When specialised television umpires and an experienced team of commentators, many of whom with more than 100 Tests each under their belts, are still not sure, then obviously, not everything can be right with the Decision Review System. In its current form, the DRS is too complicated to be effective.
The fact that this time the overwhelming proof of it has come in an England versus Australia contest, should help understand this point better. What the International Cricket Council needs to decide on its part first is whether the purpose of using technology is to eradicate umpiring howlers or give players the right to question an umpire’s decision.
If the preference is the former, then the use of DRS defies logic when something like a thick edge from Stuart Broad at Trentbridge is not given out. If removing howlers was the priority then the third umpire watching it all should have the right to intervene when such issues happen. Events like these have ended up creating more doubts in the minds of players and viewers.
In case of a faint edge which technology is unable to ascertain beyond reasonable doubt then the benefit of the doubt should go to the batsman, as has always been the case in this game and with good reason too. If this clarity is achieved, it will make the job of umpires easier and the viewing experience more satisfying.
The use of technology in case of leg-before referrals is another bone of contention. DRS uses HawkEye and ball tracker to project the trajectory of the ball. But no matter how accurate and expensive the equipment is, if it involves making a prediction it’s unlikely to convince everyone.
In projections there is always a percentage of data which is assumed and conclusions are derived based on that. To avoid that like in tennis and football, the use of technology should be limited to checking only where the ball landed and where it hit.
Conveniently, some officials have put the blame on the four umpires on duty in the Ashes saying the system is failing because these men are not trained enough to handle the DRS. So they have failed to interpret it correctly.
Then there are also calls about the need to work on improving the technology. Hot Spot, Hawk-Eye and the ball tracker are all in use in England, and if with this kind of technological assistance, the right decision can’t be reached, will more assistance help solve it?
The debate is, whether the world body has set a realistic target by aiming for fool proof accuracy when there’s enough proof that the human factor is part of every sport. Accepting this should help technology have a smoother ride like in other sports.
India have long been portrayed as the villains in the DRS debate. But they were the first to try it (then UDRS), in the 2008 series against Sri Lanka. However, every time a 50-50 decision came up for referral, the verdict went against the Indians.
It planted serious doubts in the minds of senior players and they convinced the board about its lack of cricketing logic.
Reports that India are ready to embrace the DRS in its current form has been dismissed by the board.
However, technology is here to stay and it will be silly not to embrace it. With commonsense and simplifying things, we can have a better DRS acceptable to all.