India is in tatters in the first Test against Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka piled on 6/600 and India is 6/159 as the master of elbow grease, the only bowler in history to suffer from Tennis elbow, bedazzles them. Murali has 4/38. This follows centuries from Warnapura (115), Jayawardene (136), Samaraweera (127) and last but not least Dilshan (125).
Dilshan became the first batsman in history to be given a life from the umpires. There has been the odd occasion over the years when a batsman may have been recalled by the fielding captain or a fielder. But never because he has said, “I didn’t hit it, Sir. Can we get another opinion?” This was the first of the “referral” trial (referral seems to be the official term) where the umpire was compelled to change his mind. The benefits of the system could not have been more palpable. Dilshan was on precisely one run when given out caught behind (see Cricinfo commentary below). It is eye opening to see him go on and make 125. It makes you really think about how bad decisions have determined the course of history. But then again, has not that always been part of the romance of cricket?
105.3 Khan to Dilshan, no run, another review given out caught behind and Dilshan wants a review. It was full and well outside off stump, Dilshan went for the drive, the bat hit the ground and did the ball hit the bat at the same time? And it has been given NOT OUT History made here. Dilshan becomes the first man to have a decision over turned.
The referral trial is young and after three days there have been just 5 referrals. That’s a relief for a start. Aside from Dilshan’s referral, the other four have several common factors: They were all by the fielding captain, they were all for unsuccessful lbw appeals and the referrals were all unsuccessful. Interesting. India used all three of it’s referrals but it did take 158 overs. Sri Lanka has used one. It’s not yet much of a trial but here are a few observations of my own:
1. I’m very relieved that sanity seems to be prevailing regarding lbw referrals. Before I knew the details of how referrals would be scrutinized, I was concerned that batsmen would be shot out every time Hawkeye showed the ball to be grazing leg stump or clipping the off bail. As stated in an earlier email, Hawkeye is not being used. See below referral for Ganguly. This is exactly the situation where I was concerned things would be a farce.
24.6 Mendis to Ganguly, no run, review for the lbw decision, it landed around leg stump, on leg and middle, cut away towards leg and Ganguly was beaten on the forward defensive stroke. and umpire, after a chat with third umpire, reckons it would have missed leg stump. Virtual Eye suggests it would have hit the outer half of the leg stump.
2. The fielding teams may learn to preserve their referrals on lbw decisions. Bowlers always think it’s out (which is probably a good reason why only the captain can request a referral). Perhaps the umpires are not so wrong after all. Perhaps this may give players cause to reflect and cool off a little. However, the system gives the fielding team confidence that they can check if they want to (as long as they haven’t used them all).
3. I think batsmen referrals will be successful far more often than fielding side referrals. Batsmen generally know whether or not they are out. They almost always know whether or not they hit it. They also have a pretty good idea of whether or not the ball was hitting the stumps, or where it pitched.
4. In the good old days, it was generally accepted that over a period of time, good and bad decisions evened themselves out. There might be times when a bad decision decided a single match, or even a series. But for the long haul, it was was goes around, comes around. I am concerned that the referral system may slightly favour the batsmen, in that they will generally be successful in being given not out, if they are in fact not out. It is possible that if the referral system is conservative in the area of overturning fielding side referrals (and I think it needs to be conservative), the “swings and round abouts” phenomenon won’t be allowed to take its natural course. The modern game is already stacked in favour of batsmen.
Anyhow, I’m off for a game of Tiddlywinks.