– by Cricket Observer –
When the odds were mounting against Sri Lanka in the second semi – final match of the ICC Champions Trophy played between India v Sri Lanka at Cardiff on June 20, 2013, both Mahela Jayawardene and Angelo Mathews successfully reviewed two close lbw calls each, and survived for a little extra time though that did not affect the final outcome except in the margin of defeat.Their innings were effectively saved by the UDRS.
The Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS) or Decision Review System (DRS) as it is now called by some, has been a great boon to the world of cricket ever since its official introduction by the ICC in October, 2009. Many a batsman’s innings and sometimes even a cricket career has been salvaged by bringing into play of the UDRS, which prevents patently wrong umpire decisions to stand. It has helped umpires to be more at ease; enabled them to be more confident, contributed towards making the playing environment better. Today the players behave more responsibly and regular on – field outbursts have been greatly reduced. Most importantly it has led to a 7% increase in the accuracy of umpire decision making i.e. from 91% to 98% according to ICC sources. It has served the best interests of cricket given the plaudits coming from all sectors for the UDRS.
Player – Referral
The key component is the player – referral mechanism which underpins the Umpire Decision Referral System (UDRS). Under the player – referral concept a player of either side is empowered to appeal directly to the third umpire against the decision of an on field umpire. It removes the finality of a decision made by an on field umpire in upholding or dismissing an appeal. This is a revolutionary change. It goes against a cardinal tenet of cricket tradition namely that the umpire’s word is final. Nevertheless it has brought integrity and justice to the game in place of an over exaggerated, flawed and abused method of adjudication.
The UDRS has been embroiled in controversies, right from the time of its inception, particularly in respect to its authorship. Though the ICC maintains that it was a decision taken by the ICC Cricket Committee in 2006 to allow decisions made by an on-field umpire to be subject to a process of reviewing, that led to the launching of the UDRS in October 2009, the ICC has not been able to identify a single individual by name within the ranks of the ICC as the author of the idea. The silence of the ICC on the authorship of the concept given that ideas originate in the minds of human beings and its failure to meet the strong claims for recognition of the authorship of the player – referral concept put forward by Senaka Weeraratna, a lawyer from Sri Lanka, has diminished the standing of the ICC in the world of cricket. In cricket’s own parlance – this is not cricket.
When various Commissions of Inquiry are named after the person heading the Commission, when the Duckworth-Lewis rule used in rain affected one day international cricket matches is also named after the authors, why is Senaka Weeraratna denied due recognition?
The argument put forward by a lawyer of the ICC, David Becker, the then Head of Legal of the ICC, dated May 09, 2010, is that since the idea of ‘Player Referral’ was floated across the press by Weeraratna’s publications throughout the cricket world beginning with his letter to the Editor of the ‘Australian’ newspaper on March 25, 1997, he has no real claims as it was now in the public domain from which the ICC grabbed the idea.
In other words according to Becker (and the ICC) the concept of player – referral is not rightfully owned by Senaka Weeraratna since it was aired incautiously and indiscreetly in interacting with the media and the public. The latter are not proper outlets for the ‘airing’ of well-formed and innovative proposals. Weeraratna should have (according to the argument of Becker) ‘registered a relevant patent’ or brought it to the attention of the ICC before circulating it in the media. Weeraratna’s position is that his papers were submitted to the Board of Cricket Control of Sri Lanka (an affiliate of the ICC) as early as May 1997, and posted to various other national cricket bodies in cricket playing nations including the ICC but they never responded or acknowledged his correspondence.
The absurdity of the position adopted by Becker (and the ICC) is evident by examining the principles relating to scientific discovery. Nowhere is it laid down that new discoveries must be hidden from public view until the proper authorities are informed. Multi – national companies and other barons of crass capitalism engage in these rip-offs – but they are basically exploitative by nature, avaricious for wealth, and least interested in fair dealing and honesty. Their game is far more disreputable and dodgy, than the cricket currently administered by ICC. It is a high moral and ethical principle for one to share with others when public benefit is the goal.
As Sri Lankans we can be proud that Senaka Weeraratna had lived up to this high ideal and in turn contributed to changing the face of international cricket in the modern era.
No other claimant
What does not get said is that no one else i.e. no natural person, has challenged Senaka Weeraratna to the authorship of the UDRS and all we can see is that Cricket’s custodians are flaunting unacceptable excuses. What would have been the outcome if Senaka Weeraratna had in fact sent the draft of the UDRS proposal first to these authorities rather than to the media and assumed the risk of someone else stealing his idea and claiming the total credit. Despite Senaka Weeraratna’s long list of publications since 1997 on the player – referral, being the lynch pin of the UDRS, isn’t that exactly what is happening today?
The ICC has grabbed Senaka Weeraratna’s brain child and is using it as its own while flexing its corporate muscle to drown the claims of a relatively weak individual, who is neither backed by his country’s cricket Board nor his country’s State that prefers to be subservient to international institutions that have a high profile colonial past. Are we in the 21st century or enjoying colonial cricket like in the 19th century?
As Wikipedia has acknowledged and published the claim of Senaka Weeraratna, to be recognized as the author of the key elements of the UDRS based on a comprehensive survey done on all aspects of UDRS by Rob Steen, sportswriter and senior lecturer in sports journalism at the University of Brighton, England – the world of Cricket now needs to apologize to Senaka Weeraratna. It is an injustice to him not to be given due international recognition.
The State of Sri Lanka too cannot simply sit silent on the sidelines and not champion the claims for due recognition of a Sri Lankan national for innovating a product that has world – wide use. It is something to be proud. Sri Lanka’s Sports Ministry and Sri Lanka Cricket in particular as well as cricket journalists and cricket lovers must not hesitate to raise the cry in support of Senaka Weeraratna’s rightful claims to ensure that honour and credit in respect of the conception of UDRS accrue to Sri Lanka.