Hemant Buch, a professional with experience of working on more than 100 Tests, feels chances of foul play are remote even though some technicians at work may differ in skill level, in light of the controversy around Dean Elgar’s ‘non-dismissal’. During the final session of the third day of the deciding Test in Cape Town, led by captain Virat Kohli, the Indian players fired a barrage of opinions at host broadcasters SuperSport.
Dean Elgar Reviewed The LBW Decision Correctly As The Ball Went Over The Stumps Which Enraged Indians
The players let their displeasure known over three key issues: the use of technology, in particular, the ball-tracking system that they alleged was manipulated; the use of stump-mics; and the conduct of the SuperSport crew.
Virat Kohli said: “Don’t hit them on the pads, boys. Either stumps or caught behind, that’s it. Real experts sitting in the DRS column, boys… couldn’t believe they gave me out in the first match. Different ball been shown for tracking, lads.”
Ravichandran Ashwin believed he had trapped Dean Elgar in front of the stumps and umpire Marais Erasmus, too, raised his finger. However, after the South African skipper Dean Elgar reviewed the decision, the tracking system showed the ball was going over the stumps.
The decision of turning down LBW of Dean Elgar enraged the Indians and even Marais Erasmus was caught muttering, ‘that is impossible.’ India dismissed Dean Elgar nine overs later, at the close of play.
Hemant Buch said while a human error is possible, it is highly unlikely that the ball-tracking visuals could be manipulated, as implied by the India captain. The ball-tracking technology is supplied by Hawk-Eye, one of the two vendors approved by the ICC. Six cameras are used for this system and there are five people employed by Hawk-Eye to work on the broadcast.
“There are people of varying skill levels and varying degrees of experience working for the company. Sometimes, you find it is taking more time in bringing up the track, sometimes it happens very quickly. Skill levels differ,” Buch said.
Because of the human intervention involved in the tracking system, there is scope for errors. All the data collected is provided to the ICC after the match.
“But you have to remember that you are talking about one or two decisions in the entire series which are wrong with Hawk-Eye. There are so many checks and balances that if it (manipulation) happens, they’ll be caught out,” Buch added.
Virat Kohli said: “I wonder if the stump mic catches all this chatter here, huh?”
For the second time in the match, Virat Kohli spoke angrily about stump mics. Even on Day 2 of the Test, Virat Kohli was heard saying, ‘stump mics are way too loud’ when India was bowling, implying selective broadcast done by SuperSport, to put increased attention on what the visitors say on the field.
The increasing use of stump mics has been a widely debated topic, especially among current and former cricketers who feel it could lead to players getting fined for saying things in the heat of the moment. Usually, audio engineers turn the faders up when a ball is bowled to capture the sound effects of the game: the bowler’s run-up, the batsman taking guard, the ball hitting the bat, or an appeal.
During the period between deliveries and overs, the fader is turned down. In South Africa, however, they are often kept on for longer durations. In 2018, Australia had requested SuperSport and match officials to turn down the mics when the ball was dead although it was ignored by the broadcasters.
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Hemant Buch, too, felt that compared to the Ashes, being played simultaneously, ‘you hear everything that’s happening’ on the field in South Africa. ICC rules allow stump mics to be broadcast at all times, but Hemant Buch said the volume can be increased only at certain times when the ball is dead because you don’t want anything abusive to go out.
A director, who can listen to everything that’s said on the field, can increase the volume if he comes across interesting banter – as Hemant Buch did recently when West Indies wicketkeeper Joshua da Silva tried to sledge Sri Lanka’s Charith Asalanka during the second Test last month.
“I think the Indians feel that stump mics are deliberately kept high when they are bowling,” Buch said. “I am not sure if that’s 100 percent accurate, but it is apparently what they feel.”
Virat Kohli said: “Focus on your team as well when they shine the ball. Not just the opposition, trying to catch people all the time.”
It was a clear reference to the 2018 Sandpaper-gate scandal when Australian players were caught tampering with the ball by the cameras that constantly followed them. Virat Kohli’s comments showed he felt his team, too, was being put under constant scrutiny and were placed by the broadcasters under the microphone – to throw them off guard.
During Australia’s tour to South Africa in 2018, there were suggestions that SuperSport was ‘targeting the Australians, looking for ways the tourists were possibly manipulating the ball’. Indian cricketers felt they were targeted with the use of stump mics and that the technology was being used against them.
“Find better ways to win SuperSport,” Ravichandran Ashwin was heard saying.
The anger over the review of Dean Elgar, however, was misplaced. SuperSport, as they clarified in a statement, isn’t responsible for the technology.
The broadcaster said: “SuperSport notes comments made by certain members of the Indian cricket team. Hawk-Eye is an independent service provider, approved by the ICC and their technology has been accepted for many years as an integral part of DRS.”
Dean Elgar being given not out led to tempers fraying in the Indian camp with skipper Virat Kohli along with his deputy KL Rahul and senior offspinner Ravichandran Ashwin mocking the South African broadcasters ‘SuperSport’ on the stump microphone.