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Gaurav Kalra
Monday , September 05, 2011 at 08 : 44

Douse the DRS fire


For those of us who have been vehement supporters of the Decision Review System, the last few days have been illuminating. Incidents at Durham and Galle have highlighted flaws in the technology being used to operate the DRS. Worse, in the case of Phil Hughes it contributed to a glaring error rather than correcting it, defeating in the process the very reason for cricket's subscription. 

At Durham, DRS contributed towards exaggerating the confusion. If Rahul Dravid had indeed edged it, then why didn't Hot Spot show a mark? If he hadn't, then on what evidence did the third umpire rule Dravid out? If he did in fact hear a sound from the stump-mic then what prevented Hot Spot from confirming that edge? Was enough evidence available to the third umpire to deny Dravid "the benefit of doubt?" And if Hot Spot does indeed struggle with feather edges then is it really worth the investment to fly their cameras around the world at a prohibitive cost? After all, Dravid did admit to a feather edge at the Oval where he was ruled out despite no evidence of Hot Spot. Why haven't the inventors explained what was amiss in that instance?

Unfortunately, the ICC's argument that DRS has helped decision making improve from 93 per cent to 98 per cent is just a play on numbers. The colossal error in the Hughes dismissal adds weight to the voices of cynics. Worse, if the most respected official in their own ranks, Simon Taufel,  raises "serious question marks" about the credibility of ball-tracking, there is enough reason to introspect. These tools are meant to be allies in decision-making. If the decision makers, i.e., the umpires, are distrustful the statistics become pointless.

Let us return to the principle of the DRS argument for a moment. The intention as Dave Richardson rightly argues is "to get as many correct decisions as possible". And to a great degree over the last couple of years that philosophy has held up. Players have been largely enthusiastic and DRS has been a welcome addition to the game, making it fairer. However the resistance of some has made this a deeply divisive and noisy debate. And contributed to the current chaos. Every incident that points towards the usefulness of the technology leads to swarm of BCCI bashing. Every incident that exposes a flaw is a cue for BCCI supporters to indulge in word-play such as "cold-spot" and "Donkey Review System". 

Worse, the ICC's meek leadership has created a minefield of confusion. Fans, players, commentators and even umpires are bewildered with the stark contrast in DRS regulations from series to series. In Sri Lanka, hawk-eye is available but Hot Spot is not. In England Hot Spot and hawk-eye are available but only one is being used. In Zimbabwe neither is available. So a batsman can be given out LBW in Sri Lanka with the aid of technology. In England, technology can show he is out but it can't be used in arriving at the right decison. In Zimbabwe, even the tools aren't available to confirm if he would have indeed been out or not. And they are all playing the same game! No wonder at his training workshop in Sri Lanka Taufel admitted he wasn't sure how to coach umpires. Each series brings its own guidelines and requires adjustment.  

I have found the chest-thumping among the BCCI supporters quite amusing as these incidents have played out. At the ICC's chief executives conference in Hong Kong earlier in the year, where the BCCI played a leadership role in the current DRS mess, they were only too pleased to support Hot Spot and audio aids. The problem was with ball-tracking. In England, the contentious incidents have involved Hot Spot, yet board officials are in back slapping "we told you so" mode. But when in the midst of his hat-trick at Trent Bridge, Stuart Broad claimed Harbhajan Singh off a massive inside edge, the same officials slammed the standard of umpiring! Not a squeak saying we made a mistake by not including inside edges in the purview of DRS.

However, this is not a time for finger pointing. Instead this is a moment to pave the road for the future. In my view, DRS must undoubtedly be part of the game. But now is perhaps time for a breather. It must be withdrawn till the flaws in the technology can be repaired. With the knowledge and concession that these flaws would have never come to the fore unless the technology was tested in real match situations. Labs and sporting fields are vastly distinct arenas. 

Cricket has gained enormously from the introduction of DRS and it must return soon. And when it does, its application must be standard and not left to the choice of individual boards. The tools must be readily available and funding matters should be resolved. Each series must be played with the same regulations so the sanctity of the sport is protected. Till that time we have to let officiating return in the hands of the on-field umpire and swallow the mistakes they make in good faith. It is time to douse the DRS fire.

You can also post your feedback directly to Gaurav Kalra on Twitter @gauravcnnibn


More about Gaurav Kalra

Gaurav Kalra has been producing sports content on television for over a decade. He started his career at Trans World International where for four years he worked on a variety of programming including magazine shows, news bulletins and live broadcasts. In his next role at Quintus, Gaurav produced a series of programming under the Wisden brand name, including the Wisden Indian cricketer of the century and the Wisden Awards. Gaurav joined CNN-IBN as Sports Editor in 2005.


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