What is the third umpire referral system?
Third umpire referrals are a system whereby players from either side can demand a review of the on-field umpire’s decision by the TV umpire.
If a batsman’s given out lbw, he can refer it to the third umpire, who then watches the footage and advises the on-field umpire who can subsequently change their decsion. Similarly, if a batsman’s given not out and the fielding side think he is out, they can demand a referral.
At present each side gets two referrals. If they refer a decision and it’s overturned, they still have both. If they refer a decision and it’s not overturned, they lose a go. When you’ve run out of referrals, that’s that – you have to accept the on-field umpire’s decision from then on.
So what’s the problem?
It’s designed to improve decision making, but there’s a lot of controversy about some of the decisions being made. A lot’s to do with how the instructions are interpreted. It seems the third umpire only ‘advises’ the on-field umpires and should only recommend that they overturn their original decision if there is clear evidence that they were wrong (whatever ‘clear evidence’ might constitute in real terms – where do you draw the line?).
Anyway, let’s not get into that, because we’ve a far more important point to make.
The real problem with referring decisions to the third umpire
We don’t particularly like the implicit message that it’s okay for the players to question the umpires, but in general we’re in favour of using technology to make decisions. We’ve no fear of it. It seems pretty damn accurate to us.
However, we had a rethink about third umpire referrals while watching England’s forlorn bid to bowl out the West Indies yesterday. We’ve changed our stance because the umpire referral system fundamentally alters a part of the game which is crucial to our enjoyment.
This problem became obvious once each side had used up their referrals. Suddenly, lbw appeals were back. The fielding side appeals, all eyes are on the umpire and… OUT!
When there are no referrals, the batsman’s gone. That pointed finger means ‘out’.
When referrals are on offer, the umpire raises his finger and the batsman’s half out. Hurray?
As a cricket supporter, it is very important to us that we have moments where we can jump off our chair and shout. The umpire referral system takes these moments away from us and that can’t be good.