ICC’s Cricket Committee set to back concept of ‘umpire’s call’

Nagraj Gollapudi

Despite recent and vocal opposition to the concept, the ICC’s Cricket Committee has recommended that the “umpire’s call” element of the DRS should stay. The recommendation will be tabled at the governing body’s chief executive committee meeting, scheduled for a virtual meet in the coming week.

ESPNcricinfo understands that at its last meeting, held virtually in early March, the committee’s members felt that the concept of the umpire’s call and how it operated needed to be explained better to all stakeholders in the game, including players and fans.
This week India captain Virat Kohli stopped just short of a call to do away with the umpire’s call altogether, because he felt it was “creating a lot of confusion” in its current form. Kohli said “from basic cricket common sense” there should not be “debates” over how much of the ball was hitting or clipping the stumps and a simpler approach of it either being out or not out needed to be put in place.

That is not the conclusion the committee came to, however. Headed by former India captain Anil Kumble and counting a set of former international captains (Andrew Strauss, Rahul Dravid, Mahela Jayawardene, Shaun Pollock), as well as match referee Ranjan Madugalle, umpire Richard Illingworth and Mickey Arthur, among its members, the committee took on board suggestions from other match officials, broadcasters, and Hawk-Eye, the ball-tracking technology supplier.
After some debate the committee decided the umpire’s call had to stay mainly because it was acknowledged that ball-tracking technology was not going to be 100% correct. The members looked at recent examples where ball-tracking technology – or how it was operated – had erred.

The committee also referred to the opinions from their counterparts at the MCC, which in February echoed Kohli’s sentiment in saying the umpire’s call was causing “confusion in the watching public”. Ultimately the MCC’s committee had some members who were satisfied with the umpire’s call while others called for it to be removed and replaced with a simple out or not out decision.

As it stands, with the umpire’s call the on-field umpire’s original decision is upheld when the ball-tracking technology “indicates a marginal decision in respect of either the Impact Zone or the Wicket Zone”.

The Impact Zone is a three-dimensional space used to determine where the ball hits the pad in lbw decisions, and extends from the base of the stumps to the base of the bails and the outside of each of the off and leg stumps. The Wicket Zone in lbws – used to determine whether a ball would have gone on to hit the stumps – is a two-dimensional area stretching between the outside of the off stump and leg stump and rising from the base of the wickets to the base of the bails.

The concerns, especially in the player fraternity, are understandable. In the recent four-match Test series between India and England, out of the 65 reviews by both teams, 53 were struck down. Of the 53, 37 were wrongly reviewed and 16 were umpire’s calls.

It remains to be seen how the likes of the BCCI will receive the recommendation of the ICC’s Cricket Committee. India were the last country to approve the DRS and that was only possible after the ICC shared the findings of a wide-ranging independent assessment on the performance of the technologies in the DRS, which was overseen by engineers from the field intelligence unit at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).