DRS: Our one chance to fix it

Pietersen, Khawaja, Trott, Hughes, Agar – I could go on. The list of players who have suffered at the hands of poor video umpiring this summer is already is longer than this and it only seems to continue grow. Many column inches have been devoted to the inefficiency of Hotspot, the absence of snicko, and umpire Dharmasena’s forefinger, but most of these articles miss the point. Irrespective of how inefficient the system is, or how mis-used it is, cricket’s expectation of what DRS can and should achieve is completely unrealistic.

Kartikeya Date’s excellent piece over at Cricinfo succinctly explains the protocol involved in making a decision through DRS, which is quite complex. However, if the system were implemented as it was originally intended, then we wouldn’t find the umpire asking endless “Yes / No” questions to work out just how wrong he was, and if he was wrong enough.

If we go back to pre-DRS days, we saw fewer spinners getting fewer LBWs, and we saw quicks getting a few more. Who can forget Damien Martyn’s endless run of poor LBW decisions over here in 2005, or Stuart Broad’s Test hat-trick, which included Harbhajan Singh middling one into his pads, only to be adjudged LBW? If these things had happened in the modern era, these decisions would all have been over-turned, but as it was, Martyn and Singh felt suitably disappointed at the decision they had received from men who were supposed to be at the pinnacle of their discipline.

What I don’t remember Ashley Giles having a speculative appeal turned down and feeling hugely aggrieved. Now, so many key moments in Test matches hinge on the captain, wicket-keeper, and bowler’s judgement of a spinning ball cannoning into pad. It is not for this reason that DRS was introduced, but it is what it has become.

I think most people, barring the BCCI, were very pro-DRS before this series, this writer included. However, in light of an interesting Adam Gilchrist rant on the spirit of cricket, and the endless reviews which slow Test cricket to a crawling speed, I have decided that the system needs changing. Not radically, in fact very simply.

Give each team one review. Several times this series, thanks to Shane Watson’s ego and thrusting left leg, we have seen Australia not review close decisions because they had just one review remaining. That is how it should be. The system is designed to eradicate “the howler” while the margin for error retains the element of umpires’ integrity and human error in a very human sport. Giving a side two reviews actively encourages them to review tactically and speculatively: after all, why end the innings with two reviews intact? What it actually does is encourages teams to constantly question the umpire, as we saw Ponting do in Australia in 10/11 and we saw England do at Old Trafford repeatedly, and turn the game where honour is everything into football, where it is nothing.

It might also teach Michael Clarke to keep his hands in his pockets, and Stuart Broad that he’s not always right.


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