Umpires enter new era By Thrasy Petropoulos
BBC Sport Online
Guyana Chronicle
September 13, 2002

Related Links: Articles on Windies cricket
Letters Menu Archival Menu

NO sooner had it been announced that umpires at the Champions Trophy would be given greater access to television technology in order to make decisions than Dickie Bird sprung to life.

"The umpire as we know him is finished," he blustered.

And he was not wrong.

In fact, the only inaccuracy was the tense - umpires, as Dickie knew them, were finished long ago.

Who, after all, could imagine the likes of Dickie Bird - an old-fashioned Yorkshireman, if ever there was one - emerging from an ICC conference in Cape Town armed with a laptop computer, as the eight elite umpires did last March.

After the Champions Trophy, life will never be the same for the international umpire.

Line decisions - stumpings, run-outs and boundaries - are at present routinely referred to third, or ‘television’, umpires.

To those will now be added bat-pad catches and clarification on whether the ball pitched in line with the stumps or hit the bat in leg-before decisions. And other areas of decision-making could follow.

For now, the ICC have stopped short of employing the services of Hawkeye and the Snickometer - devices which suggest whether the ball has taken the edge of the bat or hit the pad - as they are not deemed factual.

Likewise, low catches and regulation edges behind will not be referred as the television pictures involved are often inconclusive. Recent research in Australia showed that 13 out of 14 instances of television umpires being asked to judge low catches ruled in favour of the batsman.

And when, finally, the bowler was rewarded it was, apparently, a mistake.

At last, therefore, umpires will be privy to much of the information available to television viewers.

Though the calling of no-balls remains the job of the field umpire, his counterpart can be consulted to offer an opinion on most other decisions.

Once contacted, the third umpire can consider any of the matters within his remit - regardless of the initial request.

Given two replays, he will relate his findings to the field umpire, who will in turn send the batsman on his way with a traditional raised index finger or shout "not out". Gone, therefore, will be the red and green lights used at present.

Gone, too, will be the trial by technology that umpires are subjected to in these days of super slow mo's and web cams.

International arbiters are instead being asked to become their own fiercest critics.

They are being encouraged to study footage of their decisions at the end of each day's play, recorded on the CD Roms given to them in Cape Town.

And, through e-mail, they will be in continual contact with other umpires and administrators about events from international matches around the world.

If the experiment at the Champions Trophy - and it is just an experiment - is well received, the increased use of technology could become standard practice as early as the World Cup in February and March next year.

To do so, the ICC would have to convene a meeting of the Cricket Committee-Playing (CC-P) - made up of former international players - to pass judgment. The view of the elite umpires and ten Test-playing nations, all of whom will be involved in Sri Lanka, would, of course, form a major part of those discussions.

But as Sunil Gavaskar, who was involved in the CC-P meeting that voted for the increased use of technology, said: "International umpires do a difficult job extremely well.

"The ICC wants to support umpires and if this experiment proves that technology can make that contribution it will be considered for further use in the international game."

Rather than being finished, umpires could be about to find that a more enjoyable - certainly better informed - life is about to begin.