Regular readers of this blog know that I’m a moderate traditionalist when it comes to the technology debate in the game. There are a few reasons for that, not least that I couldn’t buy into the collective rage that descended India during the Sydney Test fiasco (a.k.a. “Bucknor-Gate”).
There are other factors involved too, of course: first, I think the traditionalist-realist debate is, as Andrew Miller astutely pointed out, fairly overhyped. Realists — that is, those who want more technology involved — exaggerate the machine’s potential, as we all saw during the India-Sri Lanka Test series (and God, do they have to take as long as Rudi Koertzen to deliver a decision?). Traditionalists, on the other hand, go to the other extreme and want nothing to do with TVs or cameras.
Imagine my surprise, however, when I found the traditionalist side supported in The New York Times during a discussion — of all things — the new instant replay system just put in place in baseball. We in the cricket world are accustomed to looking down on baseball, and also thinking, just as snobbishly, that our arcane disputes are ours alone. Who else would have such qualms about using a few more lens?
Well, the author of this column does, and he makes many of the points I have put forward in this context. First, umpires matter, not just because they add drama and chance, but because they form a crucial part of the sport’s narrative. They validate the events of the stage, and reducing their importance makes the play all the more boring. Second, referalls take forever. Third, for all the talk that adding technology is essentially about fairness, we know that it is just another part of television’s takeover of the game, where the stadium and what happens in it is becoming secondary to the way the game is represented and portrayed. Are we, really, just in this for the graphics, or are we in it for the game?