Umpires still not battle-ready

Simon Taufel quit top-flight umpiring in order to spend more time with his family. Taufel feels that the umpires need more training to make DRS really effective.-K.R. DEEPAK

The time when an umpire specialises in TV decisions is certainly a long way off and we all know that ICC does nothing in a hurry, writes Ted Corbett.

The more I hear and see and read about DRS the more I wonder if the rest of the world should follow India’s example and wait for the technology to catch up with cricket and its many requirements.

No doubt one day DRS will be able to show instantly if an lbw appeal deserves to be listened to, whether it was a no ball and by how much the on-field umpire erred. Whether it will also be able to identify the rogues who are still betting on the most unlikely outcomes is another matter, but 25 years ago as we struggled to use fax, who thought of planes without pilots?

Well, yes, comic papers, sci-fi writers and children with over-developed imaginations but certainly no sensible adult.

Now we are in the middle of a technology revolution. Or are we? This Ashes summer has exposed the limitations of the electronic wonder in more ways than one; not just the frailties of the system but the rules that govern it.

First came the various mistakes that have been made in its name. The most blatant was almost a match- winner for Australia at Trent Bridge when the teenage all-rounder Ashton Agar — another modern wonder by the way — was given not out stumped by the third umpire who appeared to think the picture in front of him was not clear enough for a decision.

Well, it was clear enough from my couch in the living room, but I was not applying the benefit of the doubt. Old time umpires used to delight in telling me that there was no such thing as the benefit of the doubt, but that third umpire appeared to be applying it even though he had a repeated viewing to settle his mind.

Of course I would rather watch Agar bat than someone umpire as W. G. Grace almost said — but there were other examples to come.

Then a couple of weeks ago Simon Taufel, by common consent the best umpire around until he, quite sensibly, decided he would rather help his kids grow up than visit the finest cricket grounds on the planet, opened the eyes of quite a few cricket experts with his Spirit of Cricket speech at Lord’s.

His contention seemed to be that there was not enough experience with DRS among umpires and that more training was needed, not just in the cricket side of its use, but in the technical aspects which were sure to increase.

Most people in 2013 have some knowledge of computers as they surf the net, whiz off ill-considered emails and visit their own websites but each change of use needs us to find our way round the keyboard once again.

The game will be grateful to umpire Taufel one day for pointing out the blindingly obvious but in the meantime it will struggle along flying by the seat of its pants.

The time when an umpire specialises in TV decisions is certainly a long way off and we all know that ICC does nothing in a hurry.

I write just ahead of the Old Trafford Test when there will be more technical aids for the TV umpire. I just hope he has the chance to learn about all the dials, switches and knobs on his control panel and that he does not have to ask for help from the television technicians every time he makes a decision.

If he does he should remember that their priorities are different from his although I have no doubt they will be only too willing to show him the ropes.

I met a couple of technicians five years ago who warned me not to expect too much of the new technology. I am afraid that we did expect perfection and that it has not been delivered. Yet.

By the time a mighty computer is getting every decision right and hugging the umpire who helps it come to the correct answer we will have a familiar old name to revere.

At the moment Fabian Cowdrey, son of Chris and grandson of the late Colin, is simply a Kent second team player who has stepped into the first team to gain experience opening the innings in the T20 tournament which fills the middle of our summer. (I wonder if Chris anticipated that change in the fixture list and I am sure Colin never did.)

It is not just that Fabian — you will not forget that name in a hurry — has scored a couple of fifties but it is the manner of his collecting the runs that has been impressive. Each innings has been played at breakneck speed but, so I am told, with his grandfather’s class and his father’s vigour.

The third generation Cowdrey — great grandfather was a decent player too but most remembered for giving Colin the initials MCC — named for greatness, has clearly got the gift and a tolerant dad.

The last time I saw the pair of them, Chris was broadcasting at the end of a crucial Yorkshire match — Darren Lehmann, now the Australian coach was making the important runs — while Fabian and his twin brother were racing round the commentary box and leaping on to father’s back.

Their leapfrog never stopped the flow of Chris’s words but this rare sight did suggest that one day their energy allied to their father’s cool might produce a very considerable England cricketer.