DRS June 16, 2011

Talking DRS with the ghost of Frank Chester

In which a long-deceased umpire weighs in on the review system
35

England and Sri Lanka will do cricketing battle with (a) each other and (b) another unpromising weather forecast in the final Test at Southampton today. It is the Rose Bowl’s first Test match. As the old joke goes, new Test grounds in England are like London buses – you wait 100 years for one to turn up, and then three come along in under a decade.

Thus far, excluding the final-afternoon mayhem in Cardiff, when England’s bowlers obliterated their opponents like a hungry rhinoceros turning up at a somnolent picnic just as granny was packing away the remnants of a half-eaten pavlova, it has been a middling series. England’s imposing batting has only briefly been inconvenienced by Sri Lanka’s rather blunt and inexperienced bowlers, and there has been a degree of tactical caution by both sides that has further bunged up the already-rain-stifled cricket.

From England’s point-of-view, the series has further illustrated how crucial James Anderson has become to a seam attack that looked both one-paced and one-heighted at Lord’s. After averaging under 33 in just two of his previous 11 Test series (early-summer series against New Zealand and West Indies), the Lancastrian is now one good match away from his fourth consecutive series average of 26 or less. From the early days of his international career it was clear that Anderson could, in bowling parlance, “make the ball talk”. Unfortunately what he made the ball say was not always “Look out, batsman, I’m an unplayable outswinger”; slightly too often it was, “Ouch, I’ve been smashed for four again”.

As many of his team-mates have done, he has improved markedly with experience and, in an age of dominant batting and often pallid pace bowling, is now one of the most exciting players to watch in world cricket today.

Meanwhile there has been little talk in my house of anything other than India’s refusal to use the Decision Review System – easily my favourite decision review system – in the Test series in England later this summer.

The Confectionery Stall decided to consult one of the world’s leading umpires in order to acquire the officials’ view on this contentious matter. Unfortunately a stroll to and from my local station had resulted in no chance meetings with umpires from the ICC Elite Panel, and a telephone call to a confused Steve Bucknor resulted in the Jamaican Justice Dispenser informing me that he was being chased by a giant fire-breathing Allan Border, claiming that he had got an inside edge on that apparently plumb lbw appeal, whilst a fire-breathing dragon with Darrell Hair’s face was barking “that’s not out” in inflammatory morse code (a salutary lesson never to call a former Test umpire at 4.30am, particularly not after he has hosted a late-night cheese-tasting competition).

Therefore I was left with little option but to hire an ICC-ratified medium to make contact with the ghost of the legendary Frank Chester, who stood in a then-record 48 Tests from 1924 to 1955. After some small ice-breaking small-talk, in which Chester admitted that if he had had access to Hawk-Eye in the inter-war years, he would definitely have given Don Bradman out more often, just to see the look on Bradman’s face, he said that he is largely in favour of the DRS, but suggested some modifications to make it more spectator-friendly.

“There is much that I like about it,” commented the spirit of perhaps the greatest umpire of all time. “In particular, it provides the umpire with the opportunity to look triumphantly smug when his decision is upheld by technology. I would, however, suggest that a new signal for ‘that’s still out’ should be introduced, for when a batsman wrongly refers a decision. The umpire should raise the index finger in the traditional manner, but then add his middle finger and send the batsman on his way with a salute as old as time itself.”

Chester continued: “Imagine the atmosphere in a dressing room after a batsman who had clearly edged a ball then pointlessly referred it anyway. Development required: Dressing-room cameras and microphones to enable the viewer to see and hear the dismissed batsman claim, ‘I didn’t call for the referral. I was just asking for someone in the dressing room to make me a cup of tea.’”

Chester also observed that “boring batsmen always seem to be the ones to be reprieved”, and proposed that “a degree of democratic flexibility needs to be introduced to factor in whether a majority of the crowd wants to continue watching the appealed-against player bat”. He ruminated: “Perhaps Hawk-Eye could assume that the stumps are, say, 50% bigger when someone like Chris Tavare is batting.”

Chester concluded by expressing concerns that any system of appealing against a judicial decision inevitably leads to legal complications. “You wait,” he muttered ghostlily. “Lawyers are like Jonathan Trott. Once they get in, they are almost impossible to get out. Mark my words, within 10 years, most lbw decisions will be dragged through the courts like an American murder trial. It will take between five and 10 years to find out whether or not a batsman is out. And that is not going to help with over rates that are already so slow that if I had simply woken up from my 1957 death and looked at a scorecard of a complete day’s Test cricket, I would have assumed that a volcano had erupted at the tea interval and ended the day’s proceedings.”

The ghost of Frank Chester then thanked me for getting in touch, and said that he had to leave to umpire a Bodyline rematch.

Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on the BBC Radio 4, and a writer

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Colin Bland on June 29, 2011, 12:33 GMT

    Oh, Chris, I must apologise and worship at your feet for being so horrendously wrong.

    I would in my defence and that of Andy suggest that when passing a comment such as yours explain why. Your comment just appeared a little mean spirited and excepitonally pedantic to me particularly in the spirit of the article.

    All the best.

  • Chris on June 23, 2011, 23:42 GMT

    Colin, yes I do remember Riverside - maybe it's you who should try getting your facts straight before commenting (checking which country the Test grounds are in might help)

  • Colin Bland on June 22, 2011, 8:13 GMT

    Excellent as ever. Chris Tav was a county dasher but everyone just remembers his barnacle capabilities.

    Re Chris' comment on getting facts right, suggest you do likewise before sounding off against the master of fact & stat. Don't you remember the Riverside?

  • Aman Dhingra on June 19, 2011, 2:45 GMT

    A. Khan, if you read the most recent piece on Sachin's opion on the UDRS is clearly says that he is not opposed to the system, but one that only half utilises what it has available. He is a big fan of the "hot tracker" ball tracking system which intergrates hot spot with virtual eye to make a better and more accurate decision. Please get your facts straight before jumping on the banwagon of "its all sachin flexing his muscles"... (I am a huge UDRS fan just by the way)

    Also, with umpiring signals, I think a gladiator style thumbs up/thumbs down system would be perfect to indicate the fate of a review

  • Jose Cyriac on June 19, 2011, 0:45 GMT

    Too good.. especially the last lines!!! ~ "“You wait,” he muttered ghostlily. “Lawyers are like Jonathan Trott. Once they get in, they are almost impossible to get out. Mark my words, within 10 years, most lbw decisions will be dragged through the courts like an American murder trial. It will take between five and 10 years to find out whether or not a batsman is out. And that is not going to help with over rates that are already so slow that if I had simply woken up from my 1957 death and looked at a scorecard of a complete day’s Test cricket, I would have assumed that a volcano had erupted at the tea interval and ended the day’s proceedings.”

  • steve on June 18, 2011, 21:43 GMT

    I love Boycott's opinions when he says a bowler has to bowl line and length, in the corridor of uncertainty, from a good height, into the rough, swing it, turn it, and at the batsman's throat. Well he would have done well wouldn't he?

  • David on June 18, 2011, 13:38 GMT

    I thought it would have been more hilarious if the umpire would just raise his middle finger if the batsman was out after he asked for the UDRS.!!!

  • Chris on June 18, 2011, 13:08 GMT

    Get your facts straight - there have only been 2 new Test grounds in England.

  • kotur on June 18, 2011, 10:16 GMT

    Umpire's decision gives benefit of doubt to the batsman. DRS gives benefit of doubt to the umpires.

  • richard on June 18, 2011, 9:02 GMT

    ANDY..........YOU MADE MY DAY!!!!!

  • Colin Bland on June 29, 2011, 12:33 GMT

    Oh, Chris, I must apologise and worship at your feet for being so horrendously wrong.

    I would in my defence and that of Andy suggest that when passing a comment such as yours explain why. Your comment just appeared a little mean spirited and excepitonally pedantic to me particularly in the spirit of the article.

    All the best.

  • Chris on June 23, 2011, 23:42 GMT

    Colin, yes I do remember Riverside - maybe it's you who should try getting your facts straight before commenting (checking which country the Test grounds are in might help)

  • Colin Bland on June 22, 2011, 8:13 GMT

    Excellent as ever. Chris Tav was a county dasher but everyone just remembers his barnacle capabilities.

    Re Chris' comment on getting facts right, suggest you do likewise before sounding off against the master of fact & stat. Don't you remember the Riverside?

  • Aman Dhingra on June 19, 2011, 2:45 GMT

    A. Khan, if you read the most recent piece on Sachin's opion on the UDRS is clearly says that he is not opposed to the system, but one that only half utilises what it has available. He is a big fan of the "hot tracker" ball tracking system which intergrates hot spot with virtual eye to make a better and more accurate decision. Please get your facts straight before jumping on the banwagon of "its all sachin flexing his muscles"... (I am a huge UDRS fan just by the way)

    Also, with umpiring signals, I think a gladiator style thumbs up/thumbs down system would be perfect to indicate the fate of a review

  • Jose Cyriac on June 19, 2011, 0:45 GMT

    Too good.. especially the last lines!!! ~ "“You wait,” he muttered ghostlily. “Lawyers are like Jonathan Trott. Once they get in, they are almost impossible to get out. Mark my words, within 10 years, most lbw decisions will be dragged through the courts like an American murder trial. It will take between five and 10 years to find out whether or not a batsman is out. And that is not going to help with over rates that are already so slow that if I had simply woken up from my 1957 death and looked at a scorecard of a complete day’s Test cricket, I would have assumed that a volcano had erupted at the tea interval and ended the day’s proceedings.”

  • steve on June 18, 2011, 21:43 GMT

    I love Boycott's opinions when he says a bowler has to bowl line and length, in the corridor of uncertainty, from a good height, into the rough, swing it, turn it, and at the batsman's throat. Well he would have done well wouldn't he?

  • David on June 18, 2011, 13:38 GMT

    I thought it would have been more hilarious if the umpire would just raise his middle finger if the batsman was out after he asked for the UDRS.!!!

  • Chris on June 18, 2011, 13:08 GMT

    Get your facts straight - there have only been 2 new Test grounds in England.

  • kotur on June 18, 2011, 10:16 GMT

    Umpire's decision gives benefit of doubt to the batsman. DRS gives benefit of doubt to the umpires.

  • richard on June 18, 2011, 9:02 GMT

    ANDY..........YOU MADE MY DAY!!!!!

  • Vis8 on June 18, 2011, 3:19 GMT

    Great! Mr. Chester has the true spirit of sportsmanship and fun!

  • FlashAsh on June 17, 2011, 19:03 GMT

    Andy

    Abfab!! particularly liked the "Your still out" new signal!And just think the dressing room mics and cams would be able to catch those spectacular "accidents" of windows and TV's getting broken?? And most likely increase the female viewing figures for cricket dramatically!!

    Keep up the good work!

  • Jonathan Ellis on June 17, 2011, 17:09 GMT

    I'm only surprised he didn't choose Gary Kirsten ahead of Chris Tavare for his example...

  • NS on June 17, 2011, 15:36 GMT

    "The umpire should raise the index finger in the traditional manner, but then add his middle finger and send the batsman on his way with a salute as old as time itself.” - you are GOD. Can't have enough of such brilliance..

  • shiv on June 17, 2011, 13:08 GMT

    Andy, you have just given the next IPL a great new addition, audiance poll : if a batsman gets out and people vote that he is not out, he continues to play i.e thorugh lifeline :)

  • Adrian on June 17, 2011, 12:00 GMT

    I love your Tavare obsession. It is because of this that I have started shouting "SHOT TAVARE!" every time a team-mate plays 3 consecutive defensive shots in a match.

  • Ace on June 17, 2011, 10:38 GMT

    "Mark my words, within 10 years, most lbw decisions will be dragged through the courts like an American murder trial. It will take between five and 10 years to find out whether or not a batsman is out." Haha! Loved it Andy, brilliant as always! x)

  • Theena on June 17, 2011, 10:29 GMT

    Hilarious.

  • Aditya Naikdesai on June 17, 2011, 9:53 GMT

    Bodyline rematch? They're ALL dead?

  • Bogie55 on June 17, 2011, 9:14 GMT

    Kamal - preposterous argument. Batsmen run the game far too often and the liberties they can take on the rolled snot at certain grounds need to be punished more frequently when a bowler does beat his defence - UDRS helps with that. If it's not certain that it is out after its use, there is adequate punishment for the fielding side and the batsman survives. As for your idea that it will shorten Tests, we have seen no evidence to support that at all.

    India is copping all the flack it deserves for its reticence.

  • Zahir Chaudhary on June 17, 2011, 8:37 GMT

    Hillarious as usual...Please keep your articles coming Andy, there are always a "must read" priority - lol!!

  • Amit on June 17, 2011, 5:30 GMT

    "The umpire should raise the index finger in the traditional manner, but then add his middle finger and send the batsman on his way with a salute as old as time itself.” ROFL!!!!!!!!

  • Abi on June 17, 2011, 3:32 GMT

    ha ha ha!!!

  • A. Khan on June 16, 2011, 19:57 GMT

    Andy, that is another hilarious piece. The signal for you are still out had me in tears!

    @ Salim Jessani

    Its supposed to be humor. Its clear that you don't like the piece as much because it mentions UDRS and India's refusal to use it. Atleast be honest about it. Use of UDRS reduces bad decisions. Its not perfect but it 'reduces' the probability of a wrong decision being made. That honestly, should be a no brainer for everyone except for high profile Indian players such as Sachin, Dhoni etc who can hope to intimidate the umpires with their star status and get away with some decisions. That's fine, but atleast be honest about it.

  • RB01 on June 16, 2011, 19:47 GMT

    I like the finger salute idea for "its still out/ not-out decisions".

  • chris on June 16, 2011, 19:23 GMT

    A wonderful addition to the list of umpires' signals.

  • Sri on June 16, 2011, 17:31 GMT

    The umpires pic and description is hilarious !!!

  • Linus Fernandes on June 16, 2011, 14:16 GMT

    Much read, much enjoyed.

  • Salim Jessani on June 16, 2011, 13:16 GMT

    Not quite as funny as the usual ones Andy, but creative nonetheless. On the UDRS note, everyone seems to be all too happy to criticise India at their refusal to use the UDRS whereas I think India actually have a case. And this is nothing to do with the fact that I'm Indian and will name my first born Sachin. Until the time, the 3 technologies i.e. Hawk-Eye, Hot Spot and Snicko are all available and accurate (no 2.5m losing accuracy nonsense), it is pointless to go with something half-baked. Also, the rules regarding their use, availability and accuracy should be clear, concise, uniform and well explained. Not to mention, these rules should be applied in a uniform manner by the ICC across all cricket games and not selective tournament, formats or on agreement from the cricket boards.

  • Patre on June 16, 2011, 13:09 GMT

    Sadly, any interesting insight into the Eng-SL series is quickly pushed out of the way and the Indian series gets the center stage, both in the secular world and in the confectionary stall.

  • RC on June 16, 2011, 12:52 GMT

    I liked the bit about the signal for 'you are still out" !!!! LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Ashish Agrawal on June 16, 2011, 12:13 GMT

    Superb Piece as usual!!!!!

  • Matt Grant on June 16, 2011, 11:58 GMT

    One day Chris Tavare jokes will cease to be funny.

    That day is not today!

  • Sumukh on June 16, 2011, 11:18 GMT

    ha ha Chris tavere one is abs hilarious..u can put tilan samarwera there too:)

  • Kamal on June 16, 2011, 10:44 GMT

    UDRS is a conspiracy hatched by '5-day Test Match Haters Society' in cahoots with 'Tormented Bowlers Association'. With a UDRS in operation all matches will be over in 2.5 days (1.5 in case Windies and Kiwis are participating) as LBWs will increase manifold. Swann has already spilled the beans on this conspiracy.

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  • Kamal on June 16, 2011, 10:44 GMT

    UDRS is a conspiracy hatched by '5-day Test Match Haters Society' in cahoots with 'Tormented Bowlers Association'. With a UDRS in operation all matches will be over in 2.5 days (1.5 in case Windies and Kiwis are participating) as LBWs will increase manifold. Swann has already spilled the beans on this conspiracy.

  • Sumukh on June 16, 2011, 11:18 GMT

    ha ha Chris tavere one is abs hilarious..u can put tilan samarwera there too:)

  • Matt Grant on June 16, 2011, 11:58 GMT

    One day Chris Tavare jokes will cease to be funny.

    That day is not today!

  • Ashish Agrawal on June 16, 2011, 12:13 GMT

    Superb Piece as usual!!!!!

  • RC on June 16, 2011, 12:52 GMT

    I liked the bit about the signal for 'you are still out" !!!! LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Patre on June 16, 2011, 13:09 GMT

    Sadly, any interesting insight into the Eng-SL series is quickly pushed out of the way and the Indian series gets the center stage, both in the secular world and in the confectionary stall.

  • Salim Jessani on June 16, 2011, 13:16 GMT

    Not quite as funny as the usual ones Andy, but creative nonetheless. On the UDRS note, everyone seems to be all too happy to criticise India at their refusal to use the UDRS whereas I think India actually have a case. And this is nothing to do with the fact that I'm Indian and will name my first born Sachin. Until the time, the 3 technologies i.e. Hawk-Eye, Hot Spot and Snicko are all available and accurate (no 2.5m losing accuracy nonsense), it is pointless to go with something half-baked. Also, the rules regarding their use, availability and accuracy should be clear, concise, uniform and well explained. Not to mention, these rules should be applied in a uniform manner by the ICC across all cricket games and not selective tournament, formats or on agreement from the cricket boards.

  • Linus Fernandes on June 16, 2011, 14:16 GMT

    Much read, much enjoyed.

  • Sri on June 16, 2011, 17:31 GMT

    The umpires pic and description is hilarious !!!

  • chris on June 16, 2011, 19:23 GMT

    A wonderful addition to the list of umpires' signals.