Ever since they were introduced, soft signals have always been somewhat contentious. Soft signal is a visual communication made by the bowler’s end umpire to the third umpire about his initial on-field decision before the third umpire review was initiated. Because of the continuous controversies surrounding “soft signal” decisions, many current and former cricketers have campaigned for an end to the practice of field umpires offering “soft signals” to the third umpires in order to resolve a disputed on field decision. Let’s find out more details about it.
IPL 2021 Says Goodbye to Soft Signals
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has heard and seen enough and has decided that the 2021 edition of the IPL will not feature soft signals and on-field umpires won’t be able to convey their decisions while referring to the third umpire. After approval by the Governing Council, the board has updated the Appendix D – Clause 2.2.2 – of the Match Playing Conditions. All the IPL teams have been updated about this change and the much maligned “soft signals” won’t be visible in the world’s richest cricketing extravaganza. A source close to the BCCI said: “There have been cases wherein the soft signal has kind of created confusion rather than giving clarity to the third umpire and that is why it was felt that going back to the old method of referring decisions to the third umpire if the on-field umpires are not sure should be followed.”
Prior to this BCCI decision, the Match Playing rules stated that “should both on-field umpires require assistance from the third umpire to make a decision, the bowler’s end umpire shall firstly take a decision on-field after consulting with the striker’s end umpire, before consulting by two-way radio with the third umpire. Such consultation shall be initiated by the bowler’s end umpire to the third umpire by making the shape of a TV screen with his/her hands, followed by a Soft Signal of Out or Not out made with the hands close to the chest at chest height. If the third umpire advises that the replay evidence is inconclusive, the onfield decision communicated at the start of the consultation process shall stand.”
The updated clause has ordered the removal of the soft signal in order for the third umpire’s decision to be completely fair and not have any external influence on it.
What is a “soft signal”?
According to the International Cricket Council rules, a soft signal is a visual communication by the bowler’s end umpire to the third umpire of his initial on-field decision prior to initiating an umpire review. On Thursday, during the ICC Board meeting, BCCI secretary Jay Shah told the other members that a change in on-field umpire’s protocol around soft signals was needed.
When did the “soft signal” dispute really gather steam?
“Soft signal” became a major talking point since India’s Suryakumar Yadav’s notorious dismissal during the fourth T20I between India and England in Ahmedabad’s Narendra Modi Stadium. Yadav had played a fantastic knock but was adjudged caught in deep by Dawid Malan off a ball from Sam Curran. However, numerous replays couldn’t conclusively show that Malan had snagged a clean catch. However, third umpire Virender Sharma was forced to uphold the “soft signal” of the on field umpire because of a lack of conclusive evidence. Indian captain Virat Kohli was really furious at the third umpire’s judgement and chimed in with his (very angry) two cents:
“If it hits the stumps or misses the stumps, it should not matter how much the ball is clipping because it is creating a lot of confusion. One more factor that needs to be considered is how the fielding team responds to a dismissal that is claimed. This is somewhere defining the soft signals as well. You have to question what the spirit of the game is and what those guidelines are because if things like that happen with the Indian cricket team overseas then you are talking about a completely different conversation about the spirit of the game. So look, it is a serious thing which needs to be considered because there is a lot at stake in bigger tournaments. You do not want any grey area hampering the game and it leaves with you no clarity.”
What is the new system for Minimum Over Rates?
The Minimum Over Rates system has also witnessed a change in IPL 2021. Previously, the Match Playing Conditions suggested that “the minimum over rate to be achieved in IPL Matches shall be 14.11 overs per hour (ignoring the time taken by time-outs). In uninterrupted matches, this means that the 20th over should start within 90 minutes (being 85 minutes of playing time plus 5 minutes of time-out) of the start of the innings. For delayed or interrupted matches where an innings is scheduled to be less than 20 overs, the maximum time of 90 minutes shall be reduced by 4 minutes 15 seconds for every over by which the innings is reduced.”
According to Clause 12.7.1 in the new guidelines, the “20th over is included in the 90 minutes.”
What will happen to “short runs”?
This is what will happen to short runs as per the new guidelines:” the third umpire checks the short run and can overturn the decision made by the on-field umpires.”
Earlier, Clause 18.5.1 suggested that “if either umpire considers that one or both batsmen deliberately ran short at that umpire’s end, the umpire concerned shall, when the ball is dead, call and signal Short run and inform the other umpire of what has occurred and apply clause 18.5.2.”
What are the changes to the MPC in 2021?
Compared to the rules in 2020, these are the changes to the MPC in 2021.
- Clause 12.7.1 – 20th over is included in 90 minutes.
- Clause 16.3.1 – In an uninterrupted match, subsequent super overs can be played till an hour’s time from the actual finished time of the tied matches.
- Clause 18.4.6 – In the case of the short run, the third umpire checks the short run and can overturn the decision made by the on-field umpires.
- Clause 21.5.2 – Third Umpire can overrule the no-ball decision made by the on-field umpire.
- Appendix A – Clause 5.10- Definition of the soft signal is removed.
- Appendix D – Clause 2.2.2- Updated. Soft signal is removed.
- Appendix F – Point number 25 is removed. (According to the Playing Conditions of 2020, Point number 25 stated – “In circumstances where there are unavoidable time constraints (for example, a requirement to switch off floodlights at a certain time) which do not allow the completion of multiple Super Over(s), the IPL Match Referee may limit the number of possible Super Overs and shall advise both captains accordingly prior to the start of the first Super Over).”