England’s men finally won the ODI cricket World Cup. At the start of every series or world events in any sport, the English media builds its team up as the favourite and the other teams may as well go home and not participate. This time, though, their hopes and aspirations for England were justified as over the last couple of years England had been playing a brand of cricket that was champagne stuff. They were also the No. 1-ranked team in the world during that time. They should have won the Champions Trophy played two years back, but they choked and lost. This time too they lost three games and questions were asked about their temperament in multi-country events. However, they picked themselves up beautifully in must-win games against India and New Zealand and then destroyed Australia in the semifinals and kept their cool in the dying moments of the final to emerge deserving winners.
The final did not have great cricket as both teams appeared to be a bit tense, so there weren’t too many sparkling shots or great deliveries. It was workman-like cricket for most of the time. The finish though was heart-stopping. Imagine the World Cup final finishing in a tie twice and the boundaries deciding the winner. It’s a batsman’s game alright, for if the winner was to be decided by wickets taken, then New Zealand would have emerged winners.
The tournament brought out the urgent need for a rethink on the Decision Review System. If the idea is to avoid a rank bad decision, then the only way to do that is to let the review be between umpires only, with neither team allowed to ask for a review. Many a time and especially in the finals after the teams had lost their review, they suffered a bad decision that turned the game the other way. So let the umpires on the field ask for the reviews, and if the TV umpire also sees an error, he can connect with the on-field umpires to inform them.
The on-field umpire’s error in awarding the extra run to England — deeming the batsmen had crossed when the throw, which hit Ben Stokes’ bat and ran to the boundary, was initiated — should have been corrected by the TV umpire, the fourth umpire and the match referee. They would not have been in the cauldron of play like the on-field umpires and so should have been the ones quickly scanning the rule book and informing the on-field umpires. What’s the point of having the extra umpires if they are not going to be used?
The umpiring in this tournament was below par and many a game changed because of wrong decisions. All those decisions could have been reversed with the help of technology, but with teams having used up their reviews, they could not get another one. When a viewer sees that a decision is palpably wrong and nothing can be done about it, he or she loses interest in the game.
During my time as chairman of the Cricket Committee of the International Cricket Council, I tried to get a discussion going on whether the leg-bye should be abolished and there should be no extra runs credited of a direct hit deflected away from the fielder backing up. The reasons were simple. If a batsman was not good enough to get his bat to the ball and instead the ball was deflected off his pads or body, the bowler should not be penalised for it. If a fielder is brilliant to hit the stumps direct, then the deflection, if any, for runs is penalising a great effort.
That didn’t come about because of some technical issues, but practicality should be the theme. It’s a discussion still worth having.
Congratulations to England and hearty commiserations to the gallant, likeable New Zealanders.
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