The BCCI may have the luxury of being able to write to the ICC to complain about the umpire referral system being used at this World Cup, but they and all participants in this tournament are the lucky ones.
It was rough justice on Yuvraj Singh and M S Dhoni that Mr Bowden was not forced to change his mind when he failed accurately to predict the onward flight of one of Yuvraj’s deliveries to Ian Bell which the admittedly cheaper alternative to Hawkeye being used by the ICC in this tournament suggested would have knocked all three stumps out of the ground, but at least there is a system for them.
This is not so for your average viewer or listener who (perhaps since the departure of Richie Benaud) has had to put up helplessly with a never ending flow of bellyaching from old pros engaged by broadcasting companies to carp and grouse as if all viewers and listeners really wanted was to hear the grumblings of these old curmudgeons.
Do they never ask why Benaud was so popular? Simple he didn’t whinge.
Dhoni’s torment is as nothing to the mental torture listeners to Test Match Special have had to stomach listening to the bellyful of tripe offered up again and again by Geoffrey Boycott over the last week.
You might think that England supporters were devastated to lose to Ireland. Not so, England supporters were devastated at the prospect of hearing that opinionated killjoy wrap himself up in one of the dozen wet blankets he keeps about him and parade into one studio after another slagging-off cricketers who on a grey Tuesday afternoon in Chelmsford provide more bright cricket than he did in a life time at the wicket.
It was just twelve minutes into the Melbourne Test match when Boycott declared that England had “no chance of winning this match … I know because I’m paid to know these things” (a match that England let’s remember won by an innings three days later) that Third Man decided to take himself down to the see the village blacksmith across from his cottage in World’s End to see whether jointly they could knock up some instrument that might sort out once and for all such commentator errors that too often blight our pleasure.
Third Man had long wondered, if exasperated cricketers could have resort to a system for referring umpiring decisions, why viewers and listeners were not able to make use of a Commentators’ Referral System.
The straightforward set-top-device which Third Man has branded BellyAche is the result of those labours down at the smithy. The idea was simple, but it required some ticklish maths to figure out the details. The broad explanation is this; the discrete black box which can be connected to your TV or radio contains a hard disk that records and categorizes the stated opinions of all commentators earning their living pontificating on the events at cricket matches across the globe. These are cross-referenced for contradiction, deviation and hypocrisy with a pundit’s previous pronouncements and approach during his playing career.
At the flick of a switch, BellyAche is able to plot three paths on the screen (see prelim sketch above); yellow for the commentary itself, white for the historic path based on the celebrity’s cricketing proclivities, former pronouncements etc. and finally green for a fair description and explanation by a reasonable person with no axe to grind, favour to gain or fortune to make. When the lines diverge by an amount set by the user, BellyAche turns down the sound.
There were times yesterday when England were batting or starting their assault on the South Africa batsmen that the three lines were diverging by more than the width of a second set of stumps.
This we learned was the worse side that had ever left England’s shores. The field placing and bowling selections of Andrew Strauss were bad, but they were always bad. His great weakness as a cricket has always been his captaincy. The shot selection by all of England’s batsmen was heavily questioned, some commentators criticising shots square of the wicket whilst others condemned anything straight. Their ability to play spin, pace and lack of pace was feeble. 250 might have been enough. Broad was completely undercooked and perhaps should not have played at all in the opening round. Anderson was a pale shade of his former self, an embarrassment, really.
Listeners on the radio require description and information. As with TV viewers they also require explanation, why something is tried and why it may have worked or failed. That is the closest to negativity that is needed.
What really is not needed is opinion. Criticism tells us more about the critic than what the critic is watching. We are not interested in the commentator except as someone who can with a word or two open a door to enrich our understanding with information, explanation and insight – everything else just gets in the way – it is noise pollution.
The paying audience deserves this referral system as much as any batsman or bowler and Third Man is campaigning for it’s central adoption by the Powers that Be. Until such time a set of rudimentary drawings can be emailed to any reader wishing to make their own.