International cricket’s governing body, the ICC, appears to think that the answer to this question is yes. A referral system was suggested for the England – South Africa series, but the hosts declined to use the policy and so the forthcoming contest between Sri Lanka and India will be first series where referrals are tested.
Each team will be allowed three unsuccessful challenges per innings, with only the batsman on the receiving end of the decision and the fielding captain able to make the challenge. There is therefore not a limit on successful challenges, so a flurry of overturned decisions could be embarrassing for the on-field umpires.
However, they should not feel undermined by technology. It is an extra resource and will endorse their good judgement as much as it highlights errors that are forgivable in the pressurised environment of Test cricket. Umpires use technology to help get line calls right in three of the grand slam tournaments and each challenge is dealt with quickly – the official’s authority is strengthened as players fell less inclined to argue with technology. Referrals are also used to general good effect in rugby.
This referral system has been used on a trial basis before, but was abandoned after one year in English domestic one day cricket. None of the challenges made by the players resulted in a change of decision, whilst some apparently incorrect decisions were left unchallenged. It will be interesting to see if players actually know when they are out and bowlers might get a shock when they realise most of their LBW appeals would indeed have gone over the stumps.
There will never be 100% accuracy – TV cameras cannot always detect thin edges for example – so batsman still receive the benefit of doubt to some extent. On-field umpires still make the final decision – the ICC is keen to point out that the system is for consultation, not referral.