“If the ball is clipping the stumps, it should be out – whether you like it or not you lose the review”
Virat Kohli stopped short of saying that the contentious umpire’s call rule should be scrapped from the game, but did call for a relook at the rule because it creates “a lot of confusion”. The final decision on the matter lies with the ICC’s cricket committee, which recently deliberated on the matter, and has submitted its recommendations to the global body.
According to Kohli, there should not be any debates on what percentage of the stumps the ball is hitting when a decision is reviewed.
“Look, I have played a long time when then there was no DRS, right? If the umpire made a decision, whether the batsman liked it or not, it stayed like that; vice-versa if the umpire gave him not out and it was out it stayed like that whether it was marginal or not,” Kohli said on Monday at a media briefing in Pune ahead of the fist ODI against England. “According to me, umpire’s call right now is creating a lot of confusion. When you get bowled, as a batsman you don’t expect the ball to hit more than 50% of the stumps to consider yourself bowled. So when the ball is shown as clipping the stumps, the bails are going to fall.
“So, from basic cricket common sense, I don’t think that there should be any debates on that. If the ball is clipping the stumps, it should be out – whether you like it or not you lose the review. And that is how simple the game has to be: if it hits the stumps or it misses the stumps, it doesn’t matter how much it is hitting and those kind of things. Because it is creating a lot of confusion.”
The umpire’s call is used in cases of the ball’s impact with pad and then the stumps, reliant on ball-tracking technology and as a concept is rooted, essentially, in the on-field umpire’s original decision retaining the benefit of doubt.
According to the current ICC protocols, for “a Not Out decision to be overturned more than half the ball now has to be impacting the pad within a zone bordered by the outside of off and leg stumps (formerly the centre of off and leg stumps), and the ball needs to be hitting the stumps within a zone bordered by the outside of off and leg stumps and the bottom of the bails (formerly the centre of off and leg stumps, and the bottom of the bails)”.
Ever since the ICC introduced the umpire’s call, a DRS tool that has been updated gradually, it has remained a tetchy topic and divided the cricketing fraternity. Recently the MCC said some members on its World Cricket Committee, comprising former international captains and match officials, echoed the exact sentiment expressed by Kohli, saying the umpire’s call was “confusing to the watching public, particularly when the same ball could either be Out or Not out depending on the on-field umpire’s original decision”.
Does cricket need to rethink the soft-signal rule?
‘Soft signal, another grey area’
Kohli remained unconvinced about another hotly debated decision-making tool, the soft signal, which he said along with the umpire’s call was a “serious” issue the game’s lawmakers needed to tackle.
The debate over the validity of an on-field umpire making a soft signal for a low catch in the outfield was reignited last week after Suryakumar Yadav was caught by Dawid Malan in the deep in the fourth T20I of the India vs England series.
KN Ananthapadmanabhan, the on-field umpire, gave the soft signal as out even as Virender Sharma, the TV umpire, remained unconvinced. Although the rulebook gives the TV umpire the authority to overrule the soft signal, Sharma upheld his on-field colleague’s decision.
After the match Kohli reacted strongly, saying he failed to understand why there was no “I don’t know” option the on-field umpire could use for cases where the evidence was not conclusive.
On Monday Kohli felt controversial dismissals like Yadav’s also had the potential to trigger the spirit of cricket argument. “One more factor that needs to be considered is how the fielding team responds to a dismissal that is claimed is also somewhere you know defining soft signal as well,” he said. “Again, you have to question what the spirit of the game is and what those guidelines are. Because if things like that happen with the Indian cricket team overseas, then you are talking about a totally different conversation about spirit of the game, and so on and so forth.
“Look, it is a serious, serious thing that needs to be considered because there is a lot at stake in future, there are big tournaments. And you don’t want some grey areas factors of the game which leave you with no clarity to be the defining factors of those big tournaments and big games.”
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo