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Video referral earns umpires unexpected sympathy

February 06, 2009 15:37 IST

The umpire referral system, which some feared would undermine players' respect for the men in middle, could actually be having the opposite effect.

England are experiencing their first taste of the trial system in the opening Test against West Indies and while there appears little enthusiasm for the change, it has increased appreciation of the difficulty of making accurate decisions.

"I think a lot of the players have some sympathy with the guys (umpires) because they are making tricky decisions," England wicketkeeper Matt Prior told reporters on Thursday.

"We've just had an afternoon of having to try and make decisions in a split second and it's not easy," he added after the second day's play in Jamaica.

Under the system, teams are allowed two incorrect referral calls per innings, so they must be fairly certain an umpire's decision is worth risking to make a call for a review.

Prior said that none of the players felt that a changed decision, which happened twice on Thursday, had weakened the authority of an umpire.

"Everyone makes mistakes, players will make more mistakes than umpires in a day's play. If an umpire makes a mistake it's not because they are trying to. If the decision is changed then so be it," he said.

West Indies opener Devon Smith was initially given not out before the television was turned to and he was adjudged to be leg before to paceman Steve Harmison.

Andrew Flintoff wasted one referral opportunity -- an lbw appeal against Ramnaresh Sarwan -- when the ball was shown to be clearly going down leg-side.

Then, in the most controversial decision, Sarwan was adjudged not out having initially been given his marching orders for lbw off Harmison.


Following two referrals at the end of England's innings, Harmison and Monty Panesar appealing in vain their lbw decisions, it meant there was a rush of five referrals in the space of 13 overs.

Around 15 minutes of play was lost to the deliberations of third umpire Daryl Harper but Prior said the delays were not a major concern to the players.

"You watch American sports and they make quite a big thing about getting the right decision and it does take quite a bit of time but they get it right. There is a huge amount at stake at the minute and big decisions have to be made," the keeper added.

Currently, the third umpire is not allowed to use the predictive graphics of the 'Hawk-Eye' technology beyond the ball's point of impact with the pad, but Prior feels that is incongruous.

"If you are trusting Hawk-Eye to track the ball three quarters of the way or longer then why not all the way? You may as well use the full thing," he said.

Sarwan is among those who dislike the system believing that errors have tended to even themselves out over time and he says most of his team mates agree.

"I'm not a big fan of it. We played with it in New Zealand and it was a bit of confusing, although I will take it today," he said.

"In our team, not too many guys are keen on it. It kind of takes the umpires out of the game and sometimes it goes your way, sometimes not. We have to realise that everyone is human and makes mistakes," he said.

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