Virat Kohli
Indian captain Virat Kohli in action during the first One-Day International against England at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Pune, India, on March 23, 2021. Image Credit: Reuters

Virat Kohli has come under fire. Not for his batting, which is back on song. His captaincy, specifically his antics on the field, hasn’t gone down well with David Lloyd. The former England cricketer and commentator says the Indian captain has been pressurising the umpires throughout England’s tour of India.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Lloyd said: “Kohli has been pressuring, disrespecting and remonstrating with umpires throughout this tour.” That’s a sweeping statement. We know that the Indian captain is aggressive and that aggression reflects in his actions on the field. To say that showing displeasure is tantamount to disrespect is an exaggeration.

What’s David Lloyd’s allegation?

It’s difficult to say whether Kohli’s actions crossed a line. The umpires would know better. If the umpires feel the Indian captain has coerced them, that would certainly go into their match report.

Kohli, no doubt, uses every legitimate means to win a game. That includes a chat with the umpires. But if the umpires aren’t interested, they can ignore it. That’s precisely what Nitin Menon did when Kohli tried to explain that Ben Stokes was run out in the second One-day International in Pune. Menon clearly showed that he wasn’t interested in Kohli’s explanation.

The Indian skipper always tries to get his point across to the umpires. He’s done that throughout his career. So what’s new? So long as it’s a civilised conversation, there shouldn’t be a problem.

more write clicks

Strangely, Lloyd didn’t discuss the legitimacy of the catch that led to the discussion on the “umpires call”. Dawid Malan’s controversial catch to dismiss Suryakumar Yadav in the fourth T20 International in Ahmedabad has been the subject of debates in mainstream media and social media.

Lloyd refuses to discuss Kohli’s suggestion that England put pressure on the umpire to give a “soft signal” but argues that the Indian captain hasn’t missed a chance to put the umpires under pressure. The former England player calls the International Cricket Conference (ICC) “toothless” for refusing to take any action on India and Kohli for the captain’s onfield behaviour.

Back to the “umpires call”. I fully agree with Kohli’s suggestion that an onfield umpire should not give a soft signal if he’s unsure of the decision. That makes perfect sense since that would allow the third umpire to decide without the reluctance to overturn the onfield umpire’s verdict.

I can’t entirely agree with Kohli’s suggestion to eliminate the soft signal and go with the third umpire’s decision based on technology. Kohli’s suggestion is born out of his implicit trust in technology. But technology is not flawless when it comes to calculating the bounce and movement. It’s always a projection. And the actual path varies depending on the wicket and the conditions. So the projection need not be 100 per cent accurate. So when the margins are thin, the third umpires prefer to go with the onfield umpires call. Which’s only fair.

With the introduction of artificial intelligence, we may get near-perfect decisions in the near future. At that time, I would be inclined to fully agree with Kohli. But not for the reason touted by Lloyd, who says a soft signal is required to retain the authority of onfield umpires.

Why umpiring technology is not flawless

Lloyd seems to think that reliance on technology will result in more dismissals, hastening the results of Test matches. That’s a flawed argument. If Lloyd wants Tests to be dull, dreary draws, he should call for removing technology from Test-match decision-making. That’d be regressive in these times.

If Test matches finish in three days, so be it. At least we will have results. In any case, Tests have been battling for survival. Results are imperative to breathe life into Test match cricket.

If a Test match finishes two days early, the only thing that will suffer is the receipts from the daily attendance. But then gate receipts have long ceased to be a significant source of revenue. Telecast rights are what rakes in the big bucks.

A shorter Test match wouldn’t hurt. And technology can help if it’s able to produce flawless decisions. Then, there will be no room for argument.