How to improve the DRS immeasurably
The first Test match of the Ashes 2013 (Part A) has now concluded. And what a celebration of tail-end batting it has been! And how close the eventual outcome! Is there any doubt left in anybody's mind that Australia are capable of winning something in the course of this series? I think not.
Ashton Agar, of course, is the new it-boy of international cricket. We all watched him fend off wave after wave of English aggression, with a near-constant impish smile plastered on his face. Oh, how I wanted - we all wanted - to drive a large commercial vehicle back and forth into his face a few times. God, he is going to become one of those unbearable, lawless Aussies who writes biographies that diss Sachin. You just know it.
But the first Test match also leaves us with several pertinent questions:
1. What is the point of Bairstow? Is he a vice-president of corporate social responsibility or something?
2. Why does David Gower always look a little to the left of where he is suppose to look while speaking on TV?
3. When does Joe Root do his homework?
4. HA HA HA DAVID WARNER's MOUSTACHE HA HA HA. Have you seen it?
But the key controversies in this match all came from the slipshod performance of the Decision Review System. For the first time in cricketing memory, every single element of the review system broke down: on-field umpires, third umpires, the cameras, slow- motion replays, Hot Spot detectors… even the players themselves.
Never has cricket experienced such an utter institutional breakdown since Arun Lal's presentation ceremony after the recent Tri-Nation ODI series in the West Indies:
"Ladies and gentlemen! Please lose a big captain to the giving hand of Sri Mathews: Angelo Lanka! And now Mr Bearer Cheque, CEO of Celkon Mobile, will present the Man of the Match Rahul Sinha for the sum of four-wheel-drive to… THERE WILL BE BLOOD!
That is all from me! Today we celebrate our Independence Day! Ich bin ein Berliner."
The problem with the DRS is clear to anyone who is willing to look at it without blinkers: the current review system is much too simple to deal with the realities of contemporary cricket. This might seem counter-intuitive to many people. But I sincerely believe that the DRS needs to get much more elaborate in order to weed out inefficiencies. There has to be a better way for umpires and players to use video replays and camera hardware.
And the solution must start with a whole new collection of indications and signals that players and umpires can use to process DRS queries. Currently cricket uses only three symbols: TV replay request by on-field umpire, DRS request by captain, decision overrule by umpire.
What nonsense is this? This is like trying to write A Suitable Boy in Fortran.
Hereby I propose a much more elaborate system of signals and counter-signals that can be used on the field of play. My goal here is simple. The more unambiguously players can communicate with umpires, the more unambiguous cricketing decisions will be. This can only strengthen this great sport even further.
A brief list of new signs to be used in various scenarios is given below. The ICC is invited to use this as a launch pad for more rigorous thinking.
Sign: Captain makes a T-symbol with the arms.
Meaning: We would like to review this decision.
Sign: Umpire taps the side of his head with a forefinger.
Meaning: Are you sure? I am 100% certain I heard a noise. I am not an idiot.
Sign: Captain taps the side of the umpire's head with forefinger. Makes T-symbol again.
Meaning: Don't create a scene. Review please.
Sign: Umpire pokes captain in the chest with a forefinger.
Meaning: Screw you.
Sign: Joe Root walks up to the umpire, tucks palms underneath armpits, flaps arms, and makes clucking noises.
Meaning: You poke like a little girl, you spineless little man.
Sign: Umpire places fist againt Joe Root vigorously.
Meaning: !@#$ you, you little !@#$$.
Sign: Joe Root steps back and covers his face with palms.
Meaning: UNPROVOKED ATTACK UNPROVOKED ATTACK!
Sign: Captain makes a T-symbol with the arms.
Meaning: We would like to review that decision.
Sign: Umpire lifts both arms up, points both index fingers towards the sky, then jerks both arms up and down from the shoulders while lifting one leg, then the other, then the other, and then the other, and so on for a few moments.
Meaning: We are in India and there is no DRS here.
Sign: Captain makes a T-symbol with the arms. And then draws a question-mark in the air with his right hand.
Meaning: We would like to review that decision. But who is the third umpire for this match?
Sign: Umpire draws a line across his own neck slowly with a forefinger.
Meaning: Umpire Erasmus is handling video replays today.
Sign: Captain forms a fist with his right hand and punches himself in the groin repeatedly.
Meaning: Oh, in that case what is the point of all this? Carry on.
Any idiot can see the benefits of this enhanced new DRS signage system.
Sidin Vadukut is a columnist and editor with Mint, and the author of the Dork trilogy