Back then, watching the replay of a run out in cricket and waiting for the third umpire to announce the final result was one of the most nervous instances of watching cricket. There would be closer TV replays to ensure whether the bat had touched the line before the ball hitting the stumps. The third umpire was indeed an integral and exciting part of every cricket match, someone ‘godlike’. We don’t get to see the third umpire all the time, but when the two umpires on the field face any difficulty in making an on-ground decision, they seek the help of the third umpire and the third umpire appears!
It was the introduction of technology in cricket that made the third umpire option possible. The idea was conceptualised by the former Sri Lankan domestic cricketer Mahinda Wijesinghe to ensure fair play in cricket. They used to check TV replays and different camera angles to make the decisions. The Umpire Decision Review System (URDS or DRS) is the technology to assist the match officials in decision making on the field.
Ever thought who was the first batsman to be declared out by a third umpire? It was none other than the master blaster Sachin Tendulkar. It was on 14 November 1992, where India was playing against South Africa in Durban. Sachin and Ravi Shastri were on the field, and Shastri was in the non-striker’s end. Tendulkar, who had scored 11, hit the ball to the backward point where Jonty Rhodes was fielding. Sachin ran for a single, but Ravi Shastri sent him back. Immediately Rhodes threw the ball to the stump and broke the wicket. It was a perplexing situation and certainly the on-field umpire Cyril Mitchley sought the help of the third umpire, Karl Liebenberg. The TV replays clearly showed that it was runout and the green light flashed, signalling to Tendulkar that he must get back to the pavilion. But, now the reverse system is in practice, where the green light is suggestive of ‘not-out’ and red for ‘out’.
Since then, the third umpire became a decisive part of cricket matches of all forms. However, if the decision of the third umpire was solely based on TV replays back then, now technology has brought up novel mechanisms in the game of cricket.