What is umpire’s call in cricket?

In cricket, the term “umpire’s call” carries significant weight, often sparking debates and controversies. But what exactly does it mean, and why does it continue to stir up discussions among players, officials, and fans alike?

When a leg-before-wicket (LBW) decision is challenged and reviewed, the on-field umpire’s original verdict is upheld if the third umpire determines that the decision was too marginal to be overturned definitively. This gives the benefit of the doubt to the on-field umpire.

The decision to challenge an LBW ruling can be made either by the batsman, if they feel wrongly given out, or by the fielding team, if they disagree with the on-field umpire’s decision.

The third umpire reviews three key aspects of the LBW: where the ball pitched, where it impacted the batsman, and whether it would have hit the stumps based on Hawkeye technology.

Controversy arises when the predicted trajectory of the ball shows it clipping the edge of the leg or off-stumps. In such cases, the on-field decision of out can only be upheld if more than 50% of the ball is predicted to hit the stumps, according to ball tracking. Otherwise, the decision is overturned.

The introduction of the Decision Review System (DRS) in 2009 aimed to improve the accuracy of decisions, with the umpire’s call added in 2016 to enhance technical effectiveness.

However, the umpire’s call has faced criticism from various quarters. Players like Virat Kohli argue that it complicates matters and call for simpler rules. Former officials and cricketing legends, including the MCC’s World Cricket Committee, have expressed concerns about its confusion among spectators.

Calls to ban the umpire’s call have been made by former ICC elite panel umpire Daryl Harper, Indian cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar, and others. They argue that any contact with the ball on the stump should result in a dismissal, regardless of the margin of error in technology.

Despite the controversies, supporters of the umpire’s call contend that it is the best available method given the inevitability of human errors. As cricket continues to evolve, finding a balance between technological precision and maintaining the essence of the game remains a ongoing challenge.