Ever since the ICC announced earlier this year that referrals system would soon become a fact of life, and that additional tools like the ‘Hot Spot’ technology would be trialled as part of the initiative, there have been occasional murmurs of dissent.
Ian Chappell pegged his naysaying on the fact that ‘technology’ as we know it involves a human hand.
It would be ironic if umpires, in the name of fairness, aren’t allowed to stand in Tests where their country is playing, but a behind-the-scenes-operator who has a “home side” involved in the match has a say in the decision-making process. Also, will these behind-the-scenes- operators be subject to the same corruption regulations that apply to players and officials? If they’re not, they should be.
It’s time to concentrate on ways to improve the standard of umpiring rather than harbour the misguided belief that the use of more “technology” is going to enhance the officiating. The reliance on off-field help in the decision-making process is part of the problem rather than being the solution.
Former umpire Peter Willey took another tack shortly after Chappelli’s column, and argued that reliance on technology would have an adverse impact on human skills.
“Umpires who have done Tests for five or six years have lost the art of giving out run-outs and stumpings – they just refer everything,” Willey wrote in the October issue of Wisden Cricketer. “If you have all the technology for a number of years you are going to lose the art of giving out caught-behinds, lbws and everything else because the third umpire is doing everything for you.
“The umpire will end up hardly having to make a decision. Then he stops doing Tests and goes back into first-class cricket and he has to start learning again. It could be dangerous for an umpire’s career.”
Fair enough for a former umpire to see things from the point of view of that profession, but I am not sure the average cricket fan would be moved by an argument aimed not at improving the quality of refereeing but at prolonging the career of an umpire. Besides, if umpires increasingly refer close run outs upstairs, it only means we get better line decisions — and where’s the harm in that?
Trust Simon Taufel to bring some balance to the debate.
Despite your continued excellence over a number of years, no one involved can be happy all of the time. How do you handle the criticism from players and the media, including the “Awful Taufel” UK headlines of a few years back?
You do your best. If you make a judgment error, then you learn from it and become better. If you make the same type of mistake, that’s when people should be critical. But don’t forget, we’re up against around 25 cameras and all the tools of super slow motion, Snicko, Hot Spot and Hawk-Eye, and we still get 95% of our decisions correct – that’s pretty good in my book! The challenge for me is to get as close to 100% as possible, realising that I cannot be perfect but I can be excellent.
What’s your view on umpires getting more help through TV technology?
There is no easy answer when it comes to technology. The fundamentals for me are: firstly, having the right balance; having consistently accurate technology; but most of all, having the umpire make the right decision in the first place. Technology can be used to assist the umpire get the decision right, not replace him. Yes, the game has changed and we need to change with it – that’s being professional. Technology has a place, provided it gives us a more reliable and accurate answer than an umpire and it is used to enhance the game, not dominate. I’d like to see more effort put into helping umpires develop greater skills and better performances before giving all the decision-making to technology.
I’d think the bad umpire will, as the likes of Chappell and Willey warn, get lazy while the good umpire will learn to harness technology to aid his decision-making and to get things as close to 100 per cent as possible.
Incidentally, when umpires talk of getting things 95 per cent right, that is one bad decision for every ten wickets that fall, and four bad decisions in course of a Test — even assuming that all umpires are hitting the 95 per cent standard. Add to it, the four bad decisions need not be evenly spaced out across a Test but could come in a cluster, to the detriment of the prospects of a particular team. Equally, they could come at crucial moments, and irrevocably turn the course of games. All of which is an argument for using any and all tools to try and hit the 100 per cent mark.