Marginally outside off

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Looking back on today’s play, you get the feeling that it could’ve gone either way. Not because of the players, but because of the umpires. So many appeals, so many close calls, and so many poor decisions. And that is why we need technology. ICC claims that their umpires get about 96% of the decisions right. As Mark Twain once said, there are lies, damned lies and statistics. The only way the umpires are getting 96% of their decisions right is if the ICC is considering all the flat-out ludicrous appeals in their numbers. Anybody who’s seen Kumble bowl knows what I’m talking about. The ball lands a mile outside leg, hits the pads and he starts appealing. Just plain ridiculous — both the appealing and the statistic peddled by the ICC. Let’s look at that from another perspective. Assuming there’s about one appeal every two overs (including the obviously misguided appeals), that makes 45 appeals a day, and 225 appeals in a Test match. Going by ICC’s statistic then, the umpires make about 9 wrong decisions in a Test match. If 5 batsmen in your team are wrongly given out, would you call that a high standard of umpiring?

Anyway, I don’t want to turn this into a war against the Luddites (or the ICC). Apparently, ICC is taking some steps to get more use out of the technology. What concerns me now is that the ICC is now going to have to come out with clearer rules on how to read technology. There were several LBW shouts today which the commentators dismissed as the ball having struck marginally outside off. Well, I beg to differ. If they’re partially outside off, then they are partially on off, right? The middle of the ball might not be on the off stump, but some part of the ball was well within the line of the off stump. And if you think about it, that’s enough to bowl a person out: the middle of the ball doesn’t have to strike the stumps. In any case, there will be a need for clarification on this issue, for “marginally outside off” means different things to different people.

To give credit to the ICC, after my initial scathing critique, they’re ringing in the crucial changes. Apart from experimenting with technology, they moved with surprising swiftness to clarify the whole Lara-Dhoni faux pas of the first Test. There are lots of such gray areas in cricket though, and ICC needs to weed them out rather than waiting for them to create a problem before clarifying on it. And as the game continues to evolve, more of these gray areas will pop up.

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