technology with human thinking’ and said it was not a good idea. ICC General Manager (cricket) Dave Richardson reacted sharply saying Indian captain should have been well aware of the UDRS rules.
This was not liked by the BCCI and promptly wrote a letter to ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat to express its displeasure about the UDRS. In the letter, BCCI Secretary N Srinivasan said: “BCCI takes strong objection to Mr David Richardson criticising the Indian captain MS Dhoni. Mr. Richardson’s comment that the Indian captain should know the rules is out of place. The Indian captain only highlighted the inadequacy of the system and rightly so.”
“It was there for the world to see. For ICC’s representative to criticise a player for his post-match press conference while the World Cup is being played is tantamount to pressurising the player. Mr Richardson has no right to do so. BCCI has strong reservations about the statement made by Mr Richardson. He should be instructed not to react in this fashion,” Srinivasan said. He further said that BCCI has consistently opposed the usage of UDRS as it is not convinced about the technical adequacy of the system.
A presentation made by Hawk Eye to BCCI where Mr S Venkataraghavan, former international umpire and Director of Umpires, BCCI, was present was not convincing and the suppliers of the technology themselves felt ‘a leap of faith’ was necessary in order to accept the system. “The inadequacy of the UDRS has been exposed in the CWC 2011. The group stage match between India and England was a case in point which clearly brought out the inadequacy of the system. ICC in consultation with Hawk Eye formed playing conditions which specify when the umpire can rely on Hawk Eye and when he cannot. This itself is an admission on the question of reliability of the system including ball tracking technology,” Srinivasan added.
However the question being asked is then why BCCI accepted UDRS for this World Cup. If it had taken a firm stand against the system, ICC would not have dared to implement it. So is it a case of grapes gone sour. According to veteran cricket writer Makarand Waingankar the World Cup has become a testing ground for a debatable system,
“The inconsistent use of the UDRS has caused fresh controversy and invited a lot of criticism. The 2.5 metre rule that has exposed the UDRS is not the handiwork of one person in the ICC. Though the BCCI on behalf of the Indian team has been steadfastly opposing the system, the ICC for reasons best known to it is implementing it in international matches not involving India.
“Dhoni like many cricketers, officials and some people from the media may not be aware of the process but it was certainly the duty of the representatives of India in the ICC committees to have briefed the nation through the media about certain contentious issues in the playing conditions,” he wrote in The Hindu.
The ICC cricket committee, which met in May 2010 in London, approved the playing conditions for the World Cup. These were accepted by the Chief Executives’ Committee and then the ICC Executive Board in Singapore in June 2010. All members including the President of the ICC Sharad Pawar and the officials of the BCCI were present.
According to Waingankar, BCCI Secretary N Srinivasan, who shot off an angry letter asking Haroon Lorgat to stop David Richardson from making statements on such sensitive issues, was also present at the ICC Executive Board’s meeting that was held in Singapore.
There may be faults with the UDRS but if the 2.5 metre rule had to be introduced then the ICC ought not to have tried it out at a mega event like the World Cup. The umpires are now under tremendous pressure. The World Cup has become a testing laboratory for a debatable system, he added.
NEW GUIDELINES UMPIRES WILL USE IN THE WORLD CUP
When a not-out LBW decision is reviewed, and the replay shows the ball has made impact more than 2.5 metre away from the wickets, the umpires also have to consider another factor: the distance the ball has travelled between pitching and hitting the pad. If that distance is less than 40 cm, and the ball still has to travel more than 2.5 metre to reach the stumps, then, it has been decided, any not-out decision given by the on-field umpire will remain not out.
It has also been decided that if the batsman is more than 3.5 metre down the wicket, then again not-out decisions will not be overturned. The only scenario in which an LBW decision will be reversed in favour of the bowler if the batsman is more than 2.5 metre away from the wicket is if the distance is less than 3.5 metre and the distance between pitching and point of impact is more than 40 cm. In that case, some part of the ball must be hitting middle stump, and the whole ball must be hitting the stumps below the bails. That was the case when Yuvraj Singh reviewed a decision against Alex Cusack in Sunday’s tie between India and Ireland, which is why umpire Rod Tucker reversed his decision. The 2.5 metre rule was not being used in the same way at the start of the tournament, which is why Billy Bowden refused to change his not-out call when Ian Bell had been hit more than 2.5 metre down the pitch against India, even though Hawk Eye was showing the ball to be hitting middle and leg.
Rattled by the severe criticism a tenative ICC issued revised guidelines for the UDRS and 2.5 m rule. This could only happen in cricket. Just imagine FIFA changing the rules midway through the soccer World cup.
The revised set of guidelines for the way the 2.5 metre rule in the UDRS will be interpreted that says umpires must also consider the distance between the ball pitching and point of impact. The ICC announced a tweak in the guidelines, allowing on-field umpires to reverse not-out decisions if the replays showed part of the ball to be hitting middle stump, even if the batsman was hit more than 2.5 metre away.
In essence, the new guidelines will allow umpires to reverse decisions where the batsman is plumb and there is no doubt the ball would have hit the stumps, even if the impact is far down the wicket. The reason the 40 cm distance is important is because Hawk Eye needs to monitor the ball’s movement for some distance after it has pitched in order to determine where it would have gone after hitting the pad. If a batsman is struck very soon after the ball has bounced, then the accuracy of the prediction as to where the ball would have moved afterwards is not as high.
In cases where the original decision is out, the 2.5 metre or 40 cm distance does not come into play, as in that situation Hawk Eye must show the ball to be completely missing the stumps in order for the umpire to reverse his decision.
The 2.5 metre rule has been under scrutiny in the tournament so far, but the ICC hopes these guidelines will clear up any confusion and will allow for the rule to be interpreted uniformly by all the umpires during the World Cup. ICC General Manager Dave Richardson said the UDRS had allowed for a very high percentage of correct decisions in the World Cup so far, and clarified that the 2.5 metre rule had not been changed, but they had just put together some guidelines so it could be used consistently. “This is not a change in rules as some people have suggested but a broad guideline which we hope will bring a consistency to the decision making,” he said.
West Indies captain Darren Sammy and Bangladesh skipper Shakib Al Hassan have come out in support of UDRS. Sammy said: “I think it’s a good asset to have in today’s game as it minimises errors. It brings out the correct decision most of the time. I’ve have no problems with it. It’s a good addition to the game.”
Shakib Al Hasan, was of the view that the UDRS is more beneficial than detrimental. “I have no complains, I don’t know about the others,” he said adding: “Technology helps, maybe not 100 per cent of the times. I still feel we should use it.”
However Sri Lanka Skipper Kumar Sangakkara has criticised the ICC for “chopping and changing” the 2.5 metre rule in LBW decision: “I think the ICC has got to be careful not to make rules seem confusing for human use. Chopping and changing during a tournament is going to add to the confusion.”
The ICC was not worried about the skippers views on UDRS issue rather it wanted to humour the BCCI. Admitting that it had difference of opinion with the Indian board on the controversial Umpire Decision Review System but denied it has soured their relationship. ICC Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat denied the governing body has fallen out with the world’s richest, and most influential, cricket board. “We share an excellent relationship with the BCCI. We have to accept that there will be difference of opinions from time to time but we are mature enough to work through those,” Lorgat said.
He admitted that UDRS was not foolproof. “My understanding is that it’s a work in progress. We would continually work with the technology providers… to try and improve it all the time.
“We are aware that there is limited availability of Hot Spot (cameras which provide a reliable image of the ball’s contact with bat or pad).
“In spite of its absence, we have got something like a five per cent improvement in correct decision-making. I believe one cannot ignore that.”
By Harpal Singh Bedi