March 26, 2010

On the UDRS:

The debate has been raging for a while among cricket officials and players alike. And it concerns UDRS which expands as Umpire Decision Review system, one of ICC's initiatives 'intended' to assist the on-field umpires on the one hand and more importantly ensure a level of fairness and consistency in the way decisions are handed out on the other. While the system has thus far been used only on a purely experimental basis with the agreement of the team captains in question like in the series earlier this year between England and South Africa, the future of the system remains clouded not just by controversy it has set off but also by the principles on which it is founded. Let me elaborate.

One of the greatest things about sport is the all-round human element associated with it which leads to unpredictability and therefore excitement. The very fact that live sporting contests attract more crowds than films and more attention than video game counterparts in XBox versions goes a long way towards consolidating live sport as one of THE favoured forms of entertainment for spectators worldwide. The very advent of something like a referral system suggests that those who are involved with the game - the officials, the players and in some sense the fans - are missing a crucial point. For all the adrenaline rush, colours and sounds, excitements and thrills and the money involved, a sport is still a sport and should remain one in the view of all those associated with it.

The necessity then for something like a referral system surfaces when every sports person's minutest fortune is scrutinised beyond justification (and compare) courtesy our incessantly bellowing friends at the media who themselves find it very convenient to watch six or seven replays - sometimes from several thousand angles - from the air-conditioned press or commentary boxes. Naturally, when some of these decisions turn out to be erroneous stones are pelt at poor umpires despite the charitable rhetoric, "The umpires get only one look!" The defenders of technology having awaited their turn patiently would assert that it is because they are in possession of "several angles" that they wish for them to assist the umpires and players and making the game fairer and better at large. However, the question begs to be asked: is the referral system capable of achieving at least some of the lofty ends it aims to achieve?

For starters, the system in its present form is a bit like a beta version of a software and its problems were fairly evident in the contests between South Africa and England. With a fixed number of reviews allowed for each team, ICC's aim is noble in that it aims to keep the human factor largely intact with technological advice sought by the players only whenever critical. But the indiscretion with which the teams used the same and the displeasure that followed when the teams still did not get the decision they 'thought' was justified showed that the URDS only compounded problems and did not mitigate complications on the field; not to mention the amount of time that is lost when most of these reviews are done. It seems prima facie to me therefore that the UDRS is rather an urgently sought arrangement which is a product of some obfuscated thinking. And the fact that it is "neither here nor there" as of now and places players and umpires on tenterhooks speaks against it.

Even if the referral system does not contribute anything to the game, it should not as an initiative stunt the game in anyway. But based on what we saw on-field in South Africa as well as opinions we have had from umpires, captains and some reputed past cricketers there is a fairly obvious possibility that the system may do just that. For starters, by "subjecting" a human decision to a review two signals are being sent neither of which is right in my opinion (and one cannot think of the chair umpire's call being revoked in tennis or the match referees red or yellow card contested in soccer): an umpire's confidence is less likely to be trusted and as a consequence more umpires may be led to being 'naysayers' since teams have a 'second appeal' anyway. The referral system proposed is surely not an outright insult to human judgment in sport but at least a strong enough threat for the same which is inadmissible. In a sense it brings back dissent against human decisions through the back door.

I say this because the 'human element' is what makes the game a great leveller. While I am at loggerheads with a lot of what the former Australian skipper Ian Chappell says, I find myself concurring totally when he opines that over a cricketer's career the good and bad decisions even out: at the end of the day as most objective minds will tell you, the columns have to tally and tally they do in cricket. To not allow that to happen naturally is a shame and is against one of the rudimentary premises - if not principles - on which the once Gentleman's Game is run. And where a player has been hard done by, more often than not it has little, if nothing, to do purely with wrong umpiring decisions.

Lastly, marginal LBW and caught-behind decisions are the ones most likely to come under the scanner should the UDRS be adopted. But as things stand, the ICC core panel already comprises great umpires who get most of their decisions spot-on even without assistance. And these are names like Billy Bowden, Daryl Harper and Simon Taufel who are held in pretty high esteem by players round the world. While soaring media attention - read -'pressure'- in the game might be one of the factors instrumental in the hiked umpiring standards, to bring the media in the form of technology even more into human umpiring would, in my opinion, be an overkill. For all we know, we might be left beholding a Frankenstein rather than a facility. And that is not a baby anyone would like to hold. Let's hope the investigation headed by the West Indian legend Clive Lloyd and his team returns with good findings and sensible proposals.

PS: For a more pragmatic, if more progressive, view on the UDRS read Roebuck here on The Hindu dated March 27, 2010.

11 comments:

vEnKy said...

Computers are incredibly fast, accurate, and stupid. Human beings are incredibly slow, inaccurate, and brilliant. Together they are powerful beyond imagination. --> Albert Einstein

I am all for UDRS unlike you. If you can the get the right decisions most of the time. There is point in saying we have to let people get seconds chances there are carreers at stake here.

I bet If UDRS wasnt adopted in the SA vs ENG match the result would have been different. The UDRS is the way forward.

I think people who oppose UDRS are conservative according them everything is wrong the first time they do it.

As far the the restriction goes it will make them think twice before appealing. If they have restriction people argue why do they have it If they dont exist they argue otherwise.

ah why dont we accept the change.

Srini said...

You are right Venks, my stand on UDRS is ultra-conservative and I do not mind admitting that. However, it is not suggestive of a general resistance to change anyhow because I am quite excited – though on tenterhooks – about the ECB’s idea of splitting a one-day innings into four parts.
Remaining with UDRS, you can read Roebuck’s article on today’s Hindu: you will love it for what he has to say. As for the ‘restriction’ – my argument w.r.t to it – I think you went a little scathingly overboard. If you return to the text and read carefully, I have said nothing against the restriction but the indiscretion with which skippers used it with specific reference to the series between England and South Africa.
Aside: quotes are fine but you hardly clinch any argument by them. Lol. As I always say, each quote is a product of a mind in its circumstances and there are quotes for everything. The same giant who has talked of the stupidity of the human brain thinks that “intelligent men solve problems, wise men avoid them!” While I appreciate your points, I have never been a great lover of quotes when it comes to using them in bolstering one’s end.
Finally, I agree with you: too early to ‘judge’ UDRS. If it does good for the game *applause* and I wouldn’t mind eating my words.

vEnKy said...

point one: he didnt say human brain is stupid he said it slow and inaccurate

Point 2: so there is no point in arguing that he talked about stupidity

Point 3: Well if you didnt love quotes why do i see a lot retweets of sixwell's quotes :D

Point 4: Though quotes as you say is a product mind, everything in the world. But this mind we are talking about is probably the greatest mind ever without whatever we are wouldnt have been possible.

Point 5: I quoted it to say that human element along with machines aka computer is a powerful combination

Point 6: I talked about people in general regarding the restrictions not what you have to say about it.

Srini said...

Point one: The generalisation was mine, accepted - so yeah I concede that it was my fault, Point 2 accepted as well.

Point 3: I knew you are naughtily clever. I never said I do not like quotes; all that I said is you can use quotes depending on the situation. To quote from my previous comment: "have never been a great lover of quotes when it comes to using them in bolstering one’s end."

Point 4:There may be little doubt in that Einstein is one of the world's finest minds. I ADMIRE the man as a human being too but that does not mean one should not disagree with him. In fact, I very much disagree when it comes to the quote about resolving and avoiding problems. As a rule, I do not think problems can be avoided in life. And as a rule, if I find something against my PRINCIPLE I would say I disagree and also say it is just my opinion.

Point 5: I am afraid your intention to talk of human element in collaboration with machines did not come through clearly. Particularly after the quote you had employed, I was inclined to think that you were privileging machines. I am afraid that's a very logical conclusion from my end.

Point 6: You did, granted, so in that sense no problems.

Srini said...

And I must also admit I made a goose of myself in reading parts of the Einstein quote. ;) :D If I had read it properly, much of the argument should have been averted I guess.

Anyhow... cheers, good day!

vEnKy said...

This that quote and i suggest you to read carefully.
I dont mind you disagree but before that please understand.

Computers are incredibly fast, accurate, and stupid. Human beings are incredibly slow, inaccurate, and brilliant. Together they are powerful beyond imagination.

What the quote says is computers are accurate and quick but they are stupid because they cant take decisions on their own.

the second part of the quote says humans are slow, inaccurate but are intellingent because we can take decisions on our own according to the situation and we created the former.

The second quote "An intelligent person solves problems and a wise avoids it"

I dont why you said this contradicts the above because it has connection whatsoever.

For a matter of fact and problem can be avoided. Just some gyan.

Driving with a license and with an helmet on you avoid the problem of being caught for driving without the above.

But if you dont have the above if they bribe and get away. That may be immoral but intelligent.

So problems can be solved :D

Srini said...

I am poor with repeating quotes - I am referring to the one on problems - so forgive me that.

But... coming from where I do, I guess problems canNOT be avoided. ;) :D Sometimes it becomes necessary to court controversy. I have been there done that far too often!

vEnKy said...

Or let me put it this way May be you arent wise enough to avoid them :D

Srini said...

That I have known for quite a while now :D :D

vEnKy said...

10 comments our blog is hitting sky high hahaha :D thanks you didn't read the quote right ;)

"I sincerely thank einstein and you for encureging me i am not a superhero i am simpel ll thanks to my english he teach all thanks for the support."

- Venk Anderson

ehhehe that is thanks speech sam anderson style :)

Srini said...

kashtagaalam! :D