As we all know, pressure can do different things to different people. For some, it brings out the best. The ability to come good when the chips are down is what separates them from the boys. And then there are those that will say so much pressure, they can do without. Performance anxiety can result in fear; not the most ideal state of mind for a cricket umpire to be in. In fact, too much pressure can destroy a perfectly good umpire; not what you want in a time when good umpires are in acute short supply. In such a time of strife arrives the system of ‘demanded referrals’, as one might be tempted to call it.
When the on-field umpires were first allowed to use technology to help them arrive at the right decision it was, like everything new, criticized. Over time, it has proven to be a step in the right direction. But can the cons associated with a system which allows players to blatantly question the verdict of the on-field official be waved away as easily?
Proponents of the method of ‘demanded referrals’ will trot out the oft-heard argument that this will ensure – more frequently than otherwise – the right decision is taken. Be that as it may (or not), in a time when players are already displaying a remarkable lack of decent regard for the on-field umpires, is it desirable to give them additional tools to behave impertinently?
Since the jury is not entirely out on whether dismissal technology is a better judge of decisions other than the basic run out and stumping, we won’t – at least, for the purposes of this article – debate the possibility that referrals will result in a lower percentage of umpiring errors because, ironically, they will only be used to decide cases that are already hard for anyone other than the men on the field to judge. Which begs the question, how much sense does it make to depend on a system that has so far proven to be, at the most, a questionable arbiter?
In the USA, sport is custom-designed for commercial use. In particular, American football, basketball and baseball – with their stop-start rhythms – share a symbiotic relationship with their sponsors. It is a model of development cricket swiftly adopted from the time Jagmohan Dalmiya and IS Bindra took charge of the BCCI in the early 90s.
After the successful telecast of the 1992 world cup held in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, cricket has – with much help from the Indian consumer and the Board – become an incessant ‘brandwagon’ for advertisers. With a profusion of regularly timed breaks, it has proved to be the perfect format for sponsors looking to deliver a constant diet of commercial messages – interspersed with cricket – to hungry audiences across the Indian Subcontinent. If anyone, it’s these vested interests that are likely to benefit most from the breaks in play this new rule is certain to bring.
Violent agitations will erupt between cricket fans around chowks and living rooms across the world over anything remotely contentious in the world of cricket. But there’s one thing they won’t dispute: that there’s an unacceptably high volume of advertising during a cricket match. Sadly, this is something the system of ‘demanded referrals’ is only going to exacerbate.