Sri Lankan’s Brainchild, UDRS Saves Sri Lanka!

Two factors played a crucial role in the dramatic outcome at Lords. Nuwan Pradeep and the UDRS. Nuwan Pradeep’s name figures as having won a reality show but he showed he knew more about cricket than most would give him credit for. He chose not to accept the LBW decision given by Australian Umpire Paul Reiffel and instead used the player referral option now available to dissatisfied players but limited to two appeals per side per inning and called for a review of the decision by the third umpire (under the Umpire Decision Review System) which clearly showed he was not out.

That mechanism i.e. UDRS, saved Sri Lanka and brought a climatic end to the Test match when England was all but sure it had won. The Player – Referral concept that underlies UDRS that saved Sri Lanka, was a brainchild of lawyer Senaka Weeraratna who finds himself in a very unfortunate position in an euro centric dominated cricket world reluctant to accord him due credit for authorship of the Player – Referral concept (lynchpin of UDRS) and Sri Lanka Cricket and Ministry of Sports falling short of taking up the just claims of a fellow Sri Lankan that would bring national glory. It is time that Sri Lankan authorities reconsider their stand and morally indefensible attitude and demand from the ICC that the true author Senaka Weeraratna be rightfully given due credit, appropriate acknowledgement and that UDRS be named as the Weeraratna Rule in a manner similar to use of the term ‘ Duckworth – Lewis’ named after the rule applied in rain affected one day international cricket matches.

May 1997 Senaka Weeraratna submitted the initial player referral proposal to former President of Cricket Board, Mr. Upali Dharmadasa requesting the SLC to forward proposal to ICC as ICC does not accept individual proposals. SL Cricket officials failed to table the proposal at the ICC meeting held in July 1997 as requested by Mr. Weeraratna. Official records of the Cricket Board should be able to confirm receipt of this proposal in 1997.
Mr. Upali Dharmadasa has admitted receipt of proposal sent by Senaka Weeraratna in May 1997 in an interview given to sports journalist Mr. Saadi Thawfeek (Sunday Nation – 22 June 2008). In the interview Mr. Dharmadasa informed that he had instructed Board of Cricket CEO Mr. Tryphon Mirando to study the proposal and submit a report to the Board. Mr. Dharmadasa’s term ended in 1998 and Mr. Weeraratna’s proposal was totally forgotten. This default and gross negligence on the part of the Board of Cricket Control of Sri Lanka (predecessor of Sri Lanka Cricket) has cost Mr. Senaka Weeraratna an inestimable loss in establishing his claim to authorship of the ‘player referral’ mechanism vis a vis the ICC and deprived Sri Lanka of the honour and glory that a country gains due to the innovation of a product by one of its sons that is widely accepted and applied universally in the cricket world.
25 March 1997 ” Senaka Weeraratna’s letter to the Editor of ‘The Australian’ (Australia’s National Newspaper) titled ‘Third Umpire should perform role of Appeal Judge’ highlighted main elements of the proposed ‘ player referral’ rule

Robert Steen, senior lecturer in sports journalism at the University of Brighton, England and reputed cricket commentator, in an insightful article on the ‘Cricinfo’ website under the title ‘Will the UDRS be proved a good thing?’ (Feb. 9, 2011) referred to the Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS) as one of the most potentially far-reaching concepts the old game has ever known, and added as follows:

“LET’S REWIND to the hotly contested conception of the review system, for which Senaka Weeraratna, a lawyer, believes we must thank/berate him ” and not, repeat not, the ICC.”

Steen adds He (Senaka Weeraratna) has been arguing for some time, and with some vehemence, that it was his letter to Colombo’s Sunday Times, on April 6, 1997, the first of many such that sowed the seeds. In an ocean of common sense, that letter likened the players’ right to challenge to the appeal of a dissatisfied litigant” .

As Simon Barnes put it recently in the Times: Referral is not dissent, it is a legitimate process of truth-seeking.

Robert Steen in another article based on a comprehensive survey done on all aspects of UDRS under the title Going upstairs: The decision review system velvet revolution or thin edge of an ethical wedge? published in Sport in Society Journal (Vol. 14, Issue 10, 2011) re-iterated the above as follows:

Senaka Weeraratna, a Sri Lankan-born lawyer .., maintains that it was his 1997 letter to The Australian, the first of many, which planted the seeds for what became the DRS. In writing it, illuminatingly, he likened the players’ right to challenge umpires to the appeal of a dissatisfied litigant.” (Allow appeals to the Third Umpire, Letters to the Editor, The Australian, 25 March 1997.

In August 2008 officials of Sri Lanka cricket personally handed to David Richardson, then General Manager of the ICC, a folder full of publications by Senaka Weeraratna on the subject of player referral but Mr. Richardson did not keep the appointment that he gave Mr. Weeraratna at the request of SLC officials to present his case. Mr. Richardson as CEO of ICC is now claiming the UDRS system is borrowed from tennis. This claim is easily nullified because the use of video replay in tennis began in 2006 using Hawkeye technology and adjudication in tennis is determined by line call.

The ICC ran trials for the new player referral system in November 2008 without identifying the author of the system or attributing credit to the true author of ‘ Player – Referral’ in cricket. Despite the exhaustive submission made by Mr. Senaka Weeraratna on every aspect of the ‘Player – Referral’ and annexing copies of original publications published all over the cricket world on the subject in the dossier handed over to Mr. David Richardson in August 2008 by SLC, the decision of the ICC to completely ignore or honor the Sri Lanka author boils down to nothing but intellectual dishonesty, violation of copyright and fraud.

What needs to be argued is that the UDRS or more exactly ‘Player – Referral’ did not simply fall from the sky. The system had to be conceived by a human mind or minds. If it was not Senaka Weeraratna ”who is the author?” is a valid and tenable question. The cricket world is entitled to know. This is the question that any self – respecting nation and particularly its governing Cricket Board is morally obliged to ask the ICC given the strong claims made by a local country man and in his defense. The failure to do so on the part of Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Sports and Sri Lanka Cricket is tantamount to a dereliction of public duty and betrayal of Sri Lanka’s national interests.

The Duckworth-Lewis rule for rain affected games was attributed to 2 English statisticians Frank Duckworth and Tony Lewis, who came up with the formula to calculate which team was in the lead at the time of rain interrupting the game. Stuart Robertson, the former Marketing Manager, England and Wales Cricket Board, has been hailed as the founder of the Twenty 20 Cricket format. The rule thus was Christened by their names.

We would like to know why has the UDRS yet to be christened in gratitude to the author given that UDRS has been in use since November 2009? We are also wondering whether it is because the author is non-white that the ICC is adapting a very colonial attitude to simply brushing off the claims of a ‘non – white’ without doing the decent thing of conducting an investigation, calling all those who are claiming authorship to provide evidence and thereafter determining who the real author is. This should not be such a difficult thing to do.

It is immoral for the singers to be using the song totally ignoring the composer. Both Sri Lanka Cricket and the ICC are guilty in this respect. They appear to adopt the colonial mindset view that legitimacy or recognition to any brain work in cricket or for that matter sports in general, can accrue only when the claimant is a white man. This is the crux of the problem. Had the author of the UDRS been a white man he will be the darling of the cricket world and an international celebrity. There will be talk shows, interviews and cricket commentators constantly referring to the author and his brain child. This does not happen because the true author Senaka Weeraratna has the wrong skin colour. Our local media except for a few brain souls like sports journalist Saadi Thawfeek (‘Nation’), Elmo Rodrigopulle(‘Daily News’ and ‘Sunday Observer’) have completely ignored the just claims of Senaka Weeraratna despite strong evidence. Such servility and subservience to white man’s rulings on the part of our newspapers and mass media has only strengthened the case for de – colonization of the mindset that governs the editorial boards in local newspapers.

The fact is that the singer cannot sing the song without acknowledging the composer and therefore cricket being a gentleman’s game it is only fair that if the ICC is not willing to accept Upali Dharmadasa’s acknowledgement or the present Board’s submission of Weeraratna’s claim of authorship an impartial inquiry conducted by a competent third party arbitrator should be held to ascertain who the composer of the UDRS system is.

It is said that the late Tony Greig had advised Senaka Weeraratna that to get the ball rolling it is the Sri Lankan State and Sri Lanka Cricket Board that must take up the cause with the ICC with full legal backing. Their failure in this instance is tantamount to a dereliction of national duty and let down of the huge cricket fan base in the country.

Simply because a person does not have the legal means or large scale financial resources or clout to press a case against use of his intellectual property should not mean that international corporate bodies such as the ICC and Sri Lanka Cricket should ignore and not take up the case where the prestige of awarding an internationally accepted referral system would bring pride not only to the author but to the entire nation. Is it not on this premise that the Sports Minister/Ministry, officials of Sri Lanka Cricket including former Cricketers take up this long overdue claim for justice on behalf of a fellow Sri Lankan.