Absurd: third umpires subordinate to soft calls

Call it speculation, but the ODI series between Australia and England was all but decided by the controversial dismissal of Steve Smith last night.

Although victory was in no way assured for either team, the balance of power no doubt swung to the touring side when Jos Buttler claimed a low chance off the edge of the Australian captain’s bat.

Mark Wood

Image: The Indian Express

The umpires made an on-field decision of out, before asking for confirmation from third umpire Kumar Dharmasena.

When the incident was replayed on the big screen Buttler’s grab looked dubious to say the least, but after four minutes of deliberation Dharmasena adjudged that the evidence was not conclusive enough to overturn the soft call of out.

Australia never fully recovered and fell short of victory by a mere 16 runs.

Buttler catch

Buttler takes controversial catch in third ODI // Image: The Australian

Putting aside the disappointment or elation (depending on who you barrack for) of the result for a moment, the entire process does beg the question: why have a third umpire?

Let me elaborate. Why have a third umpire, assisted by technology, if they can’t be trusted to do the job they’re employed to do: discern whether or not a play should be given out when the human eye alone is insufficient.

It would seem illogical to contend that the naked realtime eye of an umpire would be preferred over incredibly accurate slow motion footage that can be viewed over and over as required.

Alas, this seems to be the position the ICC has taken, one where third umpires are made subordinate to those that require their assistance.

Steve Smith expressed concerns of a similar vein during a press conference following last night’s defeat.

“I’m not sure I’m a big fan of the ruling with the soft signal. It’s hard to overturn anything,” Smith said.

“We’ve seen a few this summer that have been pretty similar.

“If the fielder goes up and celebrates they’re usually given out. If you’re a bit apprehensive of what happens you’re usually given not out. It’s hard for them to overturn.

“I would actually like for the third umpire to have to make the decision whether it’s out or not.”

Call it sour grapes, but the Aussie skipper could well be onto something with this ‘let umpires make decisions’ logic.


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