Shorts and sandals provided a sharp contrast to the pressed flannels and polished shoes of his ICC colleagues but David Richardson was feeling anything but self-conscious at the ICC Champions Trophy in Colombo this week.
The former SA wicketkeeper and current General Manager of cricketing affairs at the game’s headquarters has had a busy time recently but the hair is no greyer than it was when he moved to London a year ago and the smile is, if anything, brighter.
“It has been busy but only in the amount of time, the contractual issue took up, not in the anxiety it caused,” Richardson says. His primary reason for being in Sri Lanka is to monitor the much publicized progress of technology at the tournament which, on Thursday, saw Pakistan’s Shoaib Malik become the first man to be given out lbw with the aid of the third umpire – in this case, South Africa’s Rudi Koertzen.
Contrary to some reports, the television official can only assist the standing umpire in deciding whether the delivery in question pitched outside leg stump (in which case it can’t be out) or whether it hit the bat first.
As a ‘starter’, the Malik decision worked like clockwork which was a triumph for Richardson who has worked tirelessly to advance the role of technology in the game.
If traditionalists baulked at that innovation, they will face further disappointments because Richardson has the television ‘bit’ between his teeth, convinced that the drama of decision-making adds infinitely to the marketing of the sport.
“I would like to see the communication between on-field umpires and television umpires broadcast live in the same way as rugby referees are ‘wired up’,” Richardson says. “And if television producers are able to find doubt with a decision after ten replays from five different angles then I’d like them to show it because, ultimately, that just goes to show how good the umpires are and the pressure they are under when all they have is one go at deciding with the naked eye.”
Even further innovations are on the card: “England coach Duncan Fletcher has proposed a motion that would allow the fielding side three ‘super-appeals’ per day which would entitle them to refer a ‘not out’ decision to the third umpire in the hope of an ‘over-rule’. “If the fielding side is convinced a batsman is out then they could try their luck with the television umpire. The idea is under discussion,” Richardson says.
The world’s most famous modern-day umpire, Dickie Bird, decried the trend towards technology yesterday saying on BBC Radio: “It used to be an honour to umpire an international, now anybody from the village green could do it,” but Richardson disagreed.
“It’ll make the umpires even more central to the game whilst helping make sure we get the right decisions which, surely, is what everybody wants.
We might have difficulty getting the umpires to sign their contracts by the next tournament, never mind the players – they could be the stars of the show!”
On the subject of contracts, Richardson was equally forthright in admitting the ICC could have done more to avoid the embarrassing crisis which threatened to derail the current ICC showpiece.
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