SLC should take up origin of referral claims with ICC

Come October and the umpires review system will be rolled out in Test cricket permanently following trials over the past year. The referral will allow both the batting side and the fielding side two instances of challenging the umpire’s decision in each innings of a Test match. This rule has been brought forth to reduce the number of mistakes that on-field umpires generally tend to make on the field.

In a way Sri Lanka can lay claim for initially coming out with the idea as far back as 1997 when Senaka Weeraratne, a lawyer by profession and a keen cricket enthusiast published in ‘The Australian’ newspaper under the title ‘Third umpire should perform role of appeal judge’. Since then Weeraratne has made his suggestion public by having it published in various international newspapers and magazines like ‘The Cricketer’, the prestigious ‘Time’ magazine and leading newspapers The ‘London Times’, The ‘Sunday Age’ etc.

In a letter to Sri Lanka Cricket secretary Nishantha Ranatunga, Weeraratne states: “In the light of the aforesaid submissions, I would like to request the Sri Lanka Cricket Board to recognise my claims in law as the innovator of the Umpire Referral Rule. I would also like to request the Sri Lanka Cricket Board to intercede on my behalf and more importantly on behalf of Sri Lanka at the ICC and obtain due acknowledgement for my authorship of the rule, as the country would be the biggest beneficiary if the innovation of a Sri Lankan in respect to reform of cricket rules, is recognised internationally.

“It must be noted that the ICC has made use of my concept which I developed and promoted in the cricket world over a period of time beginning in 1997. Being the pioneer developer of this rule both myself and my country i.e. Sri Lanka, must get the credit for it. The term ‘cricket’ is now a euphemism for fair play. It would be a travesty of justice and fair play, if the leading cricket institution in the world i.e. ICC, were to copy my innovation which I had brought to the notice of some of the constituent bodies of the ICC in the early stages, without attributing any credit to me and my country. The ICC should consider associating my name with this rule in a manner similar to the tagging of the names ‘Duckworth Lewis’ to the rule which is applied in rain affected one-day cricket matches.”

Ranatunga when contacted confirmed that he had received a letter and documents related to the claim from Weeraratne. He said SLC would be keen to take the case forward as it would be of immense benefit to the country if the ICC were to acknowledge that it originated from Sri Lanka.

It is the controlling body for the sport that must make the effort to make the ICC aware that such a claim exists. If no such claim is made the credit could easily be taken by someone else. There has been a few stray instances where former England coach Duncan Fletcher had made reference to it in his autobiography ‘Behind the Shades’ published in 2007 making it look as a suggestion coming from him and the ICC had at times stated the idea came from tennis. TV referrals in tennis on line calls came as recently as 2007 which make these suggestions untenable.

Cricket is all about fair play and is it not the reason why the ICC is going to the extent of ensuring that players get the best possible decision on the field? Let’s hope and pray that justice prevails.