India’s aversion to the umpires’ Decision Review System (DRS) is well documented. They preferred to be the lone dissenting voice, remaining in isolation on its implementation while rest of the world had no problem with it. ( VIZAG TEST SCORECARD, DAY 3)
It was in 2008 while playing in Sri Lanka that India developed their distrust of this technologically-driven review system. One of the reasons given is that since India got just one review decision right, out of 21 they asked, they felt the technology was not to be trusted. (VIZAG TEST: DAY 3 HIGHLIGHTS)
It was after a long gap and much persuasion that India finally said yes to the DRS, in the ongoing India vs England series. One of the reasons, apart from the technology having improved over the years, was the realization that the DRS does more good than harm and eliminates the howlers that umpires do tend to commit once in a while.
As India are heading for a possible victory in the second Test, the use of DRS has already spiced up the series against England, with India making elementary errors in its use and their rivals making far better use of the system.
It is clear that though the DRS is a tool to correct umpiring mistakes, its use requires a calm captain and a lot of consultation with those close to the wicket before asking for it.
Before we come to the Vizag Test and a couple of reviews demanded in compete haste, that reflected the impetuosity of the players involved, a relook at Pujara’s dismissal in the Rajkot Test: He was given lbw to a ball pitched outside the leg stump from Rashid in the second innings.
It was a crucial moment of the match as after his dismissal, India struggled to save the Test. Pujara, after being given out, walked towards his partner Murali Vijay, who by that time had turned his back on him. Getting no response, Pujara walked back to the pavilion, though it was evident to everyone that he should have reviewed the decision.
Not just because of the doubt involved in the decision, but also given the precarious situation India were placed in. That Pujara did not ask for it and Vijay was indifferent, reflected India needed to work on how and where to make use of the DRS.
Now coming to this Test. On Friday, we saw skipper Virat Kohli rushing from short leg towards the umpire and asking for a caught behind to be reviewed without consulting the wicketkeeper or even the bowler. The decision went against India.
On Saturday, it was the turn of Ravichandran Ashwin to make the same mistake. The moment Jonny Bairstow swept him to fine-leg, Ashwin was so convinced that the ball had gone off the batsman’s pads and not the bat, that he immediately asked for a review. There was no consultation with those close to the wicket and the replays showed that the batsman had gloved the ball.
The waste of a review (only two are allowed till 80 overs) may have had a negative impact on the bowler. Probably, the guilt of having forced a review that did not fall in the team’s favour, played on his mind and he lost his rhythm in the first session.
In contrast to how India has been using these reviews, England and Alastair Cook, use the 15-second time given to the captain to make up his mind, very judiciously. Like Cook did in the case of KL Rahul, when umpire Rod Tucker did not respond positively to Stuart Broad’s appeal for a catch in the slips. It was on the prodding of Haseeb Hameed, the youngest member of the team, who was closest to the batsman and in consultation with a couple of other players, that Cook decided to opt for the review. The replays proved them right.
India needs to remember that while the DRS is a very useful tool to overturn umpiring mistakes, it can be a big waste if used on impulse and in haste.