Indian batsman Suryakumar Yadav, during India’s 4th T20I against England at Ahmedabad’s Narendra Modi Stadium, scored his maiden T20I half-century but had to walk back to the pavilion owing to a soft signal

The top-order batsman had hit Sam Curran for a long shot only for Dawid Malan to scoop in for a catch. The on-field umpire had initially deemed it out, but referred to the third umpire for a referral as the ball appeared to have grazed the ground under Malan’s clutch.

With the TV evidence not being conclusive, the batsman was given out due to ‘soft signal’.

Explained: What is a soft signal in cricket?

Whenever there’s a tight call during the match, let’s say a close catch, the on-field umpires had to come up with a decision often based on their intuition. In Suryakumar Yadav’s case, the umpire had given out. That intuition is what is known as a soft signal.

Basically, the field umpire has to take a call before referring the decision to the third umpire. If contested, the TV umpire then takes a closer look at the incident from every angle possible and in slow motion to come up with a conclusion. But if he himself is indecisive about it, the decision made by the on-field is upheld.

The soft signal rule in cricket can only be overturned if the TV umpire has irrefutable evidence. During Suryakumar Yadav’s dismissal, there were several doubts about whether the ball had actually touched the ground or not. Or to put it another way, there was no way of finding conclusive evidence to prove that the ball had touched the ground.

There have been debates over why soft signal in cricket even exists in the first place. When the decision goes up for the referral, the video shown is a two-dimensional representation and this is exactly why the umpires ask for side views.

“The reason an umpire has to give a soft signal is documented,” noted commentator Harsha Bhogle explained on his Twitter page. “On the replays, even clean catches look not out because it is a 2D image of a 3D event. Hence, umpires look at whether the fingers are under the ball. It is a grey area but tech has no answer for now. Need 3D cameras?”

It’s a debate Harsha had weighed in before as well.

“The reason the soft signal was introduced was that a lot of clean catches were being adjudged not out because the TV replays were inconclusive,” Harsha explained a couple of years ago. “To get over that, the soft signal became the benchmark which had to be conclusively overturned.”

Former international umpire Simon Taufel spoke in favour of the rule. Other arguments have been made on the facts that players celebrating a certain incident may affect or influence the decision.

“If the fielder goes up and actually celebrates they usually get given out and if you’re a bit apprehensive of what’s happened they normally get given not out,” former Australia captain Steve Smith reckoned.

Feature image courtesy: AFP / Christiaan Kotze