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By Partab Ramchand
Simultaneously watching the two contests – England vs Pakistan and India vs Sri Lanka – one can come to the conclusion that the Umpires Decision Review System certainly has a positive role to play in the smooth conduct of the game. One series has it the other didn’t and it is clear that the time has come for the International Cricket Council to ensure usage of the UDRS in every Test series. Selective implementation in unfair and confusing. Having it in one series and scrapping it for another is tough on both umpires and players.
As one who has enthusiastically backed the UDRS I am glad to note that the system has been receiving more and more backing the most recent being FICA the international players’ body. It has called upon the ICC to adopt a firm policy – either make it applicable in all Tests or none. Most significantly Virender Sehwag has spoken in its favour a view at variance with his teammates and the Indian Cricket Board.
Before Sehwag aired his views, two captains Australia’s Ricky Ponting and Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara also took the stand that the ICC should implement the UDRS in every Test match, an opinion shared by just retired international panel umpire Rudy Koertzen. Ponting has pointed out that while Australia’s series against India in October will be played without the UDRS the system will be in place again when they take on England in the Ashes series at home and said that such inconsistency should be avoided.
Koertzen is firmly of the view that selective implementation was unfair on the umpires as it meant that they had some sort of assistance in one contest while in the other they were on their own. ``It's only going to make it harder for the guys if it goes that route,’’ he said and he had a very valid point. Other umpires who have supported the implementation of the UDRS include Daryl Harper and Aleem Dar.
If the ICC believes that the system is needed for cricket to progress then it should be mandatory for all teams. It should not come to be a mutual agreement between two countries to have it or not to have it.
I have always advocated the usage of UDRS and have failed to understand the reluctance of some teams not to adopt it. Any new system might have teething problems but in the long run if it helps in minimizes errors – and few would argue that the UDRS is unable to do this – then it should be encouraged. To be candid had the system been applied in every Test match since the ICC approved it over a year ago even the teething problems might well have been overcome.
There are those who are against the increasing role of technology in cricket especially as they feel it undermines the role of the umpires and turns them into robots. While there is some beef in this argument overall the greater use of technology is bound to produce the right results and the sight of a disappointed batsman incorrectly given out returning to the pavilion shaking his head in disbelief and looking back over his shoulder over and over again will hopefully soon vanish from the cricket field.
In the ultimate analysis the new system for all its faults would reduce instances of bad decisions and that has to be good for the game. We have seen the referral system tried out at Wimbledon and it worked really well. There is no reason to believe that it will not work in cricket too. There is no chance of things getting out of hand since the number of referrals are limited to two per innings a side. In the long run I am sure it will be hailed as a welcome development but for that to happen the ICC should take a firm stand on its mandatory implementation right now.