For better or for worse, after long ranging debates and mixed reactions the Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS), has finally made its way into the big stage after being successfully implied in the just concluded cricket World Cup for the first time. As the matches in the tournament clearly showed, the players have used it successfully to their advantage in almost all the games, thereby achieving the technology’s inherent goal of minimizing umpiring errors as far as possible, and enabling a balanced outcome of matches through its proper use.
The revamped UDRS was first used in tests in 2009 in the Pakistan -New Zealand series in Dunedin and has been used in ODIs only once in the recent Australia-England one-day series. By its usage the UDRS allows each team a maximum of two unsuccessful referrals each, wherein if they are dissatisfied with the on-field umpire’s decision they can make an appeal for a referral. The outcome has been largely successful and players have responded positively to it. The BCCI’s response to it though has been largely negative, as the Indian team’s experience with the technology hasn’t been too fruitful, as most of their ‘referrals’ were turned down. It has to be debated though that the prime reason for it might have been the way in which the Indians used it rather than some faults in the technology. However, after the World Cup things might very well change as in many of the games the Indians got to make good use of it in their favour, especially in some crucial moments in the semi-finals and finals.
Before proceeding further, one thing has to be understood that the UDRS cannot be a foolproof system, i.e. it doesn’t have the capacity to exactly determine the outcome of any decision, especially the LBW ones. The UDRS primarily uses a ball tracking technology, the Hawk-eye, which shows the ball’s trajectory towards the stumps in a visual representation, thereby aiding in giving Leg Before decisions. However, the path that a ball takes depends on lots of related scientific and other external factors, like the bounce on the pitch, seam movement, weather conditions and the like. It is thus not possible for the Hawk-eye to gauge the ball’s movement in a certain manner, it can only predict that. But nevertheless it does manage to give a more than satisfactory representation. The other technology in the UDRS, the very famous, ‘Hot –Spot’, is comparatively much more foolproof with its infra-red transmission of a negative image to validate the umpire’s decision for any snick or bat-pad verdict. However, the viewers didn’t get to see it in this World Cup as the Melbourne based company that supplies ‘Hot Spot’ has backed out of its earlier promise of delivering it by the knockout stages of the tournament. Nevertheless, it still is a huge step ahead in making the game as free of errors as possible, especially in a major tournament like the World Cup.
Controversies have plagued matches in which some rough decisions were given by the umpires, as was seen in the 2008 Sydney Test between India-Australia , where Steve Bucknor had to finally step down after being in the line of fire for making some grave ‘errors’. While it does provide some cushion to the players, it however might become a major cause of embarrassment for the umpires, each time their decision is negated. However, for the progress of the game, it is necessary to use as many technologies as it can to reduce the lapses. One wrong decision, as it has been seen many times can change the complete outcome of the game. Thus the use of UDRS should be welcomed and the umpires too should look at it as something to work in tandem with to further improve the standard of the game.