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Jonathan Agnew column

By Jonathan Agnew
BBC cricket correspondent

Graeme Swann waits for a Review verdict
How can the same incident produce entirely different results and, above all, still present the same opportunity for a bad decision to be made in the first place?

What a shame it is that such a brilliant innings by Ramnaresh Sarwan - which has taken the West Indies a long way towards retaining their lead in the series - should be overshadowed by the controversial review system.

Of the five lbws in West Indies' innings, all but one involved a referral to the third umpire, Darryl Harper.

It is fair to say that the ensuing decision-making process leaves the credibility of the review process in tatters.

There is word of dissatisfaction by the match referee, Alan Hurst, at Harper's performance - but to blame Harper entirely is to miss the point.

The off-field umpire must find 'compelling evidence' from the technology available to suggest to the on-field umpire that his decision should be reversed. Note I say 'suggest' because the final decision is made by the man in the middle, not the third umpire.

I had already expressed my concerns about Chris Gayle's decision on the second day, and now we must add Shivnarine Chanderpaul's verdict to that.

Umpire Tiffin despatched him lbw to James Anderson and the batsman asked for a review. The ball was certainly straight and hit him in line - but looked high from the very start.

We do not know how the conversation went between Messrs Harper and Tiffin, but eventually Tiffin raised his finger to confirm that Chanderpaul had to go.

Hawkeye's prediction - another problematic element to all of this - showed, arcade-game style, the ball passing over the stumps and the West Indian supporters went crazy.

So what is 'compelling evidence'? Surely the ball hitting the bat is 'fact'. So is the ball pitching outside the 'mat'.

Actually, 'compelling evidence' is nothing more than the opinion of the third umpire, and that is where part of this problem lies: human beings are still involved.

Another is that the referrals and technology do not always tell you anything at all.

One incident involved a vigorous, determined appeal by England for a catch behind off Chanderpaul. It was given not out, and England chose not to refer it. The replays were utterly inconclusive so, using 'compelling evidence', consider this:

A) Chanderpaul given not out, and England refer it to the third umpire. No evidence from the replay, so decision upheld. Chanderpaul is not out.

or:

B) Chanderpaul given out, and he refers it to the third umpire. No evidence from the replay, so decision upheld. Chanderpaul is out.

How can the same incident produce entirely different results and, above all, still present the same opportunity for a bad decision to be made in the first place?

Also, the ICC's argument that the referral system reduces bad behaviour does not wash. Given the above example, the on-field umpire can still be pressured into making a bad decision, and technology will not save him.

I understand that West Indies, England and India are already determinedly against this experiment becoming enshrined in the international game next summer, which means that the ICC will have to go back to the drawing board.

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see also
Swann defends umpiring referrals
28 Feb 09 |  England
Fletcher backs referral system
01 Mar 09 |  England
Jonathan Agnew column
27 Feb 09 |  England
Jonathan Agnew column
27 Feb 09 |  England
England in West Indies 2009
29 Dec 08 |  England


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