PROBABLY Michael Vaughan was right to point out that a batsman will never 'walk' again with the ICC's introduction of the Decision Review System. So diminished sportsmanship is part of the price for more accurate decisions, but the England management's snick fury at The Wanderers was misguided.
Like Vaughan, most people felt that Hot Spot and even Snickometer should have been available for the South Africa series. Cost was the reason for the absence, and the ICC should consider sharing the expense. The South African authorities could not afford the whole range of gadgets, and Hawk Eye was apparently horrendously expensive at the top of the list.
But the fact remains that these snick detectors were not available to the third umpire. So that any fine edges the on-field official fails to notice will have to be adjudged by video eye if DRS is applied. The claims made by England that the third umpire Daryl Harper did not have his monitor volume switched up enough might not be correct, but even if the accusation proved to be true it makes not a blind bit of difference.
What seems to have been forgotten is that Tony Hill, the on-field umpire, was not satisfied that the snick was bat on ball or that there was a snick at all. If batsmen were given out every time the ear heard something, cricket would be in a mess. John Crawley once 'snicked' a ball while batting for England A in South Africa and everyone assumed he was out, but the sound was actually his St Christopher neck chain flipping up against his helmet grille. The umpire also heard a realistic snick noise but turned down the appeal on a gut feeling -- a brilliant decision.
Harper could not have overturned the 'not out' decision against Graeme Smith on sound alone in any case, because the evidence has to be compelling through technology. A sound through a stump mike is not enough. In fact, it is absurd to claim that it should be. However, infra-red Hot Spot could certainly have settled the issue.
But as Hot Spot was not available at The Wanderers, England should not have started whingeing. Instead they should sort out why they produced yet another pathetic batting display, which virtually handed South Africa a series-levelling victory on the first day of the fourth Test.
The ICC agreed to follow up the protest from the England camp. The ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat said: "We have received a letter of complaint from the ECB and we will launch a formal investigation into the exact circumstances surrounding the application of the decision review system after completion of the Johannesburg Test match.
"There is a large amount of controversy, speculation and potentially unfair criticism circulating at present so it is important to establish the exact facts before reaching any final conclusions. This is early days for the DRS, and so far we are pleased with its effectiveness and the value it can add to the game in support of umpires. However, we have always acknowledged there is room for further improvement in the available technology and this investigation will be conducted in that light so the system becomes even more reliable."
The ICC's initial reaction was to play down the importance of the alleged low-set volume control. Roshan Mahanama, the referee, said:
"The third umpire, when reviewing the decision, used a range of technologies that were made available to him by the host broadcaster, including the slow-motion replays, amplified stump microphone sound (at normal speed and slow motion), approved ball-tracking technology and pitch mat generated by the ball-tracking technology.
"During the review the TV umpire followed the correct protocol and as he did not hear any noise to indicate the ball hitting the bat, he recommended Mr Hill to uphold his earlier decision. It must be noted that umpire’s decision is final.
"There have also been suggestions in a section of the press that Mr Harper had turned down the feed volume. It is clarified that the volume on the third umpire’s feed, right throughout the series, had been configured to optimise the quality of the audio, by both an SABC head engineer and the ICC technical advisor.
"It is also worthwhile to mention here that at no stage I indicated to the England team management that the third umpire had forgotten to adjust the volume of the speakers. I had actually briefed the England team management of the protocols that were followed during this review.
"If the audio level had been increased above its optimum level, distortion on the audio feed would have occurred and the feed might not have given a clear indication of the true sound. It should be kept in mind that the TV umpires sometimes receive feeds which are at a different level to what others are receiving for the simple fact that various broadcasters at times use different technologies while televising a match and the Johannesburg Test is a case in point.
"In the end, it must be remembered that there needs to be conclusive evidence to over-turn the decision of the on-field umpire as the Decision Review System has been designed to eliminate the obvious umpiring errors."
CHARLIE ASKS: Where are the batsmen capable of challenging for an England place? Why is Kevin Pietersen (a fine batsman) still regarded as a crucial player when events of 2009 proved that no one is indispensible?