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Cricket: need to review the Decision Review ‘System’

4th innings of a popular test match. The last wicket of the batting team ‘stunningly’ closes in on the finishing line. An appeal. Umpire nods in disagreement. Bowling side calls for a 3rdumpire review. The infra-red beams show a feather nick. Decision made. Fielding side ecstatic and batsmen rue an opportunity of a miracle. The last part

Feature 21 Jul 2013, 00:14 IST

It’s the 4th innings of a popular Test match. The last wicket of the batting team ‘stunningly’ closes in on the finishing line. An appeal. Umpire shakes his head in disagreement. The bowling side calls for a 3rd umpire review. The infra-red beams show a feather nick. Decision made. Fielding side ecstatic and the batsman rues a missed opportunity of a miracle. The last part of the sequence of events came as a forced reaction rather than one of spontaneity.

The conclusion of the Test match gave way to post-match reviews and analysis. Names like Agar, Bell, and Anderson featured in most pieces but keywords like DRS, umpiring too found their way into them. A couple of reports stressed upon Broad’s ‘unsporting’ move to hang around despite consciously edging a delivery to the slips, while others criticized the quality of umpiring. A few had some things to say about the way both skippers used their set of reviews and a couple of others stressed upon the lack of fool-proofness of the DRS.

All the chatter about the DRS is taking so much out of the real action, at the same time highlighting that the implementation of technology implementation has a few loopholes to address. By limiting the number of reviews for a side, the DRS is asking captains to be smarter in choosing referral calls rather than ensuring that the game is devoid of any howlers – the primary objective of introducing the technological aid! Rules like lbw calls being left to (on-field) ‘umpire’s call’ despite a particular amount of the delivery projected to hit the stumps are leaving too much space for ambiguity.

The ICC, post the Trent Bridge Test, said that it is considering involving the TV umpire more for adjudication in case of obvious non-referred decisions. Today, almost every wicket is followed by a no-ball check via TV replays. Close to ground catches or run-outs are adjudicated by the 3rd umpire. On-field dismissal decisions are overturned courtesy the DRS. Technology in sport is en-route in making it more professional and error-free, at the cost of disempowering the most respected authority on the cricket field!

Technological tools – TV camera frames, infra red imaging depth/sensitivity, ball tracking, frame speeds – aren’t perfect at the moment, but that doesn’t imply that its implementation should be barred. What can be more sensible is the way these tools are applied.

For example, while there is still no absolute consensus on the ball projecting methodology (for lbw’s), line calls (ball pitching zone) should be made without the tag of referral. The conflict between capping number of reviews, given the time a particular instance of scrutiny consumes, and ensuring there isn’t any howler is the crux of the matter.

A few voices have suggested that instead of allowing captains to review decisions, why can’t on-field umpires be empowered to refer the TV umpire on instances of doubt? While this makes sense in theory, it is pretty subjective in execution.

The criticism about the DRS in recent weeks has been equated to vindication of the reluctant stance of certain empowered authorities. The equality isn’t entirely valid as opposing technology isn’t exactly opposing the way it is implemented.

The DRS should be looked upon as an add-on to the package and not a revolutionary modification to fundamentals of the sport. As it is in its nascent stages, the DRS is expected to have its share of teething issues and the ICC needs to address the feedback as much as possible.

While contemplating about the decisive role of the TV umpire, subject to ‘uniformity’ of sharper and quicker television replays, the ICC authorities are showing urgency and reacting to the situation with a purpose. If this experiment does indeed click, there could be a window for having 2 TV umpires to monitor ball by ball proceedings. Technology has shown that decision making can get close to 100%, but there is definite need to review the Decision Review ‘System’!

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