Cyril Mitchley, the first umpire to refer a dismissal to the third eye way back in 1992, is no great fan of the Decision Review System (DRS) which has used up massive media space in the ongoing Ashes series.
Mitchley made history when he drew a square in the air to signify that he was referring the possible run out of Sachin Tendulkar upstairs on Day Two of the first India vs South Africa Test at Kingsmead, Durban on November 14, 1992.
Third umpire Karl Liebenberg declared Tendulkar out as Jonty Rhodes was swathed in glory for his alacrity and skill. “While I called for the first TV replay in world cricket, I have always been divided between technology and umpires actually making decisions on their own.
I just don’t think they have perfected it (DRS). I can still find faults in the technology. I don’t know whether they (cricket authorities) will stop it or persevere with it. But I am not totally for technology,” Mitchley (75) told MiD DAY from Johannesburg.
He went on: “You can call me an olden days cricketer. Look, players make mistakes. Umpires must be allowed to make mistakes. The one that makes fewer mistakes is the better player or the better umpire. If an umpire makes a mistake once every two Test matches, I believe he is a good umpire.
“What all this is telling me is that players can make mistakes, not umpires. That is something I object to. “I realise that there is a lot of money involved in cricket today, but I still believe it’s a game. Unfortunately, people take it more seriously these days.”
Get it right
Mitchley gives the impression of belonging to a group of experts who believe that if the DRS is not perfect, there is no room for it in cricket. “You have got to get your technology 100 per cent right. Else, why use it? I can still see more flaws coming in.
To me, it’s not always the DRS as such. How you are using it is the problem. You have to get the cricketing brains around the table to discuss it and sort out these problems. And I mean, ‘cricketing brains’.” He supports the BCCI’s refusal to embrace DRS in a bilateral series. “India are right in not using it,” Mitchley stressed.
Back to his referral in Durban 1992 when Tendulkar played a Brian McMillan delivery to cover point where Rhodes was stationed. Rhodes pounced on the ball and threw it back to Andrew Hudson at the stumps as Tendulkar returned to his crease after starting off for a run (Ravi Shastri was at the other end).
Mitchley referred it and the green (bulb colour used then) light flashed for Tendulkar to make his way back. Although television replays showed Tendulkar out of his crease, Mitchley revealed that the Indian batting master would have survived if technology was not put to use: “I can tell you this…without the technology, I would have not given Tendulkar out. I would have given him the benefit of doubt.”
Recalling the build-up to the historic dismissal, he said: “It was history. Put yourself in my shoes – I’m standing in a packed Kingsmead, making the sign of a square. Nobody has done it before. It just didn’t feel right.” Mitchley doesn’t adorn the umpire’s coat anymore, but he travels around as a domestic match referee.
Mitchley recalled a conversation he had with South African cricket's then big boss Ali Bacher after that historic decision in Durban: "It was Ali who brought in technology. I asked him then how far would he take technology and he said not beyond line calls. Today, technology is used for everything."
In many ways, the game is not the same.
> It was South Africa’s first Test match after getting readmitted to international cricket. Their last Test was in March 1970 (vs Australia)
> Left-arm spinner Omar Henry became the first black player to represent South Africa in Test cricket; also SA’s oldest debutant at 40 years and
> Praveen Amre scored a hundred on debut – India’s first debutant centurion since Mohd Azharuddin in 1984. Azhar was Amre’s captain in this Test.
lSouth Africa captain Kepler Wessels became the first batsman to score a hundred for two countries. He previously represented Australia.
> SA’s Jimmy Cook became the first man to be dismissed off the first ball on Test debut.