The soft signal is something that has somehow made its way into International Cricket and I for one, am not a fan.
The most recent incident where the soft signal reared its ugly head was on the third day’s play of the 1st Specsavers Test between England and India.
Ishant Sharma bowled to Dawid Malan, who nicked it to first slip, Shikhar Dhawan, who took what looked like a low catch.
He wasn’t sure, the batsman wasn’t sure, the umpires weren’t sure. Dhawan asked the umpires to check, so say gave a soft signal of not out and went upstairs.
The third umpire, correctly adjudicated that the decision was not out, as the ball had touched the grass, but my issue is with the soft signal.
The on field umpires obviously had no idea what the decision was, that’s why they went upstairs. So how can they possibly give a decision, albeit a soft one, if they don’t know?
The whole point of the TV replay is to make sure the right decisions are made because the on-field umpires aren’t sure.
What I find incredibly odd is when they give a soft signal when there’s a catch on the boundary. How can the umpire honestly see what happened when he’s nowhere close to the fielder? Yet, despite not actually seeing what happened, he’s comfortable giving a soft signal either way, which then influences the third umpire.
This is wrong.
As Kumar Sangakkara quite rightly said on air for Sky Sports during the England v India Test match, the umpires have no clear line of sight of the ball in some cases, so how can they give a soft signal?
Also, because the soft signal is given, the third umpire has to then have conclusive evidence to overturn the decision. This causes some issues and has done so in the past.
In an ODI between Australia and England in January 2018, Steve Smith was given out caught behind, and Jos Buttler took a low catch. The on-field umpires, Chris Gaffaney and Simon Fry, were not sure and referred the decision upstairs, but not before giving the soft signal of out.
TV replays did not give enough evidence for third umpire, Kumar Dharmasena to overturn the soft signal, so he had no choice but to go with the on-field decision of out, even though there was more than enough benefit of doubt to go with the batsman.
Soft signals were first introduced as a way to get umpires to retain the primary responsibility of decision-making, as some camera angles provided doubt and not clarity.
Simon Taufel, former ICC umpire was quoted as saying in the Times of India in 2016:
“Decision making is an important skill and one that should be applied at the highest level of the game. So, the soft signal maintains the premise that the decision-making happens on field and not just left to technology to provide an outcome.”
Every decision is not sent upstairs, the on-field umpires still make the majority of decisions, but the third umpire is in the best possible position to make a decision when there’s doubt.
Even with the use of television replays, sometimes they still can’t make a concrete decision. So how is it that the on-field umpire can make a soft signal if they haven’t seen what actually happened?
I have never liked the soft signal, I think it’s a nonsense rule and it needs to be done away with.