‘ICC should get rid off the soft signal’: Ben Stokes weighs in his opinion on the Marnus Labuschagne’s caught behind call in vs South Africa

Soft signal was the talk of the cricket town once again after Marnus Labuschagne was caught behind off Marco Jansen at first slip on day one of the third Test against South Africa, or so it seemed. The third umpire’s inspection of the replay would overturn the soft signal from the on-field umpire, believing that Simon Harmer had not completed the grab cleanly. A take South Africa players thought was indeed clean.

“All of us thought it was out,” Anrich Nortje said post the day’s play. “Simon was convinced it was straight. Think if you look at the front-on angles, to us it looks like the fingers are underneath it. Unfortunately, we didn’t get that one, think it would have been a big one at that stage. We are convinced it was out.”

England Test captain Ben Stokes has now dived in the debate and suggested that the world cricket governing body should do away with soft signal. “ICC should get rid off the soft signal and let the 3rd umpire who has all the technology to make the decision when the on field umpires send it upstairs, all the controversy is always around the soft signal given,” Stokes tweeted.

Former Proteas skipper Faf Du Plessis was of the belief that it was out ‘especially because the soft signal was out’, as he put on Twitter.

At the centre of it all, Marnus Labuschagne himself had quite a bit to say on the matter. “Regardless of whether it’s caught or not, with the technology, there’s so many ones that people are adamant they have caught – and Simon said ‘I’ve caught that’ – and in the old rules of catching it, because you felt like your fingers are under it, absolutely, but with the new footage those are so scrutinised because you see so many angles,” he said. “Especially that side-on angle, makes it look really bad, then the front-on angle actually looks pretty good.

“If there’s no TV then I’m walking, that’s just how the game works. But with the amount of slow-motion footage of the ball, you see his fingers push and split open, according to the technicalities some of the ball is touching the grass, regardless of whether his fingers are under it or not.”

What does the rule book say on the soft signal?

The third umpire must find conclusive evidence to overturn the on-field umpire’s decision. As of its last revision in November 2022, there are no updates in the ICC’s World Test Championship playing conditions to suggest otherwise Clause 2.2.2 of Appendix D states, “Should both on-field umpires require assistance from the third umpire to make a decision, the bowler’s end umpire shall firstly take a decision on-field after consulting with the striker’s end umpire, before consulting by two-way radio with the third umpire. Such consultation shall be initiated by the bowler’s end umpire to the third umpire by making the shape of a TV screen with his/her hands, followed by a Soft Signal of Out or Not out made with the hands close to the chest at chest height. If the third umpire advises that the replay evidence is inconclusive, the on-field decision communicated at the start of the consultation process shall stand.”

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