TV umpires may soon become the sole adjudicators of front-foot no-balls, if planned ICC trials prove successful.
The ICC will identify a number of limited-overs series over the next six months for implementing a system where the TV umpire – and not the on-field umpires – will call no-balls for overstepping. The system has been trialled before, notably in the ODI series between England and Pakistan in 2016, but it will be rolled out on a much broader scale this time.
“Broadly, yes [the same technology as 2016 will be used],” Geoff Allardice, the ICC’s general manager for cricket operations, told ESPNcricinfo. “The idea is the third umpire will be presented an image of the front-foot landing within a few seconds. He would communicate to the on-field umpire that a no-ball has been delivered, so every delivery on the field would be played as a fair delivery until called otherwise.”
During the previous trial, a Hawkeye operator presented a still image to the third umpire independent of the normal broadcast.
“The footage is shown on a slight delay, it goes to super slo-mo as the foot approaches the point of landing, and then it freezes,” Allardice explained. “The routine works well, with the third umpire judging the no-ball off a picture that is not always shown on the broadcast.”
In 2016, it ended up taking on average eight seconds between the foot landing and a call being made by the TV umpire. The ICC was happy the decision was made quickly enough, though there were a couple of instances where a tighter call took longer. The hope is that the process will become quicker, the more TV umpires get used to it.
The move has come from the ICC’s cricket committee, who want as many limited-overs matches as possible to use this system. But that, as Allardice explained, is not a straightforward task.
“The cricket committee recommended that we do it in all ODIs and T20Is,” he said. “In 2018, there were about 84,000 balls delivered around the world in those formats in men’s international cricket. So to monitor the no-ball on each of those deliveries at all of the different venues is a big exercise. We just need to understand all the challenges before implementing this across all matches.
“Can this technology be implemented consistently across the 80 venues that hosted ODIs and T20Is last year? There are different levels of television coverage across these matches, so it will be easier to implement at some matches than at others. We now have 104 members who play T20I cricket and many of their matches are not televised, so what do we do there? Thinking through all of the implications of introducing this is the exercise for us over the next six months.”
In the past, electronic line-calling systems – as used in tennis – have been discussed, but there were issues: creases get blurry, there is movement across the crease from the non-striker, and there are bowlers like Ravindra Jadeja, whose heel is usually behind the line but in the air when the foot lands.
The highest-profile instance this year of a no-ball being missed occurred not in international cricket but in the IPL, where umpire S Ravi missed Lasith Malinga overstepping in a game between Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore. Royal Challengers captain Virat Kohli was not happy about that call, especially since it was the last ball of the innings in a tight chase.
The umpires missed a no-ball in Australia’s game against West Indies in the World Cup more recently, which accrued significance after the event as Chris Gayle was dismissed next ball: had the no-ball been called, the next ball would have been a free hit.
As recently as last November, Ravi was at the centre of a more prolonged spell of missing no-balls. In England’s third Test in Sri Lanka, on the third morning in Colombo, Lakshan Sandakan bowled as many as 12 no-balls according to the broadcasters in a five-over spell; the only deliveries that were penalised by Ravi and the other umpires, however, were the ones that allowed Ben Stokes to continue his innings after being caught off them.
Additional reporting by Osman Samiuddin