Sehwag was unlucky to be given out by

the third umpire in Colombo

Marginal decisions ought still to favour

the batsman

It will encourage umpires to give more decisions, writes

Peter Roebuck

It’s high time romantics stopped flapping around like alarmed chickens whenever anyone mentions technology.

To listen to them you’d think someone had advocated replacing batsmen with robots and bowlers with machines. In fact the idea is to use film and sound to help umpires make the correct decision thereby reducing controversy so that everyone can concentrate on the cricket. And it’s not as if every appeal will be passed on. Teams are allowed three false referrals an innings.

In the past umpires were respected because they had the best seat in the house. Moreover the authority of the umpire was drilled into players before they had munched their first samosa. Nothing is more demeaning to sport than tantrums.

Nowadays incidents can be replayed in an instant and shown to everyone except the ‘chump’ making the decision. As a result umpiring has fallen into disrepute.

Insisting on independent umpires was the first step towards protecting them and the use of technology is next. All arguments for maintaining tradition were crushed in the Sydney Test between India and Australia.

And the trouble started with blatant mistakes made by the umpires on the opening day. Permitted a review, Steve Bucknor could not have allowed Andrew Symonds to remain after he had touched a lifter. Nor could Mark Benson have let Ricky Ponting linger. Both errors could have been corrected in a minute.

On the fifth day the same applied to the dismissal of Rahul Dravid. Not that it was all one-way traffic. It’s madness to let mistakes of this sort spoil a match.

Unsurprisingly the players lost confidence in the umpires. Bad blood on the field led to fierce arguments off it and before long insults were flying around like arrows in a medieval battle. Once a sense of grievance has taken root it is as hard to remove as wisdom tooth. And it was all avoidable. It’s not as if the world needs another reason to fight.

Contrastingly the Wimbledon final between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer showed that sportsmanship is still possible these days. Admittedly tennis is a gentler game but that has not prevented some volcanoes erupting.

Tennis uses the referral system and that takes the sting out of contentious calls made at critical moments.

Competitors and spectators can see that justice is done. But referrals will have a wider impact on cricket than merely improving umpiring decisions. They will change the balance between bat and ball and the nature of batsmanship. Test batsman will be given out more often so doubtless much bleating will be hard from them. But they have been mollycoddled for decades. Totals will shrink like a stock exchange in a recession.

Referrals will encourage umpires to give more decisions. No umpire likes to be contradicted. Previously cautious, they will try to anticipate technology. Batsman will respond by giving themselves more room to play their shots.

Virender Sehwag bats in this style and he will prosper. Already he is the best player in an aging line-up. Batsmen relying on pad play will suffer. Bowlers with top-spinners or in-duckers in their repertoire will flourish. Anil Kumble must wish he was 20 again.

Not perfect

Admittedly the new system is not perfect. Sehwag was unlucky to be given out by the third umpire in Colombo as it was unclear where the ball had bounced and which leg had been struck first. Marginal decisions ought still to favour the batsman. But worse mistakes were made in England where referrals were rejected.

Technology will herald not the death of the game, a fate constantly forecast by the grim reapers of romance, but its liberation.

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