Thursday, April 12, 2007

The ump-teenth appeal

OK! So we’re back in business with access to Photoshop and everything. Apologies for the poor headline, I thought of a good pun, but didn’t know how to use it. A condition that has haunted me all my life.

Nevertheless, look at the picture! It really improves the quality of the blog, doesn’t it? It’s got David Shepherd in it. Now he was the man. You tell that young Aussie what for, Shep!

Bugger writing, we like the piccies. I’ve become The Sun of the internet world.

So, first up, an interesting English domestic issue: players will be able to refer all dismissals to the Third Umpire if they disagree with the field umpire’s decision in televised matches of the 50-over Friends Provident Trophy (the former C & G Trophy). This will operate on a trial basis, starting from April 29.

For the fielding team, only the captain may appeal against a decision, whereas any batsman can refer to the Third Umpire. Much has been made of the potential of this to slow down the game and undermine the umpire’s authority on the pitch. One umpire said, “There is the potential for it to be a disaster.” But this is true of anything.

Like powerplays and strategic pinch-hitting, it is likely that this new facility will be integrated into the game to be used as another tactic. I imagine that fielding teams would be loathed to use their appeal initially, but will try to grab the momentum when the middle order breaks into the tail-enders to finish off an inning. Similarly, for batsman, unless they are certain they didn’t nick it, I think they will rarely appeal except in dire situations. Maybe they’ll try to chance their arm to save their best batsman? But, seeing as it will be up to the blokes out there, it depends on how twatish they are – you can bet Kevin Pieterson will be appealing repeatedly.

Interestingly, the ECB has decided not to allow the use of the snickometer or Hawk-eye. Quite what the Third Umpire will bring to proceedings is anyone’s guess. I, for the life of me, cannot detect whether the batsman had nicked it over the television. The background interference and imperfections in technology make it all but impossible to perceive a noticeable difference. However, tedious over-analysis of LBW decisions normally gives a conclusive result either way.

Not only will this act to further undermine the field umpires confidence and authority on the pitch, but it also has the potential to reduce the quality of umpiring in the long-term. If the umpires give a decision based on their immediate thoughts, knowing that poor judgement can be corrected, we might develop a culture of dependence. I doubt it though. More likely, the lowering standards of respect that the umpires are given by professional players (there’s still deference at club level) is probably going to drop lower still.

What is baffling me about this whole issue is whether it is important at all. Much is made of a match changing because of a poor decision. So what? Matches change all the time: that’s cricket. It changes when a few wickets are lost; it changes when quick runs are scored. It is all part of the game.

However, I find it hard to believe how a forensic examination of a passage of play will add to the charm of cricket. Indeed, it stuns me when bowlers display self-righteous indignation when a marginal decision goes against them. The differences we are talking about here are of the slightest degrees: less than an inch one way or the other. Unfortunately, no bowler has this much control over the ball, and this degree of movement is more due to the “unfair” pitch than anything.

In reality, when looking at marginal dismissals we are looking into the world of chance. Skill, knowledge and foresight and hazed out by the unpredictable probabilities that determine the outcome of play. The MCC rules took the most sensible line, on this matter, and put the onus of proof on the fielding time. However, considering the nature of flat pitches these days, we may wish to reconsider this initial principle, yet we can a priori reach some systematic settlement for the lottery moments. The rule change will distabilise this solid scheme of laws that have governed the game so well.


Tim said...

Great blog mate.

I'll add your link to my blog ( and would appreciate it if you could return the favour!

The Atheist said...


To hear is to obey.