Rob Houwing

Overkill on review system?

2011-11-18 09:00
Sport24 chief writer Rob Houwing (File)
Rob Houwing’s ‘Tops on the Telly’ column

Maybe it’s just my timing, but whenever I’ve tuned into SuperSport cricket coverage – whether match-geared or chat show mode – of late, the decision review system has seemed to be under the microscope.

I can’t deny that it’s an important subject, but there are plenty of other issues affecting the game at present (unfortunate ongoing rumblings around match fixing, the survival of Test cricket etc) and the blessed “DRS” has had more than its share in the spotlight, I think.

After all, the nutshell view among most judges tends not to differ too much from this: “In an ideal world it would be great if the on-field umpires could stay more fully empowered, but technology has proved to be crucial in getting things right and it’s here to stay.”

So when SS2 afforded extended lunchtime treatment to the DRS on day one of the second Test at the Wanderers on Thursday, I feared for the worst ... but in this instance it did manage to keep my attention rather better than I’d expected it to.

Perhaps it was because of the clever production technique of having pods of their pundits addressing it from various locations all at the same time – there was anchor Mpumelelo Mbangwa with Allan Border in the studio, Mike Haysman with Kepler Wessels and Shaun Pollock in the (then) sun-soaked middle, and Robin Jackman and HD Ackerman in their commentary positions.

The intersecting banter and often assertive interventions worked well, and I found myself leaning toward Wessels’ suggestion that empowering on-field captains to call (or not call) for reviews has made the process a little laborious and time-consuming.
Kepler feels that skippers have enough to think about in the thick of combat and that the process should be left fully at the discretion of the umpires, both those on the field and the man monitoring the television replays.

Ackerman, meanwhile, made the point that grey areas remain despite the enlightenment modern technology is largely bringing to the “correct decision” process.

He says the predictive, ball-tracking tech, which “suggests” – as opposed to emphatically determines, of course – whether a ball is going to go on to hit or brush the stumps remains open to question.

“Pitches do unpredictable things, whilst a cricket ball has a seam down the middle and two sides, one often rough and the other smooth,” he said ... perhaps a little obviously to some but an important point about the possibility of unexpected deviation after pitching, all the same.

HD also queries the limit on number of referrals: “Why? Make them unlimited if it helps get things right.”
More food for thought -- but that probably only aggravates my own big beef with Test cricket at present: unacceptably slow over-rates, with 25-over sessions an all too frequent event ...

Rob’s Awesome Foursome:
1 South Africa v Australia, 2nd cricket Test
Johannesburg, to Monday 10:30, SABC3, SS2, SH2

Uh-oh ... as this is penned my overseas-based weather website of choice sees a greater chance of weekend precipitation at the Wanderers than the sometimes miss-the-dartboard SA Weather Service does. Let’s see who’s right. Nevertheless, this series has hardly been punctuated by sterile play thus far, has it? And if there are going to be some disruptions, quite obviously the Proteas will sweat less, given that they hold a 1-0 edge. Thursday’s day one crowd was a little disappointing, so here’s hoping for a buzzing Bullring at peak weekend time – the stadium really comes alive under those circumstances.

2 Manchester City v Newcastle United, English Premiership soccer
Manchester, Saturday 17:00, SS3 & SHD3

How pleasurable for this unashamed Toon fan since the mid-Seventies to be able to cheekily trumpet this as Premiership “match of the season”! I am pretty strongly justified in saying so because it pits the only two unbeaten sides against each other. The other intriguing factor is that City will be putting the league’s most prolific strike force thus far up against the most parsimonious defence (yes, we’re talking Newcastle here) at this point. Now for the tricky part: my prediction. I have to say that I suspect, despite their praiseworthy team spirit, the black-and-whites are punching a little above their weight and will be taken out by a two-goal margin. Prepare for the worst and delight in the unexpected best, is my philosophy for this fixture ...

3 Presidents Cup golf
Melbourne, to Sunday (varied starts), SS1 & SHD

Top-level team golf is almost unfailingly an enthralling experience, so despite the massively unkind time difference for live coverage of the Presidents Cup from Royal Melbourne, I suspect plenty of South Africans will be making the red-eye sacrifice – even if this isn’t quite “Ryder Cup” for intensity. The International team have taken a beating every time from the US since that dramatic tie at Fancourt in 2003; can they restore the balance? Crossing times vary daily, but if you’re bravely in front of the box around 4am over the weekend you’ll be in regular business ...  

4 Chelsea v Liverpool, English Premiership soccer
London, Sunday 18:00, SS3, Maximo & SHD3

I can’t find too many local Absa Premiership matches that genuinely grab the eye this weekend, so a second English fixture is in order, I think: Blues v Reds on Sunday evening should make for quality viewing. It’s an important game for both sides because Chelsea are already nine points off the lead and Liverpool 12, so defeat for either here would be an especially damaging occurrence. ‘Pool were disappointingly held 0-0 by Swansea at Anfield last time out, whilst Chelsea eked out an away win at Blackburn so signs do point slightly toward a home triumph.

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