The man who began the campaign for third umpire
referrals in cricket has put his backing behind the
ICC's new initiative.
Starting with the Champions Trophy in India in
October, each team will be allowed three appeals to
the third umpire per innings, including for lbw
Former captain and umpire S. Venkataraghavan has
condemned the move, fearing on-field umpires will be
reduced to dummies.
But Anglo-Australia cricket author and journalist
David Frith strongly disagrees.
Venkat's fears may be justified, but I can only see
the matter one way: for a couple of hundred years the
umpires have been doing their best, but the catalogue
of incorrect decisions has inevitably been massive
beyond estimation. Putting an end to that would
liberate cricket, Frith said in an e-mail interview.
In Venkat's remark I detect a clue to the root of the
problem. Umpires relish the authority vested in them,
and it is that feeling of power that gives them great
satisfaction. But it is the greater wellbeing of
cricket that matters most
Frith began his campaign during Englands tour of
Australia in 1982-83 when he was editor of Wisden
When [Australian opening batsman] John Dyson was
shown to be run out in the opening over of the Sydney
Test, but was given not out, something set off alarm
bells in my head. Here we had millions in Australia
and Britain witnessing the batsman's dismissal in the
opening over of a
crucial Test match, but because, like the rest of us,
the umpire was merely human, Dyson was reprieved. He
batted for five hours to make 79, and my distraction
was such that I could not enjoy that Test match at
What sense did it make that we could all see that
the batsman was out of his ground when the stumps were
shattered, and yet he was allowed to bat on?
I brooded on this for several days, and then fired off
an editorial which sowed the first seeds in a campaign
that was to stretch over a decade until South Africa
gave the third-umpire system a trial [against India in
1992-93]. It was instantly shown as beneficial.
Frith says he was not surprised by the hostility he
faced from umpires during his campaign. It was quite
clear that, far from feeling relief that they could
now be spared the embarrassment of poor decisions,
they feared loss of responsibility.
It is many years
since a Test umpire barked: "You want to strip us of
our authority!" This was often followed by "You
might as well have a coat-hanger out there in the
middle if the umpire upstairs is going to make all the
Frith says he is all for TV replays to adjudge catches
and even lbw appeals and not just line-decisions
(stumpings and run-outs).
The possibility of allowing three appeals per day or
innings may be a start. But it worries me that this
would be an arbitrary way of dealing with the problem,
whereas if all appeals were dealt with "upstairs" -
always providing we have umpires of sound sight and
mind carrying out this crucial task--then cricket
would have rid itself at long last of the blight of
bad decision-making by men in white coats.