The debate surrounding the controversial umpire’s call Law in top-level cricket has escalated recently and it’s a topic that splits followers – whether they understand why it exists or they don’t. Admittedly, it isn’t the sexiest element of the sport – that’s Pat Cummins – but having a general understanding of its function is useful, especially as members of the MCC Cricket Committee, who have recommended its removal to the ICC, seem to be at odds with at least one elite level umpire.
Nitin Menon, possibly the only official to come out of the recent India v England Test series with any credit, has defended the Law, which is used to decide contested lbw decisions, backing the argument that it has a role to play because the technology is not foolproof.
“It is not a completely perfect decision that has been overturned,” he told the Hindustan Times. “So it is a 50-50 decision which can go either way, to the batting side or the fielding side.
“This concept needs to be understood by the general public because they are not aware of why [the] umpire’s call concept is there in DRS. It is basically because it was a marginal call and technology cannot say 100 per cent whether it was hitting the stumps or no.”
For those who are proponents of ditching the Law – among them Shane Warne, Kumar Sangakkara and Ricky Ponting on the MCC committee, and Sachin Tendulkar, who has tweeted about the problem regularly – the difficulty is that the same delivery can be, theoretically, both out and not out – in a phenomenon that might, in honour of the Schrodinger’s Cat that it would like to be, be termed the Tendulkar Balls Paradox.
The argument goes that removing umpire’s call, and deferring to the TV umpire entirely, would solve this problem and make the game simpler to understand.
However, this assumes that the TV umpire and ball-tracking data produce perfect results. And they don’t as Menon has pointed out. There is a margin of error that exists in terms of where the data projects the ball ends up and, because of camera frame-rate, where and when the batter is actually struck.
Case closed, you would think. But no. The Tendulkar Balls Paradox will be considered by the ICC at a future meeting and with cricket’s reverence for former greats, it seems that some change to umpire’s call is almost inevitable.
But it might be worth those sitting in judgment taking into account what the youngest Indian umpire on the elite panel has to say as any change has the potential to have an impact on careers.