Is the soft signal needed in cricket?
Is it time to take a HARD call on the SOFT SIGNAL?
Updated - Mar 19, 2021 6:08 pm
Suryakumar Yadav was just decimating the England bowlers to all parts of the ground in the 4th T20I on 18th March 2021. He was timing the ball to perfection and had helped himself to a classy 57. He had started his T20I career with a six off the bowling of Jofra Archer and had played a bewitching back-foot punch off the bowling of Mark Wood.
Yadav had also smashed Adil Rashid over deep cover into the stands for six, and it seemed as if SKY (as he is fondly called) would indeed light up the night sky. But then, the second ball of the 14th over proved to be his undoing. Off that fateful delivery, Yadav went for a sweep shot off the bowling of Sam Curran, and Dawid Malan dived forward to take a ‘seemingly’ stunning catch. And ever since, Yadav’s dismissal has grabbed the attention of a cricket-crazy nation.
Now, let us come to the catch taken by Dawid Malan. The on-field umpire was not fully convinced about the legitimacy of the catch, and he referred the decision to his big brother, the third umpire. Now, it is important to note here that the ‘soft signal’ from the on-field umpire was Out. Replays indicated that Malan might have grassed the ball and might not have taken the catch cleanly.
The third umpire took an eternity to declare his decision. He looked at different angles and multiple replays. And in the end, the third umpire declared that Suryakumar Yadav was out. And, the third umpire’s decision would have largely been influenced by the ‘soft signal’ that the on-field umpire gave.
What is a soft signal?
Now, let us come to the most important and vital question. What is a soft signal?
Whenever the on-field umpire is not sure about the nature of a particular dismissal, he can take the help of the third umpire. But before doing so, the on-field umpire gives a soft signal. The soft signal is the on-field umpire’s take on the dismissal based on what he has observed on the field of play.
The soft signal will act as the lead, based on which the third umpire will give his final decision. Now, there is another thing to note here. The third umpire can overturn the soft signal given by the on-field umpire if, AND ONLY IF he has sufficient proof that the soft signal is not correct. And, if the third umpire is in doubt regarding the nature of the dismissal, then he will provide his final decision only based on the soft signal given by the on-field umpire.
Needless to say, the soft signal played a big role in Suryakumar Yadav walking back to the pavilion.
Should the soft signal be taken out of the equation?
Now, the first question that needs to be asked is this. Is the soft signal needed?
How would it be if the on-field umpire directly refers the decision to the third umpire without ‘influencing’ the decision of the third umpire in any way? In fact, Indian cricketing legend VVS Laxman has echoed his opinion on the matter.
How can this be out. When you are not sure whether the ball was taken cleanly after watching so many replays using top class technology and still go by the soft signal given by the on-field umpire. I think this rule needs to be revisited and changed. #INDvsENG pic.twitter.com/b5XMdH8qEz
— VVS Laxman (@VVSLaxman281) March 18, 2021
Makes sense, isn’t it?
Now, let us ask one more question. Why does the on-field umpire take the help of the third umpire? To put in simple words, the third umpire has access to technology and is in a better position to give the final verdict, as he can look at multiple replays of the same incident to arrive at the final decision. And, the on-field umpire will take the help of the third umpire only when he is ‘NOT SURE’. And, when the on-field umpire is ‘NOT SURE’, how can he even be asked to give his take on the matter (read Soft Signal)?
And, how can the third umpire be asked to base his decision on the soft signal given by the on-field umpire and overturn the decision only when there is ‘sufficient’ proof to do so?
The soft signal cost Suryakumar Yadav his wicket. It brought to an end a resplendent inning from a batsman who was wielding the willow for the first time in his T20I career. And, Yadav had to walk back to the pavilion only because of the soft signal given by the on-field umpire.
But then, when we have access to excellent technology today, the soft signal should be taken out of the equation. When a decision is referred upstairs, the third umpire should not be influenced in any way and should provide the final decision based on his judgment alone. And surely, it is time to take a HARD call on the SOFT SIGNAL. For, dealing softly with it will only result in questionable decisions like the one that was handed out to Suryakumar Yadav.