Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Umpires as leaders

There’ seems to be more to him than just divine off-side play, abrasive combativeness and inspired captaincy. Sourav Ganguly looks set for a post-playing career in cricket administration or commentary, if this statement is an indicator of how his mind works.

As a cricketer, I feel that if the field umpires get a bit of help in the matter of the front foot no ball from the technology as they have in tennis, that they can concentrate and look only towards the batsman and that can reduce mistakes, because things happen fast in the cricket field.

It’s a comment that forces you to re-look at the role of on-field umpires in today’s technology era. The law book says that the job of the umpires is to control the game as required by the Laws, with absolute impartiality.

So how can we let the on-field umpires control the game? By only retaining the control aspects of on-field play with them. And removing the mechanical aspects of the job. Like announcing lunch and tea intervals. Like signalling mechanical landmarks like over completion. Like swinging or raising their hands for boundaries and sixes. Like giving batsmen out for being patently outside the crease in cases of run outs and stumpings. And like signalling front-foot no-balls. Simply put, remove from the on-field umpires job sheet anything that can be determined with absolute certainty by technology (and the third umpire).

So what will the on-field umpires do, you ask?

Well, for one, everything that technology (hawkeye, snicko, ultra-mo, etc.) speculates on. Like lbw decisions. Like feathers to the wicket-keeper. Like bat-pad decisions. But you may wonder, aren’t these really what the on-field umpires err on for the most part? Precisely, and that’s why they need to concentrate on them. These are decisions and judgment calls that a qualified and experienced human needs to take, and the on-field umpires need to concentrate on these to the exclusion of all else if they were to get more decisions accurate.

Secondly, all the control aspects of the game will be the responsibility of the on-field umpires. Like discouraging time-wasting tactics from either team. Like keeping sledging within limits of decency (it’s a different matter that sledging should perhaps be totally un-banned, but that’s meat for another meal). Like deciding on how much light is enough to continue playing. Like calling off a test match that is meandering meaninglessly. Like, well, being in control of the game.

Think of the on-field umpire as a leader rather than a manager. Who takes decisions on uncertainty and leaves the mechanical / process aspects to the minions. Or to technology.


Golandaaz said...

Very fresh perspective. I would add that even for those non-mechanical things, umpires need to be supported on 2 fronts

1. Introduction of the challengs system and
2. In Sourcing decisions

Allow a team a set of challenges they can use to force umpires to review their decisions. On a challenge the umpire then looks at all that technology has to offer (replays, hot spot, etc) and decides for himself if he wants to reverse his decision.

This is different from simply refering to the 3rd umpire. We need umpires to have more access to technology so that they can make the right decisions.

I had written a blog on this some time back

Golandaaz said...

John said...

Good one. Good blog. Even I ve let off steam on the topic