Team India lost its head before losing the series against South Africa.
During the final session of the third day of the deciding Test in Cape Town, led by the captain Virat KohliIndian players showered opinions on host broadcaster SuperSport. Players expressed their displeasure over three key issues: the use of technology, in particular, the ball-tracking system, which they alleged was rigged; use of stump-mics; and the conduct of the Supersport crew.
What Kohli said: “Don’t hit them on the pads, boys. Either stumped or caught behind, that’s it. The real experts in the DRS column, the boys… couldn’t believe they got me out in the first match. There are different balls shown for tracking, boys.”
Context: Ashwin believed he had trapped Dean Elgar in front of the stumps and umpire Marais Erasmus also raised his finger. However, after the South African captain reviewed the decision, the tracking system showed that the ball was going over the stumps. The decision enraged the Indians and even Erasmus was caught murmuring, ‘It is impossible.’
Hemant Buch, who has been broadcast director for more than 100 Tests, said that while a human error is possible, it is highly unlikely that the ball-tracking sequences can be manipulated, as implied by the India captain.
The ball-tracking technology is supplied by Hawk-Eye, one of two vendors approved by the ICC. Six cameras are used for this system and there are five people employed by Hawk-Eye to work on the broadcast. These guys, Butch said, control the camera’s iris, plot the ball’s pitch, operate ultra-edges, and so on.
“There are people of different skill levels and different experience working for the company. Sometimes, you may find that it is taking longer to get up the track, sometimes it is much quicker. Skill levels vary,” Butch said.
Due to the human intervention involved in the tracking system, there is scope for errors. “But you have to remember that you are talking about one or two decisions throughout the series that are wrong with Hawk-Eye,” Butch said.
All data collected is provided to the ICC after the match. “There are so many checks and balances that if this (manipulation) happens, they will be caught,” Butch said.
What Kohli said: “I wonder if the stump mic in here catches all this crap, huh?”
Context: For the second time in the match, Kohli spoke angrily about the stump mic. On the second day of the Test as well, Kohli was heard saying, ‘stump mics are too fast’ when India were bowling, which meant a selective broadcast by SuperSport, in order to pay attention to what the spectators on the field had to say. Can go
The increasing use of the stump mic has been a widely debated topic, especially among current and former cricketers, who feel that players can be fined for saying anything in the heat of the moment.
Typically, audio engineers turn on faders when the ball is thrown to capture the sound effects of the game: the bowler’s run-up, the batsman’s take off guard, the ball hitting the bat or an appeal. During the period between the delivery and the over, the fader is turned down.
However, in South Africa, they are often kept for longer periods. In 2018, Australia requested Supersport and match officials to turn off the mic when the ball is dead, although this was ignored by broadcasters.
Butch also felt that compared to the Ashes, being played together, ‘you hear everything’ on the field in South Africa.
ICC rules allow the stump mic to be broadcast at all times, but Butch said the volume is turned up ‘only at certain times’ when the ball is dead because ‘you don’t want anything outrageous’. A director, who can listen to everything that is said on the field, can turn up the volume if he finds interesting jokes – as Butch did recently when West Indies wicketkeeper Joshua da Silva played the second Test last month. During this, he tried to sledge Sri Lanka’s Charit Aslanka.
Sometimes, Butch said, on-field umpires alert players when the mic is being used. Butch said, ‘I think Indians feel that when they are bowling, the mic of the stump is kept deliberately high. “I’m not sure it’s 100 percent accurate, but apparently it’s what they feel.”
What Kohli said: “Focus on your team as well when they shine the ball. Not only the opposition, all the time trying to catch people.”
Context: This was a clear reference to the 2018 sandpaper-gate scandal when Australian players were caught tampering with the ball by cameras constantly following them. Kohli’s remarks suggest that he felt his team was also being kept under constant scrutiny and put under a microscope – or erm… microphone by broadcasters to get them off guard.
According to cricket.com.au, during Australia’s tour of South Africa in 2018, it was suggested that Supersport was ‘targeting Australians, causing tourists to manipulate the ball’.
While the Indians were not caught by the prying eyes of the camera, they realized that they were being targeted using stump mics and that the technology was being used against them. Not just Kohli, other players also expressed their disappointment. Ashwin was heard saying, “Find better ways to win Supersport.”
However, the anger at the reviews was misplaced. SuperSport, as he clarified in a statement, is not responsible for the technology.
In a statement to AFP, the broadcaster said: “Supersport takes note of the comments made by certain members of the Indian cricket team. Hawk-Eye is an independent service provider, approved by the ICC and their technology has been accepted as an integral part of DRS for many years.