Refer and refresh

INDIGNATION is a key ingredient of the sporting experience. It is impossible, I believe, to truly enjoy a sporting event unless there is something to have a good moan about. How many newspaper articles, how many sporting blogs, do you come across where the writer is happy to trill on about how marvellous everything is?

If I wanted to read that kind of happy-clappy nonsense, I wouldn’t throw the local council’s newsletter straight in the bin.

For that reason, I think the ICC keep the TV referral system in place when they come to review it in May. It was, until yesterday’s dramatic final day, the only thing that was keeping alive interest in England’s final Test in the West Indies.

(By the ICC, I do of course mean the International Cricket Council, not the International Criminal Court. When, in the process of doing what passes for research to write this piece, I stumbled across an article headlined “Case for Mugabe ICC trial“, I found myself wondering if Zimbabwe’s president had been overdoing his lbw appeals.)

The wonderful thing about the TV referral system is that no one – umpires or players – seems to have the faintest clue how it works. As far as I can tell, each team is allowed to challenge two umpiring decisions per innings, which are then referred to an official who watches several replays of the incident on a monitor, before flipping a coin.

The TV official then radios down to the umpire to tell him whether the coin has landed heads (in) or tails (out). The umpire will then completely ignore whatever the official has told him and give the batsman not out.

What is particularly amusing about all of this is that, even though the system often makes the umpire look a complete pillock, every so often it will itself fall victim to the traditional rules of cricket.

So when West Indies batsman Lendl Simmonds edged a James Anderson inswinger to Paul Collingwood at second slip, he started to walk back to the pavilion. But then someone up there with access to a TV caught a replay which suggested that the ball may not have carried, and shouted down to Simmonds to ask for a referral.

Simmonds hovered at the pavilion steps for several moments, the very picture of confusion, before tentatively trying to walk back to his wicket. Umpire Daryl Harper quickly reminded Simmonds of an important cricket rule: If the batsman walks, he’s out.

Indignation ruled at that moment. And then, suddenly, the match started to become very entertaining all of its own accord.

Having spent four days wishing that the Test would hurry up and finish, I really enjoyed the drama of the closing day, as Andrew Strauss declared in a bid to force a win that would have squared the series.

It might have paid off too, had Chris Gayle not stuck around for just about long enough to see off the best of Anderson’s bowling, and the most ludicrous of Monty Panesar’s appeals.

Monty, I know appealing is a part of the game, but if you insist on shouting “AAAAAARRRRRRGGGHH!” and jumping six feet in the air every time you bowl anything vaugely in the direction of off-stump, you’re going to wear yourself out, lad.

Strauss’ decision to declare was a positive one, and he deserves credit for living up a series that was dying on his feet, without even a glimpse of Sir Allen Stanford hovering about to liven things up. (Whatever happened to him?) It was a shame too, though, as I was quite enjoying having a good moan about how boring it was.

Ah well. I’ll just have to hope that the TV referral system can cause a bit more chaos when the West Indies travel to England for a return series in May.

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