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Technology gets players’ thumbs down

Colombo: Tests on how far technology can ease the pressure on umpires during this month’s ICC Champions Trophy have received a provisional thumbs-down.

Umpires, faced with the contorted features of a fast bowler and the bellowing of the slip cordon, can refer close leg before decisions and catches to a third umpire using television replays.

Many captains and players think the move is a retrograde step rather than a technological advance, removing some of cricket’s age-old appeal.

“Now it’s “howzat!” — it will become just a plain “how is that'”,” veteran Pakistan fast bowler Wasim Akram said ahead of the tournament starting on Thursday.

“The beauty of appealing, that will be gone. Guys like Shoaib (Akhtar), Brett Lee, going up in full flow, that will finish.”

West Indies captain Carl Hooper said: “In lbw decisions, I want umpires to have a say. I hate to see umpires being pushed to one side. We should not be totally dependent on technology.”

Australian counterpart Ricky Ponting and Pakistan’s Waqar Younis were worried the increased use of the third umpire would slow down play even further.

“As it is, it’s hard to get through 50 overs in time,” Ponting said.

Umpires refer almost every run out and close stumping to the third official, who monitors replays before flashing his ruling through a red or green light in the stadium.

In the Colombo tournament, featuring all 10 Test countries from September 12-29, on-field umpires can take a second opinion from the TV umpire to judge whether the ball has pitched outside the line of the leg-stump before ruling on lbws.

The umpires will wear a microphone/ear-piece to communicate with the third umpire in a method borrowed from rugby.

They will also be able to confirm when they are unsure of catches taken off thin edges and bat-pad appeals.

However, the on-field umpires will pronounce all decisions.

“The ICC is going about it with an open mind. We don’t want to make umpires robots, but only offering the best use of technology to assist them in their decision-making,” ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed said when announcing the plan in July.

“Everyone wants to see the right decisions are made. If it is not successful, we will discontinue it. We have to make sure it does not slow down the game,” he said.

Sri Lankan skipper Sanath Jayasuriya said the ICC chose to go ahead with the plan despite opposition during a captains’ meeting earlier this year.

But South African skipper Shaun Pollock supported the move. “At some stage you got to try and see if it improves decision-making,” he said.

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