'Still not convinced about DRS' - Dhoni
MS Dhoni, India's limited-overs captain and a staunch cynic in DRS matters, has offered yet another trenchant defence of his stance. Just like in the first international of their last summer in Australia, India could, if DRS was in place, have easily overturned a critical decision that went against them.
In a chase of 310, Australia were 2 for 21 when George Bailey gloved the first ball he faced down the leg side, but was reprieved by umpire Richard Kettleborough. Bailey went on to a score a hundred that helped turned the chase into a stroll, and later didn't shy away from cheeky gamesmanship. "Would've been interesting to see on DRS, but we're not the team that doesn't want it," he said.
When the question was put to the team that doesn't want it, Dhoni retorted: "Are you indirectly saying we are not getting decisions in our favour because we don't use DRS?"
When told that that was not the case, Dhoni repeated his general mistrust of the umpires' role in DRS. Responding to how a review of the Bailey decision could have changed the course of the match, Dhoni said: "It could have but at the same time we need to push the umpires to make the right decisions. You have to see how many 50-50 decisions don't go in our favour. It always happens, then you have to take it. But I am still not convinced about DRS."
Asked whether he felt his team tended to get penalised by the umpires for not agreeing to use DRS, Dhoni said, "I may agree with you. I may agree with you. That's what…" And then he didn't complete the thought.
When asked if the team was united in its opposition of the DRS, Dhoni didn't answer that question, but did offer a slightly more nuanced explanation for his stance. "First DRS should ideally be the decision-making system," he said. "If you see the deviations in DRS, there are quite a few deviations. Even the makers agree that can happen. Now you have to also take into account whether it was given not out or out. If it was given out it needs to touch the stump [for the decision to remain out]; if it was not out it needs to hit half the stump [to be given out]. That itself makes the variable too big. In cricket every inch, every millimetre, matters.
"DRS should not be the umpires' decision justification system. It should be giving the right decision. Like in tennis you don't say the umpire called it out and half the ball has to pitch inside the line. It has to be plain and simple. You don't have to keep too many things in consideration. You either say, 'This is DRS, doesn't matter whether it is given out or not out, if half the ball is hitting the stumps, you are out.' Irrespective of the decision. Now, for example, you take DRS, in an lbw decision, what changes everything is whether it was given in favour or not. It can mean a margin of one inch overall, and that is very big."
This is, at its best, a limited understanding of the nature of decisions made in tennis and cricket. Tennis only adjudicates on what has happened, not what would have happened. The lbw decision is unique to cricket. It deals with what would have happened, which is the reason for a margin for error. At its worst, however, this is a deeply cynical view of the umpiring machinery. ESPNcricinfo spoke to a few other players over the course of the last year, and they expressed similar feelings that what shows up as "umpire's call" in DRS will tend to go against them, and DRS will be used only to justify it.
Shashank Manohar, India's new board president, also the ICC chairman, had earlier stood by India's opposition of DRS on tenuous grounds as well. "Instead of the umpire imagining the bounce and the direction of the trajectory, it is the person sitting behind the camera who is going into the DRS," he said in a Facebook interaction with the fans. "He is going to have his imagination put in the place of the umpire's imagination with regard to the bounce."
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo