Cricket: Technology smothering the drama

Twenty-eight years ago, West Indies great Michael Holding kicked down the stumps in disgust when his appeal for caught behind off John Parker was turned down by umpire John Hastie.

It was an appalling decision and few could have blamed him for the moment of madness which followed.

There must have been some sort of righteous satisfaction watching the wickets catapult end over end, even if the gesture was futile.

Parker, for his part, bowed his head and looked for the world like he was taking off his batting gloves in readiness for the trip back to the sheds. He hit it. Everybody at Carisbrook knew it except for Hastie. That monumental blunder sparked one of the most infamous moments in New Zealand and West Indies test cricket history.

It is even money that 28 years from now people will still be talking about Whispering Death's football skills, whereas the odds people will be talking about Daniel Flynn's dismissal are surely astronomical.

Flynn, of course, had the dubious honour of being the first New Zealander to be dismissed under the experimental umpire referral system when he was, eventually, given out lbw during day one of the first test in Dunedin.

West Indies skipper Chris Gayle's appeal for lbw was turned down by debutant umpire Amish Saheba but he reversed his decision after consulting with third umpire Rudi Koertzen.

With the help of technology and slow motion replays, it was apparent Flynn was out. Even the batsman conceded it was hard to argue after seeing the footage.

The right decision was made. Of that there is no doubt. It was clean and clinical but left a cold feeling.

Cricket has been rich in human drama and controversy. It is integral to the appeal of the sport. But the invasion of technology has the potential to strip the sport of its colour and reduce the umpire's role to that of a ventriloquist's dummy.

For the television audience, there is a sense of excitement while they wait for the decision. The spectators at the ground, well, they are left in a sense of bewilderment. Without the benefit of replays, the paying customers sit there quietly waiting . . . and waiting.

When Denesh Ramdin requested technological intervention when Daniel Vettori trapped him in front yesterday, the decision took 5min.

Eventually, people's patience ran out and they demonstrated their collective displeasure with some slow hand-clapping.

Even with the help of technology, umpiring will never be an exact science.

Mistakes will be made. Fewer, of course. All players ask for is consistency. There is nothing worse than being cut off, especially when your career may be riding on a bad decision. You can understand why the players would want to embrace a system which gives them some control over their fate. Previously, there was no recourse for a stinker.

But those putting their faith in technology have to know there is a price to pay.

The next Michael Holding won't kick the stumps down. He'll ask for the appeal to be referred to the third umpire for a definitive decision. And that will be the end of that.


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