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Recognise authorship of Umpire Referral Rule:

Weeraratna appeals to SLC to intercede with ICC

How does one feel when one's idea is taken up at the international level and not credited to him or his country?


Senaka Weeraratna

This situation has been nagging Senaka Weeraratna who claims that the basic elements of the new Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS) have been adopted from his ideas which he had conceived with a view to resolving a vexed problem in cricket due to umpiring errors. The ICC has finally decided to roll out the new system in Test Cricket from October 1, 2009.

Reputed cricket writers have observed that the Umpire Referral Rule is the most revolutionary step taken to reform cricket rules since the inception of the game, as the new rule challenges a fundamental premise of traditional cricket i.e. Umpire's decision is final.

This finality is now no longer granted to an on field Umpire's decision is largely due to the campaign of cricket reformers like Senaka Weeraratna who believe that player dissent on field should be permitted for a nobler cause i.e. to right a wrong.

Weeraratna claims that the use of the Third Umpire in an appellate capacity with power to entertain direct appeals from a dissatisfied player unhappy with the decision of an on field umpire is basically his innovation.

"I have publicised this concept by writing to newspapers, magazines and cricket journals both local and international, over a period of time beginning with my letter to the Editor of the 'Australian' newspaper published on the 25th of March, 1997. I have also made written representations to the national cricket controlling authorities of several leading cricket countries including the then Board of Cricket Control in Sri Lanka in 1997, and thereafter Sri Lanka Cricket, offering my proposals as a solution to the tricky problem of umpiring errors that invariably lead to a distortion in the outcome of a game.

Weeraratna is a lawyer and an old boy of Royal College, Colombo who had played in school house cricket and been a reserve in the school second eleven cricket team.

He obtained his law degree (LL.B.) from the University of Colombo Law Faculty from where he also emerged as a popular undergraduate student leader in the early 1970's. He won a string of students union elections, becoming initially the Secretary and in the succeeding year the President of the Law Faculty Students' Union, and subsequently he was elected by his peers in the other Faculties as the Vice - President of the Colombo University Students' Council.

Upon admission to the Supreme Court as an Attorney - at - Law, Weeraratna proceeded to Australia for his post - graduate studies at Monash University where he read for his Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree.

He has served in Australia in a number of capacities such as lecturer in law, Legal Officer (Australian Federal Special Prosecutor's Office), and Solicitor in a reputed Melbourne law firm. He has the distinction of authoring the first legal thesis on foreign investment in Sri Lanka, which he presented as his minor dissertation for his LL.M. degree at Monash University.

Upon returning to Sri Lanka he served as a Legal Consultant to the Law Commission and was closely associated with the drafting of the Animal Welfare Bill. His last appointment was as the Director (Research) at the Government Peace Secretariat which was closed down in July this year.

Recently, Weeraratna made a written appeal to Nishantha Ranatunga, Secretary, Interim Committee, Sri Lanka Cricket, requesting SLC to intercede on his behalf and more importantly on behalf of his country, Sri Lanka, with the ICC, and obtain due acknowledgement for his 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, was recognized internationally.

Ranatunga had wanted an affidavit from Upali Dharmadasa who has already acknowledged in a newspaper interview published on June 22, 2008 that he received the proposal from Weeraratna in 1997 with the request that it be tabled at the next meeting of the ICC scheduled to be held in June 1997.

Dharmadasa (the then President of the Board of Cricket Control) had instructed his CEO Tryphon Mirando to study the proposal and submit a report to the Board. Sadly Dharmadasa's term had ended in 1998 and with it Weeraratna's proposal too had come to a grinding halt.

Weeraratna further says that the claim that the Umpire Referral Rule in Cricket was borrowed from Tennis was untenable because adjudication in Tennis is solely confined to line calls, and does not involve issues related to speculation and judgment, for example, in studying the virtual trajectory of the ball after it strikes the batsman on any part of his body covering the wicket when determining appeals for Leg Before Wicket (LBW). Further, the Instant Replay system to resolve tennis line disputes was first introduced at the US Open in 2006.

In contrast Weeraratna had published his writings advocating an appellate role for the Third Umpire as far back as March 1997.

Weeraratna has published his writings in the 'Times of London', Melbourne 'Sunday Age, Pakistan 'Dawn', 'The International Cricketer' (UK) Magazine, 'The Australian' , ' Northern Territory News' (Darwin), Malaysian ' New Straits Times', 'Time' Magazine (June 7, 1999), and several other Sri Lankan Newspapers.

In June 1996, Weeraratna was chosen for the best letter of the month in the reputed 'International Cricketer' (UK) magazine, for advocating two neutral umpires as against the then prevailing practice of having one home umpire and one - third country umpire.

The Melbourne Cricket Club in its Library Bulletin 'Yorker' (December 1998)published two pieces of Weeraratna on Australia - Sri Lanka cricket ties, on the eve of a visit to Australia by the Sri Lanka national cricket team, with a salutary introduction of him as a ' key literary proponent of the Third Umpire'.

Weeraratna finally says that the mandate of the Interim Committee governing Sri Lanka Cricket is fairly broad. Its duties in promoting cricket and the image of Sri Lankan cricket internationally are substantial.

As the only constituent body representing Sri Lanka at the ICC, SLC must also address in addition to bread and butter issues, such issues as the protection of the interests of Sri Lankan cricket writers who make a contribution towards the advancement of the game beyond the boundary.

 

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