In the recent Ashes series, the major point of talk is not about the teams but about the umpires and their follies. Many have tweeted their views as to how could the umpire miss the nick in Broad daylight, how could the hot spot camera miss the edge, etc. Unless the ICC reviews the DRS itself, these talks about the review system will continue to build up , and unfortunately without taking anyone to any logical conclusion.
Do we really need DRS ?
I vote in the affirmative. Cricket like tennis is a game where there are ‘pauses’ between the successive deliveries. DRS can fit in here, whereas it would mar the continuous action flow in sports like football. In fact we require DRS more in cricket than in games like tennis because the elements to consider are quite a few, starting from the no-ball review, position of the ball pitching, position of the ball hitting the pad, batsman nicking it or not, the height factor, direction of the ball trajectory after pitching, etc. Humans are prone to errors , more so when there are so many points to consider. So in short the BCCI who is vehemently opposing the basic premise of DRS existence, doesn’t really have anything substantial to support its stance.
Why the confusion and controversy then ?
Technology has never been cricket’s best friend, is it ? The Duckworth-Lewis method of calculating the scores and arriving at the final winner raises eyebrows more often than not. The DRS has now joined the party off late. Let me illustrate a few instances which opens the doors for these controversies.
The controversial side
The leg side has always been given a step motherly treatment in cricket. The main element of confusion is when the ball trajectory in the reviews shows the delivery making (not)just enough contact with the leg stump and the decision is left to the on-field umpire. The legendary bowler McGrath has shared reservations about this and rightly so. There have been instances where the ball was predicted to be hitting more than half inside the leg stump but the on-field umpire had originally ruled the batsman not-out. It was judged to be just clipping the bails but the umpire had declared the man out. DRS passes the responsibility back to the on field umpires in such cases and both decisions might prove wrong, in relation to one another. There has to be some uniformity in the treatment of the poor leg stump. In tennis, the ball even if it barely makes any contact with the lines, is declared as good. No arguments are entertained. Some final decision should be planned here too. Passing the buck back to the umpires defeats the purpose of going for review in the first place. DRS must give some decision: Either Out or Not out and not keep things in the grey by passing the buck back to the originator.
Someone has rightly said that the batsman in contention in the ongoing series might have walked if the Aussies had one more review left in the bag. The question is if DRS technology is present, then why should the team suffer because of some inexplicable decision of the umpires. Yes, the teams are partly to blame as they feel that any LBW decision just has to go in their favour and go for the reviews once or twice more than actually necessary. One solution for crunch of reviews in crucial situations can be granting a fixed number of reviews to the teams before the test match starts, say 4 per team per department. The teams can distribute them as per their choice in 1st-3rd innings and in 2nd-4th innings of the match. This provision wont help in ODIs but the idea is worth experimenting in tests.
Doubt in Benefit of doubt
If there are no camera angles to clearly suggest whether stumping is successful or not the verdict is ruled in favour of the batsman. Then if there were no cameras to suggest whether the ball had hit the bat on its way or not, why was the benefit of doubt not given to the batsman ? It is definitely not the batsman’s fault if the hot spot camera was found napping. There should be no doubt as to when to invoke benefit of doubt and when to not.
There are many more grey areas in various other modes of dismissal which require discussions. Technology isn’t and cannot be picture perfect. Its optimum and beneficial use is in our hands.Trade off between preserving the original essence of the natural game and elimination of human errors is needed. Over use may kill the beauty of the game, for instance every second batsman would get declared out lbw if DRS trajectory projections rules so even if the ball manages to barely make contact with any stump ! Uniformity and common sense in drafting the rules will however help reduce the number of eyebrows raised for the decisions by the DRS and help improve the falling standards of umpiring decisions.