The soft signal will be scrapped in Test cricket, after the International Cricket Council decided to abolish it with immediate effect.
The soft signal was employed when on-field umpires referred a disputed catch to the third umpire, with umpires on the pitch indicating whether or not they believed that a batsman was out. But it will now be scrapped, with the third umpire instead deciding whether or not a player is out independent of the on-field umpires’ view – mirroring the method for run-outs and stumpings.
“Soft signals have been discussed at previous cricket committee meetings over the last couple of years,” said Sourav Ganguly, the head of the Men’s Cricket Committee. “The committee deliberated this at length and concluded that soft signals were unnecessary and at times confusing since referrals of catches may seem inconclusive in replays.” The changes have also been adopted in the women’s game.
The soft signal has become increasingly controversial, with many believing that it renders the on-field umpire’s initial view too important, as video footage can often be inconclusive.
“ICC should get rid of the soft signal and let the third umpire who has all the technology make the decision when the on-field umpires send it upstairs, all the controversy is always around the soft signal given,” Ben Stokes had said after a controversial decision in an Australia-South Africa Test early this year.
In 2021, the Indian Premier League opted to remove the soft signal for decisions referred to the TV umpire, with on-field umpires not giving any indication of whether they think a player has been caught cleanly when referring a catch. The experiment is widely considered to have been a success.
The ICC has also made it mandatory for batters to wear helmets when facing fast bowlers in international cricket, and for wicketkeepers standing up to the stumps and fielders close to the bat. “The committee decided that it was best to make the use of helmets mandatory in certain positions to ensure the safety of players,” Ganguly said.