A thin edge of the wedge


James Sutherland, Chief Executive Officer, Cricket Australia, feels the concept of wiring, will ensure that the telecast remains attractive. -- Pic. HAMISH BLAIR/GETTY IMAGES-

SURELY the Australian Cricket Board and the Australian Cricketer's Association must be joking while suggesting that the umpires be wired for sound.

The idea is that microphones will be fixed to the shirt collars of the umpires and will be short range, picking up the wearer's voice or that of a player speaking to him from very short range.

Cricket Australia's CEO James Sutherland said "This concept will help ensure the Channel Nine telecast remains attractive to viewers and if the trial goes well we can expect to see this technology used more frequently in the future".

I certainly am not enamoured with the trial and I can't see the players being thrilled about it.

All ready we have seen the dangers of open microphones with the mike in the stumps.

While all television stations throughout the world claim they only turn the mike on, as bowlers let the ball go and turn it off when the batsman finishes his stroke, as outlined in most agreements between cricket bodies and television stations. The reality is that the mikes are kept on for much longer time.

While the TV stations will also say it is only an accident that mikes may be kept on longer and catch the expletives or exchanges between players and even umpires, the reality once again is that TV stations are quite happy, if it does, as they feel it adds controversy and spice to the telecast.

All very well for the television ratings, but what about the players and indeed the umpires.

In many sports we are seeing greater invasion by the television coverage and I find this most distasteful, particularly the shots into dressing rooms, watching areas and in football the TV cameras being actually in the change rooms.

If Australian cricket does go alone with the microphone in the umpires' collars, I believe this will only be the thin edge of the wedge for further interference by the TV coverage.

For sometime there has been talk that umpires should be wired so they can give the viewers reasons for upholding or refusing an appeal.

This would really be opening a can of worms with every appeal analysed and discussed by the TV commentators, aided by replays which inevitable, even if it is a stumping, run out, bat pad catch, caught behind or low slips catches and of course leg before wicket, still leave doubts after umpteen replays.

While we read much hype about how good modern technology is, more times than not it still leaves too much doubt.

Umpires if they do accept this and give reasons for their decisions will only set themselves up for criticism, which will only sap their confidence, thus affecting their decision making.

We are all ready seeing and hearing commentators very quick to criticise umpires for perceived mistakes.

I wonder how they would feel if the boot was on the other leg if we had a specialist in the commentary box whose job it is to pick up and analyse the many silly things said and numerous mistakes made by commentators.

That might be fun and helpful to the commentators in making it sure they get it right more times than they do at present.

For players who are fitter and stronger than at any time, in Australia there is sure a lot of injuries in cricket at present and particularly amongst Australian bowlers.

Almost everyone in the media at present is putting in his tuppence worth.

It has become acceptable and even fashionable, not by me however, to lay the blame on too much cricket.

Now we have other thoughts. Brett Lee's manager, former New South Wales all-rounder Neil Maxwell has come up with another theory.

He believes "programming is to be blamed and we now have too much of a stop start mentality which doesn't allow players to prepare properly". He, I think wants players to be playing more regularly.

If you think that comes out of left field what about his thoughts that Australia by finishing matches too quickly don't allow enough recovery time for bowlers.

In a lot of games says Maxwell, "Australians bat only once and the bowlers still have to go through two innings".

He also suggests that bowlers normally get a rest while their side is batting, but the Australians are so positive and score so quickly they often don't have to bat again.

That may be the case, if Australia bats first and forces the opposition to follow on but when they bat second the bowlers get plenty of rest.

Glenn McGrath, ever the pragmatist, has different views. He completely discards that scheduling has anything to do with the huge injury toll nor is the workload too big. He makes a lot of sense when he points out that Australia wins a lot of Tests in 3 or 4 days which ensures plenty of extra rest time.

He also feels as Erroll Alcott does, that "the team has had a good break and everyone is just getting their bodies used to bowling".

To me that says we just didn't bowl enough balls before getting back into action. That makes a lot of honest common sense.