Technology is only human

New Delhi, July 01: In Bridgetown The debate about the use of technology in umpiring decisions has revolved largely around human error: one side says it wants to eliminate it, while the other says the charm of cricket is to be tolerant of mistakes that balance out over time.

Fitting then, that two days after the ICC finally cleared a modified version of UDRS, a new aspect – human error in technology – has further muddied waters.

On the first day of the second India-West Indies Test at Kensington Oval, when skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni lobbed a catch to Shivnarine Chanderpaul, umpire Ian Gould, on a hunch, asked the TV umpire to check if it was a no-ball. Replays were watched, and third umpire Gregory Braithwaite conveyed to Gould that the ball was legal. Dhoni walked back. India were reduced to 167-6, and ultimately folded up for 201.

It turns out, however, that due to a TV production error, the legal delivery Braithwaite saw wasn’t the one Dhoni had gotten out to. And, as luck would have it, that bowler Fidel Edwards had overstepped just a tad on the the delivery that he did play into mid-on’s hands.

The suspicion that something was wrong arose because, first, the replay took a long time to upload (40 seconds instead of the usual four to five), and second, Laxman’s position on the non-strikers’ end seemed different from when the ball was seen live.

This anomaly was brought to the notice of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the production house, IMG. After checking the evidence presented to them, both agreed there was a mistake. ICC confirmed on Thursday that an error by the host broadcaster led to the wrong replay being shown to the third umpire.

“The host broadcaster for this series, IMG Media, acknowledged the mistake and has apologised. Having looked into the situation, I am satisfied it was an unfortunate but honest mistake in what is a tense and live environment.

It is worth pointing out that the umpires followed the correct procedures and are without blame in this matter,” match-referee Chris Broad said in a statement. “Seeing as the game has continued, clearly there is no opportunity to reverse the decision. We are forced now put it behind us and move on with the remainder of the match.”

A spokesman for IMG suggested that the error occurred due to an untrained technician, and because UDRS wasn’t being used in the series: “IMG Media takes its responsibilities on this matter very seriously.

This was a case of human error, compounded by a senior replay operative having to return home at very short notice.
As this series is not operating the Decision Review System, the enhanced standards, including the presence of an ICC technical official, is not in place as would be the case if DRS was used.”

It’s happened before

This, however, is the first time that a production house has made such a mistake. According to sources, a similar incident had occurred in the 2011 World Cup during a match between Pakistan and Canada in Colombo.

There are also indications of a similar happening during an Indian Premier League IV match involving the Mumbai Indians.

One of the main talking points of the ongoing India-West Indies series has been poor umpiring. In the first Test at Sabina Park, Dhoni was dismissed on a Devendra Bishoo ball that TV replays showed was a no-ball, but wasn’t called.

Some of the decisions given by umpirse Daryl Harper, especially Harbhajan Singh’s lbw verdict in the first innings, had been criticised by the Indian team. It was said they were human errors, which technology would eradicate.

But now there’s a case when technology, when handled by people, is prone to making mistakes as well. So what’s the solution? Eradicate any human involvement altogether? Or accept that, in cricket, in some form, you will just have to take the rough with the smooth?