The law of unintended consequences. That’s the phrase we’ve heard from pundits many a time over recent months, as the cricketing cognoscenti absorb the impact of the Umpire Decision Review System.
As we now know, computerised ball-tracking is doing far more than simply ensure fewer incorrect decisions. It’s changed the whole relationship between bat and ball, at least when the spinners are on.
Umpires are much more aware of how big the stumps are, and as a result are now upholding many more LBW appeals. And of those they don’t, a significant number are overturned on appeal. So spinners are now aiming at the stumps, hunting for LBWs, while batsmen undergo the upheaval of reconstructing their bat v pad technique, and associated footwork.
At least that’s what happening in international cricket. But how will these powerful new developments trickle down to a level of the game you or I might play – on the village green?
As author Marcus Berkmann observed in his book Rain Men, village cricketers are very fond of copying things they see on the telly. Posting crazy numbers of slips and gullies, sledging, team huddles, or holding up the ball after a five-for – and many others – have all been lifted straight from TV coverage of proper cricket.
It stands to reason, then, that something as influential as DRS will seep into village cricket culture. We’ve already witnessed a widespread use of the ironic ‘T’ sign, usually but not always behind the umpire’s back, in response to ill-received decisions. But how will DRS affect the actual umpiring, not just the banter?
From one perspective it may be entirely irrelevant, because it’s spinners who’ve benefited most in test cricket – and their village counterparts are not really best known for the accuracy involved in securing LBWs. In my own team, we’re delighted enough if the spinner manages to land it on the cut part. Anything else is a huge bonus.
Test spinners are now aiming directly at the stumps. I’m sceptical, personally, about the efficacy of such a strategy at our level. For the past twelve years our own spinner has been aiming alternate balls at either square leg, or the batsman’s head. Telling him to target the wicket would only give him one more thing to think about, which is the last thing we need.
And what about the umpiring itself – already one of the most intriguing aspects of the village game, for the reason that it’s other members of the batting side who provide the officiating.
Perhaps surprisingly, LBW is not the most controversial aspect of umpiring in this form of cricket. That distinction belongs to no-balls for height. This is due to a long-standing but rarely articulated principle: you don’t give it out LBW unless it’s cheating not to. If the delivery is very full, and very straight, only then do you have to give it. And if it’s not, you don’t.
But now international umpires have become braver – and will award an LBW to one just clipping the leg bail – will village officials follow suit? A mixed picture is the likely outcome. Every club hack is his own man, for this is a culture defined by individuality, flights of fancy, and self-delusion.
Just as every side’s batsmen will include a combination of stoic blockers, and wannabe dashers who believe they blend the skills of Viv Richards and Adam Gilchrist, and bowlers who either only have one delivery, or think they have dozens, in this way every village umpire is different.
From this point onwards they will probably fall into two categories. First will be the proud conservatives, who will heroically defy pernicious new fads by still refusing LBWs to anything bar a middle stump yorker. They might know, and everyone know, that the ball would have knocked all three pegs over – but they still won’t care. Old values are cherished.
The second category will be the hip and metrosexual umpire who is convinced he has his finger on the pulse of cricket’s evolution, but is in reality just copying stuff off the telly. He will now become the last word in trigger-happiness, firing out every batsman for the merest glance on the pad, making enemies of every team-mate and setting in chain a string of violent recriminations in the pub afterwards.
If this happens in the first innings, the other side may feel duty bound to follow suit, and the match will be over by 2.45pm.
Whatever happens, this should prove an interesting season on the village green. The Full Toss will be keeping a watching brief on this crucial area of the game’s progress, and we welcome your own observations and experiences. Somewhere, at some pub side, someone will surely take the ultimate step in their commitment to ‘realism’ – and build their own ball tracking system from two old mobile phones and a piece of string. And if they do, we’d like to hear about it first.
+I can only hope that the repeated screened process of deciding an LBW decision as shown by SKy and DRS will educate the players who have to umpire in Village Cricket. Before DRS any youngster who had never attended an umpiring course or read Tom Smith’s excellent book on Umpiring would be sent out to officiate. Thus any ball striking the pad would have produced an immediate positive response. Also in village League cricket the umpiring for our club, who try to be fair, results in a three to one ratio of our players given out as compared with the oppostion. Mike Harfield’s brilliant book , Not Dark Yet , gives credence to this. Only problem with kids learning from Sky is their tendency to swop Channels when things get boring and also their attachment to mobile phones while umpiring.
Surely the main factor is that in true Village Cricket the umpires are drawn from the batting side itself. This has two consequences – first that the man umpiring probably has to bat himself later – quite likely umpired by the man who he is trying to decide whether or not to give out now – and secondly he is probably also hoping to cadge a drink from the fellow in the bar later. These considerations are likely to trump the most ardent devotion to new technologies…
…and that is – of course – as it should be!
one thing that happens fairly regularly in village cricket is the batsman invariably thinks he isnt out.so if hes taken a stride down the wicket he’s too far forward but if hes back on his stumps it probably going over.
i dont like giving lbws.im a batsman and so know its cost to myself and know that invariably the other side wont return the favour if you give more than 1 lbw in the innings.
i think most players will stick to what they have always done-there are those who are conservative not outers,those that are generous and those who wont give anything.