The increasing use of technology in cricket is inevitable in the modern world, and it must be utilised in a positive way. The primary use of technology in cricket should be to eliminate the obvious blunders made by umpires from time to time, and not to over analyse every marginal decision. Cricket is basically a simple game, a contest between bat and ball, batsman and bowler, with a long history and great traditions. However, it is a game which has evolved over the years, and the introduction of technology is part of that evolution.
The main thrust behind the introduction of technology into cricket was, and still is, television. Sports broadcasters can now show instant replays of the action in super-slow motion, from almost every angle. Other broadcasting ‘tools’, such as the snick-o-meter, which uses sound to tell if the ball has hit the edge of the bat or the pad, are available to the commentators and pundits in the studio. And if they are available, the broadcasters will certainly use them to show if an umpire has missed an edge or given a batsman out lbw when the batsman has hit the ball. These errors are then discussed in the studio, and replayed over and over, a luxury the umpire out on the field, who has to make an instantaneous decision, does not have. Once the technology was available, it was only a matter of time before it had to be used by the cricket authorities, in an attempt to help the on-field umpires to get as many decisions correct as possible.
In the current World Cup (2011), each team is allowed to review two umpiring decisions per innings, which are referred to a third umpire who sits in an office and has access to all the broadcasters tools of the trade, slow-mo replays, hot-spot etc. For example, the on-field umpire may give a batsman out lbw, adjudging that the batsman did not hit the ball and that the ball would go on to hit the stumps. The batsman may ask for the decision to be reviewed. The third umpire then checks all the available information and either agrees with the on-field umpire, in which case the batsman is out and the batting team has only one more review left, or disagrees and the batsman remains in with the batting team retaining its two reviews. If the original decision is a marginal one, and it may or may not have been out, the on-field umpires original decision stands. The system is there to correct obvious errors, and the loss of reviews is aimed to stop teams making frivolous appeals to the umpires.
It has been interesting to see that the majority of umpiring decisions reviewed in this way were correctly called by the on-field umpires in the first place. This shows the use of technology in cricket to be a good thing. The two on-field umpires and the third umpire work as a team and are in radio contact, another good use of technology. The on-field umpires can also review decisions independently of the player reviews, checking to see if a delivery was a no-ball or if a batsman was run out or not for example. The technology isn’t perfect, low catches taken millimeters from the ground are notoriously difficult to see clearly on replays. Perfectly good catches are sometimes given not out because the third umpire cannot judge from the television coverage whether the ball was caught cleanly and must give the batsman not out if there is any doubt in his mind. Ultimately, a human being must still make a decision, and it will please some people and upset others.
Technology is there and must be used, but the systems in place will never give the correct decisions 100% of the time. To be honest, if this did happen, the average cricket fan would have less to talk about and the game over all would be less interesting. Cricket, like any sport, needs its talking points and controversies. The game is played by human beings and the final decisions, aided by technology or otherwise, should always be made by human beings, and those decisions respected whether agreed with or not.