Decolonize Cricket: Re-name UDRS as the Weeraratna Rule
by Shenali Waduge on 29 Jun 2013 2 Comments

The ICC Champions Trophy has concluded and a feature article in a Sunday newspaper titled ‘Recognition of the Authorship of UDRS’ by a cricket observer showcases some key facts that we need to take cognizance of in the realm of sports, particularly in the game of cricket.


The old club colonial mentality remains a key feature in big time sports such as cricket, soccer, rugby, football, tennis, and even in the management of the Olympics, judging by the manner key posts of international sports bodies are filled. Colonial mindset seethes with prejudice. Imperialism never really allows heroes to emerge outside its narrow euro-centric circles.

Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS)


Focusing on cricket, the UDRS has been hailed as the most revolutionary step taken to reform cricket rules since the inception of the game, as the new rule challenges a fundamental premise of traditional cricket i.e. umpire’s decision is final. Almost all the Test Cricket playing countries bar India have accepted this new system.


We note that UDRS has achieved remarkable outcomes. Umpire decisions now register an accuracy of 97%, up from 91% or less, since the introduction of UDRS into the Test playing arena in October 2009. Acrimony between players on the ground is much less today. The tension that used to prevail in the past between cricket playing nations on ground of poor umpiring decisions is in rapid decline. Rudi Koertzen, the South African Test umpire, said in his valedictory speech that UDRS should be made mandatory across the world. Cricket has made technology its bride, and it has worked for the better for almost everyone. 

Robert Steen


It is somewhat depressing to record that while accolades are flowing in for the innovation and beneficial results, there has been almost total silence in international cricket circles on the question of origin or authorship of the new Rule, until reputed cricket commentator Robert Steen, senior lecturer in sports journalism at the University of Brighton, England, in an insightful article on the ‘Cricinfo’ website under the title ‘Will the UDRS be proved a good thing?’ referred to the Umpire Decision Review System 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. At Old Trafford three months after Senaka’s missive was published, Greg Blewett was given out to a horribly un-straightforward catch by Nasser Hussain - for which the available TV replays, foreshortening as they still do, proved inconclusive”.


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 (copy sent by author; referred to at  


And adds ‘At Old Trafford three months after Weeraratna sent that first heartfelt letter…’


ICC adopts Weeraratna’s ideas


Weeraratna claims unequivocally that the basic elements of the UDRS have been adopted by the International Cricket Council (ICC) from his writings and he now seeks official recognition from the ICC for his innovative contribution. “I have publicized this concept by writing to newspapers, magazines and cricket journals both local and international, over a period of time beginning with my letter to the Editor of the ‘Australian’ newspaper published on the 25th of March, 1997. I have also made written representations to the national cricket controlling authorities of several leading cricket countries including the then Board of Cricket Control in Sri Lanka in 1997, and thereafter Sri Lanka Cricket, offering my proposals as a solution to the tricky problem of umpiring errors that invariably lead to a distortion in the outcome of a game.”

(See ‘UDRS - the Sri Lankan Connection’ by Cricket Observer ‘Daily News’ Feb. 19, 2011



Frank Duckworth and Tony Lewis, two Englishmen, are constantly projected by the media as having devised the Duckworth Lewis Rule applicable in rain affected one-day matches. This DL Rule comes into play only in limited circumstances. Stuart Robertson, the former Marketing Manager, England and Wales Cricket Board, has been hailed as the founder of the Twenty 20 Cricket format.


However there is huge reticence on the part of ICC in attributing credit to Senaka Weeraratna. This is unfortunate. As cricket lovers we have every right to ask the ICC if Senaka Weeraratna is not the author, who is the author and identify him with tenable evidence to substantiate such assertion?


The Cricket Committee of the ICC sanctioned the use of Player-referral in May 2006 and claimed it was borrowed from Tennis. But it must be stressed here that Instant Replay system to resolve tennis line disputes was first introduced at the US Open in 2006. In contrast Weeraratna had published his writings advocating an appellate role for the Third Umpire as far back as March 1997.  

Lone battle against superior odds


It has been over 16 years now and Senaka Weeraratna is fighting a lone battle to gain recognition for something now being used internationally. How wrong is this of all parties concerned? That the ICC is and has been and will continue to be influenced by western thinking and prejudice is what we need to change. Countries are said to be independent but are they truly, particularly in the cricket world?


Is the ICC free of South African ‘Apartheid’ mindset influence? 


David Richardson, current CEO of the ICC and David Becker, then head of Legal, ICC are both white South Africans born and bred during the ‘Whites only’ Apartheid era. Haroon Lorgat, former CEO, another South African born, is of Indian Muslim descent. He has shown repeatedly that he lacks a mind of his own and more fits the description of an ‘Uncle Tom’ of the South African variety.  


Making matters difficult is the fact that former colonies such as India, Pakistan, West Indies, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Kenya and the like, are not united to work together and close ranks in the cricket firmament, unlike the ‘white countries’ such as England, Australia, and New Zealand which work in unison to demand due recognition for their nationals. This is a shame. Thus the obstacles to a man/woman recognizing their full potential need to change. A person who is entitled to be recognized for his or her achievements should be recognized.


Cricket establishment in Sri Lanka


When Senaka Weeraratna has been publicizing his writings and claims in local and international newspapers for more than a decade, why has Sri Lanka’s Cricket Board, Cricket commentators, Sports Ministry and even the Sri Lankan Government not thought of championing his cause to ensure that Sri Lanka in particular gets the merit for Weeraratna’s brainchild ‘Player-Referral’ which underlies the UDRS and is now used the world over as a universally recognized system?


Isn’t that a prestige in itself to have a son of Sri Lanka invent a system that is now universally used in international cricket?


There is no other credible claimant to the authorship of the UDRS and Senaka has enough of material to prove that he is the father of ‘Player-Referral’ of not only cricket but of any sport, because the philosophy that Senaka Weeraratna has propounded in advancing his ‘Player-Referral’ concept is fundamentally different to the Coach Referral concept found in American Football. 


Wikipedia has acknowledged and published the claims of Senaka Weeraratna.


Tony Grieg


It is said that the late Tony Grieg had advised Senaka Weeraratna that to get the ball rolling, the Sri Lankan State and Sri Lanka Cricket Board must take up the case with the ICC with full legal backing. Their failure in this instance is tantamount to a dereliction of national duty.


The right thing to do even at this stage is to demand recognition by way of the UDRS being re-named the Senaka Weeraratna Rule. It is time that inventions that have universal applicability be associated with non-European names as an example of true de-colonization. This will be a good ground breaking start in that direction and inspire the teeming millions in the decolonized world that their brainwork too can gain international recognition.


Letting down our own people – reprehensible Sri Lankan trait


As an example, the fate that befell two individuals need to be highlighted in this context. Mr. Shirley Amarasinghe was a dynamic person individual and top class civil servant. In spite of his remarkable talents and pioneering contributions to the making of the rules concerning the Law of the Sea, he was not nominated even as a delegate of Sri Lanka to the Law of the Sea Conference by the Government of the then President Jayawardene – because of sheer jealousy.


However, the UN not only recognized his value, he went on to be nominated by several other countries including the Arab nations and was elected as permanent chairman by acclamation. It was a proud moment for Sri Lanka but behind the scenes jealousy almost denied Amarasinghe his due credit.

[See article by K Godage]


Then there is the case of renowned judge and jurist, Justice C.G. Weeramantry. Again, President JR Jayewardene refused to support his candidature for membership of the International Court of Justice, though eventually President Premadasa did and he went on to become the Vice President of the ICJ.


Innate envy forces many citizens to leave the country or feel reluctant to place their ideas for fear of them getting copied or disapproved – all this is denying productivity and recognition for both the individual and the entire nation.


Re-name UDRS as the Weeraratna Rule


Even in Sri Lanka, recognition for innovation of this rule has been slow in coming. In another society the likes of Senaka Weeraratna, given the significance of his contribution towards improving the degree of accuracy in the adjudicatory process of a nation’s king sport, would have had high celebratory status by now.


The Sports Minister and the Sri Lankan Government would well do to ensure that the UDRS is re-named after Senaka Weeraratna. The ICC and other cricket playing nations must be sent official letters, and the matter followed-up until this contribution of a son of Sri Lanka is recognized and granted due credit by the ICC and the cricket world.

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