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After much debate, ICC eventually drops the "soft signal"

The four-day Lord's Test between England and Ireland will mark the beginning of the new rules on June 1, 2023.

The controversial "soft signal" used by on-field umpires has finally been abolished by the International Cricket Council (ICC), ending years of misunderstanding among cricket players and game officials.


These were among the proposals made by the Sourav Ganguly-led Men's Cricket Committee that were approved by the Chief Executives' Committee on Monday, along with the need that helmets be worn in high-risk positions and the ability to score runs off a free hit even when the ball hits the stumps. The Lord's Test between England and Ireland on June 1, 2023, will mark the start of the new playing rules.


The soft signal was used by on-field umpires to refer catches taken close to the turf to TV umpires with their assessment of whether they believed it was taken cleanly or not, which has long been a source of contention between players and umpires.

According to ICC regulations, a "soft signal is the visual communication by the bowler's end umpire to the third umpire of his/her initial on-field decision prior to initiating an Umpire Review" (along with additional information through two-way radio where appropriate).


However, in real-time, it is nearly hard to verify the accuracy of such catches with the human eye alone, making the soft signal little more than a hunch that the TV umpire was compelled to follow despite ambiguous TV footage replays.


In 2021, Sam Curran of England was being bowled by Suryakumar Yadav when he dragged him towards deep square-leg, where Dawid Malan appeared to have caught him. 


KN Ananthapadmanabhan, the field umpire, quietly signaled "out" before ascending the stairs.Third umpire Virender Sharma watched the video for about four minutes, but he was unable to determine if it was a clean catch. But he followed Anathapadmanabhan's cue to play by the rules and ruled Yadav out.


The decision didn't sit well with India's captain at the time, Virat Kohli, who said umpires shouldn't make decisions unless they are certain of them.


After that game, he told the announcers, "I don't think the umpire from square leg would see that clearly and, you know, make a conclusive call if it's a half-and-half effort and the fielder's in doubt." "Therefore, the soft signal—which is a tricky one—becomes that much more crucial. I'm not sure why the umpire cannot be given a similar "I don't know" call. Why must it be an affirmative one? Because in that case, the entire decision is fully dictated.

During the Edgbaston Test a few months later, New Zealand opener Devon Conway was ruled not out despite replays demonstrating that he had been thoroughly caught by Zak Crawley at slip. Stuart Broad of England's pace team said, "It's actually the ruling that's putting the umpires in a really difficult situation," prior to the commencement of the following day's match. "It requires receiving a soft signal. Since you're not sure if it's carried or not, you're going upstairs. The umpire is then forced to weigh in on whether they believe it has, which puts them in a difficult situation. The third umpire's options are thus somewhat limited by whatever the on-field decision is.


The rule's elimination has actually given the TV umpire additional authority. Before making any decisions, "the on-field umpires will consult with the TV umpire," the ICC stated.

According to Ganguly, "Soft signals have been discussed at previous cricket committee meetings over the last couple of years," according to a Monday ICC press statement. The committee gave this a lot of thought and came to the conclusion that soft signals were unneeded and occasionally misleading because referrals of catches could appear unclear in replays.


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