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Replace TV umpire with specific expertise

Many pundits have been banging on about DRS of late and importantly nearly everyone has quite rightly agreed that it needs a complete overhaul to advance the game of cricket.

Even Simon Taufel’s meticulousness allowed him to cautiously navigate that subject during his MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture from HQ last week.

Although I agreed with many things he eloquently spoke about, he did not provide me with enormous confidence on the subject of DRS. After all, his position at the ICC now lends itself to correcting current wrongs and surprisingly I did not hear too many solutions.

One important aspect of the process that needs addressing is the ability and competence of the television official. You will note I am not referring to him as the third umpire. That mindset must be changed now.

Also, I know for a fact that some umpires loathe manning the television booth. We have seen more than enough of late to realise that such a significant position needs to be filled by a full-time experienced adjudicating specialist.

The NFL in the United States has got that right. Let me add a rider here. NFL review decision making certainly is not as multi-dimensional as cricket. There is an element of simplicity, but the parallels are there.

Here is how it works.

A decision making Replay Official who is not an ‘active field duty referee’ but generally a former professional referee (a knowledgeable former commentator could be used) is ensconced inside a dark replay booth in a production facility surrounded by a bank of HD monitors that are displaying the live feed of the game from the network television control truck.

Importantly the Replay Official has access to various angles of the play on a number of screens, and directly in front of him is a touch screen monitor that can accommodate six replay angles of a single play.

In addition, a full-time technician is on duty in the booth to record play and to ensure all aspects of the technical side of the equipment are perfectly operational.

When called upon to make a decision the Replay Official looks at all of the available angles to ascertain which are best to adjudicate from and instructs another specialist, the video operator, to transfer his best selected replays to the main monitor.

The video operator is able to control the speed of the playback on this monitor so that the Replay Official will be able to closely scrutinise all replays.

During an NFL game these selected visuals are then sent to a blacked-out booth at the side of the field for the ‘field officials’ to enter, view and adjudicate from. This is all done ‘on a clock’ to ensure decisions are made timeously. The call is generally made on the field, which is hotly debated by NFL owners and may change.

Of course with cricket, with the ideal personnel involved, the adjudication process starts and ends with the Replay Official as there is no need to forward the footage further.

As far as I am concerned the important detail to take away from this example is that the television Replay Official is a dedicated specialist who only performs this role day in and day out and is therefore excellent at that task.

The other thing is that he is methodically supported by focused assistants who follow his instructions independently from the television broadcast director and his crew. Therefore it is an NFL process.

This first-rate process of adjudicating crucial decisions are completed by dedicated autonomous NFL crew members who are always working in this world.

That is the way forward.

The ICC need to take ownership of DRS.

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