31 March, 2023


Transparency At The Toss: Reforming The Protocols At Televised Cricket

By Michael Roberts

Dr. Michael Roberts

Dr. Michael Roberts

At the World Cup Match between Australia and Sri Lanka at the SCG on the 8th March 2015 the designated home team captain, in this case Michael Clarke, tossed the coin by stepping away from the cluster so that the florin landed some distance away. The Match Referee, Jeff Crowe, walked over and indicated that Angelo Mathews had called wrong. So Clarke and Australia were able to bat first on what turned out to be “a gem of a batting pitch[1] (undermining the pitch-readings of the several ‘experts’ as well as the hopes of the Sri Lankan team).

Once the match was done and dusted, however, one Sri Lankan chain-mail ‘blogger’ raised questions about the tossing result: claiming that Clarke’s move was a deliberate ploy designed to win a crucial call. Though not asserted explicitly, this outrageous allegation implied that Jeff Crowe was part of a conspiracy. Such accusations cannot be sustained. As Michael de Zoysa told me (on Skype, 7 April 2015), Jeff Crowe is a gentleman through and through, his rectitude impeccable.

As it happens, Jeff Crowe was at the centre of a right-royal tossing mess up at the Wankhede Stadium at the finals — finals no less — of the 2011 World Cup on 2nd April 2011. On this occasion Dhoni was the home team captain and Sangakkara was captaining Sri Lanka, while the stadium was reasonably full and, it is said, quite raucous.

Dhoni tossed and SangakkaraConfusion reigned at the toss.[2] An ESPN report on the event is repeated below, but for my purposes here the sequence is best spelt out in point -form.

  1. Dhoni tossed and Sangakkara, with head slightly bent, called heads.
  2. Though the TV crew in the operational room heard the call clearly, both Crowe and Dhoni as well as Shastri, the TV compere at the toss, heard the call.
  3. In the result, the toss was repeated all over again.
  4. Sangakkara called correctly again and decided to bat first.

In retrospect it has been my conjecture that Sangakkara and the team’s brain’s trust tossed the game away. The dew late in the evening was such that India was able to chase down Sri Lanka’s 265 run total with some measure of comfort. It would have been a good toss to lose because Dhoni indicated that India too would have batted first.[3]

That is by the by. What is required now are some reforms in the toss protocols. The ICC must not permit chaos of this kind at crucial events in a contest and/or give room for the rectitude of the Match Referees to be brought under the gun. Transparency of process must be at a premium. Some simple principles can be set up to bring about such a set of procedures.

  1. The Captain-Tosser must be instructed to toss the coin within close distance of the official cluster.
  2. The Captain-Caller must be instructed to shout loud and clear.
  3. The Captain-Caller and Match Referee must be wired with audio-sound.
  4. The TV Cameraperson must be instructed to pan his camera over the florin to show the world how the coin has landed before the Match Referee picks it up.

Simple really, one does not need Sherlock Holmes or even Watson to resolve this puzzle.

[1] Andrew Ramsay, “The Six Moments that Mattered,” 9 March 2015, http://www.cricket.com.au/news/five-memorable-moments-australia-sri-lanka-scg-cricket-world-cup-andrew-ramsey/2015-03-09.

[2]   ESPNcricinfo staff: “Toss taken twice after confusion over call,” 2 April 2011, http://www.espncricinfo.com/icc_cricket_worldcup2011/content/story/509133.html.

[3] Michael De Zoysa disputes my reading of this match and the emphasis on the dew factor. In his reading Sri Lanka lost the match because (a) Murali was nursing an injury and should not have played so that Sri Lanka could have deployed another bowler or bowling allrounder; (b) Sangakkara erred in removing Malinga from the attack when he had Tendulkar in trouble; and (c) Sri Lanka dropped two catches at critical moments.

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Latest comments

  • 1

    At the 2011 final India was never penalized for a slow over rate either
    This enabled them to bat 50 overs when it should have been 4⃣8⃣ overs and the dew factor b
    Became worse because Sri Lanka had bowl more overs in adverse few conditions.

  • 7

    Creating stores where there is none me thinks.

    Regardless of the toss the SL team was poor, would have lost anyway.

    Love them or loath them, Australia does produce good teams, maybe the lack of political meddling has something to do with it?

    You should focus on that, the political meddling of this goose that lays the golden egg instead of tossing your cookies over a toss.

  • 3

    This is now moving from the sublime to the ridiculous………believe this and you will believe anything……………….

    Every Toss at this WC was called very clearly and precisely not only by the caller, even the Match Referee repeats the call, loud and clear. So the writer is trying to suggest some things that have already been put right.

    Not only Crowe but all the Match Referees are gentleman with impeccable reputations and experience. What some mystery chain mail blogger wrote, which might be a figment of the
    writers seemingly perverse imagination, does not even warrant mentioning….if the accusations cannot be sustained…
    Why the hell is he mentioning it ? Very frivolous and cheap.

    Sorry but I cannot understand what this doctor is trying to write about the toss at last year’s final……this is gibberish….Did everyone hear the “heads” call or not ?
    There must be a typo somewhere in this garbage flaunted as journalism.

    My only regret is that rubbish like this gets printed.

    • 1


      Compared to the mindless “analysis” and statistical trivia unleashed on the hapless cricket fans by pretentious commentators, Prof. Roberts, being the good scholar he is, encourages people to be skeptical and not take the official story purveyed by cricket “authorities” at face value. Why are you getting so worked up? This is the difference between someone like Richie Benaud and the wannabe cricket experts.

      • 3

        Off the Ball………..?? So now he is a professor ?
        We have a skeptic wannabe professor disputing “authorities” with imaginary chain mail bloggers…………wow the quality of weed
        is getting better……from where can I get some of that stuff you
        are smoking……Richie might make a comeback if this quality is on offer……….As for me I believe what I saw, there are none so blind as those who will not see…..

        • 1


          “Put your brain into gear and if you can add to what’s on the screen then do it, otherwise shut up” – Richie Benaud

          Even good weed cannot help you unless you possess at least the basic skills of research. Have you ever heard of something called “Google?”

  • 2

    Yes Sir Off the wall,

    I took your advice and learnt some basic skills of research.
    Thanks for introducing me to Google, I am amazed at your knowledge
    and skills….brilliant – If Roberts had an atom of your brain he would
    have stuck to chain mail blogging.

    Have not checked out Benaud as I do not know why you brought him
    into this.Where do I find your skeptic professor and his chain mail
    bloggers ? In the Lunatic section ?

  • 1

    Hey Old Chap Rusty,

    Before the advent of cinema, the main form of entertainment was epic theater. In South India dramas based on epics like the Ramayana and Maha Bharatha would sometimes go on all night. Once an Einstein….like you….watched the Ramayana all night. When the play ended in the early hours of the morning he turned to the person sitting next to him and asked, “How is Sita related to Rama?”

  • 2

    Off the Wall, you are still buried in the pre cinema era and accept
    that I, who was incapable of basic research is now an Einstein
    will do well to check out what your name means on my now
    favourite site Google……I rest my case.

    Was Benaud related to Rama and Sita ? Could not find anything
    about this on Google……

  • 1


    You haven’t got a clue what I’m talking about, don’t you?

    Do I have to spell out everything for you?

    Looks like Google alone will not help you. Google can only provide the information you are calling for. But to gain an insight into a topic you need to look at all the relevant information from all possible angles and bring to light its myriad connections and ramifications. That means you need to change your style of thinking. It appears to me you are, unfortunately, afflicted with a limited style of thinking called “vertical thinking.” Instead you need to learn to think laterally. So it may well be a good idea for you to research “lateral thinking” …….on…..where else …….but ….Google!

  • 1

    Wall, yes I do not have a clue of what you are talking because you are
    writing……….maybe you talk better than you write…..???

    Your catachrestic use of words does not impress even my pet parrot…..
    In my humble vocabulary they call your type of thinking “Lavatory” not “Lateral” because these shitty ideas normally originate from there.

  • 1

    Poor Old Rusty

    Use of a good dictionary where you can find words such as “catachrestic” is a promising start. Your writing also beginning to show a talent for digression …..as revealed by references to parrot, lavatory, shit etc. I firmly believe digression should be an essential part of any discourse if it is to capture the elusive thing we call “reality.” I’d recommend Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne. This classic novel made a groundbreaking contribution to fiction by incorporating digression into its narrative strategy.

  • 6

    Rich young Off the Wall,

    You are so generous with your analysis……have you looked in a mirror recently ? Might be disappointing.

    We have learnt from Dictionaries, Google and Einstein whereas you seem to have picked up all this amazing knowledge whilst in the womb…….

    You have to be special……

    Your immense talent can be seen in other columns too…..and the
    response is very progressive…………

    Keep writing, someone might believe you.

    I will be going to the Library on Saturday so would appreciate if you
    can recommend more books for my education. Sterne is already on
    my list.

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