Hawk eye on the umpires

One-time international umpire Nadeem Ghauri's shockingly uninhibited Skype dalliance during the India TV sting throws new light on an old problem. Over the years, players have consistently sold themselves to sleazy cartels, now it comes to light that umpires too have a price tag. Rather intriguingly, hidden in the Ghauri tapes is a solution that can curb the fresh trouble brewing in the cricket world.

Despite the grainy web-cam visuals, it is clear that the surprisingly composed, bearded Pakistan official gets apprehensive just for one moment. While graphically spelling out the ways in which he can unfairly influence play and protect batsmen of his potential benefactor's choice, he cautiously puts out a rider. Marginal 'lbw or caught' calls will be in favour of the batsman of his suitor's choice, he promised. But only if there was no 'snickometer' or referral system. It was his way of saying that, in case it is technology that takes the final call, as can be expected, things wouldn't be in his hands and the deal was off.

For years old-timers have moaned about the fading importance of on-field officials but in these depressing times the need of a virtual eye on all actions that influence the result can't be overstated. Umpires may feel redundant because of the advent of infra-red imaging, ball-tracking technology and super sensitive sound receivers on cricket fields, but when trust is lost, second opinions aren't just advisable, they should be made mandatory.

And for that the BCCI, who have fought tooth and nail to keep technology out, needs to be friends with Hawk Eye and Hot Spot. These new techno toys may not be error free but won't at least be puppets in dirty hands.

ICC banked on modern science to wipe out umpiring howlers but as it turns out, it has also helped keep umpires on track. In years to come, the money spent on technology might prove to be a wiser investment in keeping the sport clean. Certainly better than paying the TA/DA of ineffective Anti-Corruption Unit sleuths.

Sandeep is the National Sports Editor based in New Delhi.


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