Third umpire referrals

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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 Take that!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.


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  1. so damn true! such matches have the potential to keep you at the edge of your seat, now u can either jump from it, you can either slump into it, you can not sit in this position for long!

  2. I did that with Shiv last night. I jumped about like a lunatic, then he referred, and I had 5 minutes of waiting to see if he actually was out.
    When he finally gave it, I was to bored to actually celebrate.

  3. Dead right, KC.

    “Harmison now comes in and bowls to Kasprowicz who paries down the leg side there’s an appeal for a catch is he caught down the leg side HE’S OUT! England have won by two runs!”

    “Harmison now comes in and bowls to Kasprowicz who paries down the leg side there’s an appeal for a catch is he caught down the leg side HE’S BEEN REFERRED! Meanwhile, there’s a bus just going down the road, a number 28 I think…”

  4. This is a tough one.

    I’m not sure of the playing conditions elsewhere, but in Australia a referral to the 3rd umpire used to be instigated at the discretion of the centre wicket umpires in the event of a runout or stumping they were unsure on, or instances where they were unsure of whether a fielder held the catch or was in contact with the boundary. This could slow the game down considerably (if it was used) and did nothing to prevent Bucknor from ruining several test matches at the away teams expense.

    Under the new system the onus is on the players.

    As you would expect this works pretty well in the event of a runout, stumping or even a catch. Normally the fielders know what they hear or see, the batsman sure as hell knows when he has hit the ball.

    Where it all breaks down is in the adjudication of LBWs. Under the laws of cricket only the bowler and the keeper can appeal for LBW with good reason – they are the only ones who can actually see whether the ball is in line. Unless the fielding captain is one of these two he can’t judge whether to use one of his referrals or not (the exception is when the captain is Ponting in which case he is ALWAYS right). On the other side no batsmen EVER thinks he is out LBW so the natural reaction for any primadonna top order player is to appeal the decision and waste one of his teams referrals for the innings

    I think the referral system is a good idea in principle, but the current implementation is dreadful. Perhaps the players referalls should be limited to runouts, stumpings and catches where the impact (rather than the completion) is in dispute. The umpires could then be given the power to refer in the event of LBWs or where they are unsure whether a catch has been completed.

    Probably wont completely prevent another umpire pulling a Bucknor and killing a test through poor decision making. What it may do is smooth the errors hopefully without robbing the fans of their moment when the umpire’s finger is raised.

  5. In other news.

    Today God spoke to me!!!!

    He said

    “The ball is supposed to live outside the boundary, send it there.”

    Cricinfo was just the messenger.

  6. Damn dead right Capt Kirk, checked the old laws back to 1947 and it has never been the case! I must have got that impression from the Phillpot coaching manual then….

    Still, I fail to see how someone at gully or even slip can appeal for LBW, or know whether a referral is reasonable. Half the time the keeper is blindsided by the batsmen and almost every bowler is adamant it is out.

    As a side not, while researching I found an excellent explanation for the practical application of LBW in club cricket:

  7. wolf said: “Normally the fielders know what they hear or see, the batsman sure as hell knows when he has hit the ball.”

    I had always assumed so myself, but the current Australia v South Africa series has destroyed this notion. Graeme Smith seems not to have a clue when fielding, and Mark Boucher when batting referred a caught-behind, only to be given out because he nicked it.

  8. Morne Morkel referring a thick inside edge caught between the thighs of Haddin showed the current system to be the shocker it is. That this referral took a full five minutes just confirmed it.

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