One of the great charms of cricket is that despite our natural desire to control it, the game is blessed to be full of subjective elements.
We have the LBW law. What that a wide? Did the bowler really run into the protected zone? Who should bowl next? What should the batting order be? What side of the coin should I choose?
All of these minor pieces of anarchy create a narrative that is unlike any other.
Central to controlling the chaos has been the umpire. I deliberately write in the past tense, because their role is no longer more than that of a glorified hat rack.
Once upon a time they were the arbiters of laws. Their judgement was fallible, but we accepted the humanness of it as an essential part of the game.
Take for instance the LBW law. It has many elements of it that are subjective. Sure, whether the ball pitched in line or not can be argued as fact. But everything still boils down to the opinion of the umpire. Was there an edge? Did it hit in line? Was he playing a shot? But most importantly, would the ball have travelled on to hit the stumps?
No one knows the answer to that last one. But we trusted the umpires experience and impartiality to provide us an acceptable answer.
But those days are gone. Now we trust a computer program that runs something called a complex algorithm that sounds more like a disease that a solution. We have asked assumed that pieces of silicon wired together with strands of copper is better at guessing the future flight of a ball than an umpire. Even though neither can be ever proved right.
Like a chapter from the book “1984”, the ICC want us to believe that the computer is perfect. We should submit to its truth bombs. Sure, the umpires can make a decision, but the computers decisions are more equal than others.
After taking away the one area that an umpire should add the most value, the ICC is now going after the last remnants of their self respect. This week, it was announced that in the England vs Pakistan ODI series, on field umpires will be banned from calling no balls. Instead they will wear a buzzer that I assume gives some kind of electric shock that will inflict pain on them should the 3rd umpire see a no ball on replay.
Not only does this devalue the role of the on field umpire even more, but it now disadvantages the batsman. His ability to react to the no ball call has been stolen away. All because of this technology addiction.
It is stripping away the humanity that is crucial to the game’s make up. It is making us a slave to “rock ‘n roll” and frame by frame analysis.
However, cricket’s soul wasn’t built on perfection. It was instead a culmination of instincts and gut feels and efforts that were piled up over time, put under the enormous pressure of the public eye and formed a brilliant sparkling diamond.
The way the LBW law was administered on the field wasn’t broken. Run out were not broken. No balls are not broken. Yes, mistakes happen, but mistakes are an important part of the framework. Cricket isn’t meant to be perfect. It is a game. It is not a constitutional court.
So I wish the ICC all the best in its efforts to turn umpires into Robocops. It’s a stupid cause that like all stupid causes, is resulting in stupid outcomes.
Ask an umpire what his role is on the field these days. If he says it is anything more than a hat rack, then he is lying.
Originally posted at ScoopWhoop