The use of technology in cricket is a theme that keeps being raised, and on Friday it did so again controversially at Headingly. From the moment Andrew Strauss stood his ground after AB de Villiers had claimed a catch in the slips, the issue of how much technology should be used was suddenly the topic that was attracting opinion of all kinds. There is little consensus.
Myself, I believe de Villiers was swept along by his teammates as the appeal gained strength, which left him holding the ball aloft, looking rather uneasy and perturbed. Many commentators were quick to brandish him as a "cheat," and his attempt to deceive as "shameful." Sir Ian Botham claimed in commentary, "That’s as bad as I’ve seen."
Despite this I would suggest that perhaps his elder, more experienced colleagues in the slips should have stood up as they had a clear view of the incident, as it was, none of them could bring themselves to say that the ball had hit the ground.
Later in the day, when England were staging a mini fight back, Amla lofted a catch to Micheal Vaughan at mid-on and, diving forward, the catch looked to have been taken cleanly. Amla began to walk off, before being met with what seemed like the whole South African side to tell him to walk back to the crease and contest the catch.
The video reply was confusing, and clouded what essentially should have been a decision for the umpire, who was as close to the incident as you could get. The decision was referred and given not out, as there was doubt about whether Vaughan had managed to get a finger between ball and ground.
Having seen all this, how then should technology be harnessed to make decisions more accurate and fair?
At the moment, umpires can use the third umpire on line calls, like run outs or stampings. These frame by frame images have worked well, and the game provides ideal breaks for decisions to be made, this is not the case in quicker sports like football. Yet, can we make more use of technology?
With grounding and catching cases such as de Villiers or Vaughan, or with MS Dhoni last summer, there is an inherent problem with trying to solve a three-dimensional problem with a two-dimensional picture. The long lens makes images unclear and then makes low catches look far more questionable than they actually are.
Ironically, this series was meant to be a to be where the use of technology was increased, only for England to vote against it.
I believe changes need to be made. No one likes to see dodgy decisions and acts of dissent that often follow. In this series alone there have been some notable ones, Strauss’s LBW at Lords, Cooks ‘nick’ down the legs side in the first innings at Headingly, and yesterday Amla’s LBW to the odd England selection Pattinson.
Consistency and accuracy is what players and supporters what. So why not give umpires the use of Snicko, Hotspot and the wicket to wicket carpet to assess where the ball has pitched. These tools would be very useful in determining LBW and caught behind decisions.
Third umpires should be given more of a role and influence. Letting umpires call on the help of the "man in the van" would prevent umpires being isolated and also improve their performance avoiding the ugly treatment of umpires who make bad decisions, like Umpire Bucknor in the Australia-India series recently.
I don’t see any reason why a system where a side could challenge three decisions per innings could not be adopted. Recently at Wimbledon the challenge system was used and was very effective, and in many cases added to the tension of what is a traditional and stayed tournament. Perhaps cricket should follow this lead.
Using these tools would help clarify some decisions, but in terms of low catches I suspect you will often get the right answer more often if you let the players decide for themselves. The danger in this of course is that some will look to mislead.
Ok, now over to you. Should some technological aides be used more, like the carpet, snicko and hotspot? Part of the beauty of cricket is that luck, coincidence and chance add to the intrigue and excitement. Will added technology, and its use, make the game too clinical and scientific? Should cricket adopt a challenge system?