If the BCCI had more faith in its handpicked television commentators and allowed them to discuss the Decision Review System (DRS) on air, it might discover there are some like-minded souls out there – people who are equally skeptical of the system.
If ever evidence was needed that there are flaws in the DRS, they were amply provided in the SCG One-Day International between Australia and Sri Lanka. With Michael Clarke having used up Australia’s sole review, both David Warner and Moises Henriques were then ambushed by incorrect umpiring decisions. Both batsmen got a healthy inside edge to deliveries that resulted in them being adjudged lbw.
The SCG examples contradict the assertion of Dave Richardson when he spoke to a gathering of Channel Nine commentators at the Gabba, as the ICC general manager. Prior to that 2009-10 series against the West Indies, he told the gathered assembly; “The DRS is designed to eradicate howlers and get the right decision.”
At the time I thought; “How can you guarantee the correct decision will be reached when there are a finite number of unsuccessful reviews?”
I suspected the individual aspect of a team game would ensure the bulk of the reviews would be utilised by top-order batsmen. As former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating shrewdly observed; “Always bet on self-interest because you know it’s a goer.”
Little did I realise that the DRS would also become more of a tactical ploy than a review system.
In the same way, the West Indies in their heydays would slow the over-rate on the odd occasion they were in danger of losing a game, the DRS is often used as an unwarranted tactical ploy. Umpiring decisions and over-rates should never be a part of cricket’s tactical fabric.
Because the DRS is in the unreliable hands of the players, it’s being used more for 50-50 decisions than to eradicate the howlers. If a team’s best batsman is at the crease and the side is in trouble, a review will almost always result — more a case of self-preservation than any highly principled attempt to be a part of improving umpiring standard.
The constant reviewing of 50-50 decisions can only undermine the confidence of the umpires and more importantly, is likely to change their decision-making thought process. There never has been, nor will there ever be, a case where a 50-50 decision causes animosity on the cricket field. Players are conditioned to accept that one day these decisions will go your way and the next they’ll go against you.
Creating bad blood
What do cause animosity are the absolute howlers that can change the course of a match. Andrew Symonds being given not out to an obvious caught behind early in his innings and then going on to score 162 not out is a classic example of a howler that caused great animosity on the field. It also led to a terse retort from the normally equitable Anil Kumble at the after-match press meet.
Putting the DRS in the hands of the players also encourages one of the founding principles of the game to be flaunted. As kids growing up, we were told; “The umpire is right so always accept his decision without question.”
Another flaw in the DRS is the way it interrupts the flow of the game. Some of the more exciting moments, like the celebration of a crucial wicket or a brilliant catch are put on hold, never to be recaptured, as the review process grinds to a conclusion. And it would be a case of criminal interference to interrupt the celebration of a hat-trick with a torturous review.
Surely, it’s time to put any review system in the hands of the umpires so that it stops being a tactic, rids the game of the howler and, on most occasions, brings a satisfactory outcome. Trying to devise a system that produces the correct decision is not possible at the moment (probably it never will be) and attempting to achieve that aim robs the game of one part of the delightfully enticing “human element”.
It’s time to seriously re-think the DRS. It’s a topic that should involve a lot of discussion and input from ex-players and even some robust debate.