August 22, 2013

The DRS: my two cents

There hasn't been a DRS controversy at The Oval yet, but why let that stop us from talking about the system?

If everyone's hell-bent on ruining cricket through forever discussing the Decision Review System, then by Gower I want a piece of it. If you're going to bring my favourite sport to its knees by repeatedly bringing its predisposition for nitpicking over trifling details to the fore, then at least let me have my say.

The Decision Review System - otherwise known as the DRS system, or "Decision Review System system" - is something that at least appears to polarise opinion. I say "appears" because for the most part people think it's basically okay even if it still results in the occasional incorrect decision. However, the column inches devoted to its workings might imply there is some sort of ferocious battle taking place between advocates and deniers.

Decisions remaining wrong
There have been a great many questionable decisions arrived at via DRS during this summer's Ashes series. The vast majority of them have involved the on-field decision being upheld. In those situations, the DRS is achieving nothing but isn't having a negative impact beyond irritating people and wasting time. Even then, the people most irritated appear to be Shane Warne and Ian Botham, which surely counts as a positive.

As well as seconding bad decisions, the DRS has also resulted in some bad decisions being overturned. This wouldn't have happened without it, so overall it is in credit.

Many people won't believe me on that last point. They might point to a particularly bad decision as evidence.

Finding something to say
We love a turning point in sport, and if that turning point can be associated with a bad decision on the part of those marshalling the game, so much the better for the losing team. It gives you scope for righteous indignation and allows you to construct a parallel fictional narrative where Shane Watson wouldn't have persisted in playing across his front pad until he was inevitably given out lbw, but would instead have done what he did yesterday, even though that only happens about once every three years.

It is for this reason that the media loves the DRS. It basically sends up a flare whenever there is an event that can then be repackaged and presented as a turning point. These controversial DRS decisions are basically the only ones we remember.

Individual examples
Human beings can't handle large data sets. In fact, we can't handle statistics at all. It's not that we don't understand them; it's just that logic always loses out when pitted against an emotional response - and numbers generally don't move us that much.

It basically boils down to a mentality of "I'll believe it when I see it", but you can never see a greater number of umpiring decisions ending up correct. You can't see the overall picture. What you see are wrong decisions - even when they are just decisions that are merely remaining wrong (see above). These specific examples are what provoke the greatest emotional response and they are therefore what we remember. That then becomes our means of judging the system.

Why not cite a specific poor DRS decision in the comments and use it as proof of the system's inadequacies? Pick a really good one, an incident that left even members of the opposition incredulous. I can't argue against you. "Things generally being a little bit better than they used to be" just isn't all that persuasive an argument.

Alex Bowden blogs at King Cricket

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on August 23, 2013, 4:25 GMT

    Cricket has survived with bad umpiring decisions for a century, and that has been accepted as a part and parcel of the game... I don't understand why we need to endorse through DRS that it was a bad decision.

    In my opinion, we should stop wasting time with DRS, and put our faith in the Umpires...! If it leads to a bad decision by them, so be it...! It (not using DRS) would save a lot of time & embarrassment in the game ....!

  • Murray on August 23, 2013, 0:03 GMT

    Here's the problem ? Bad umpiring decisions are as much a part of cricket as bad weather ? There was something almost spiritual about having a belief that an umpire is always right. Now we know they are often wrong just erodes their ability to control a match even further. DRS has nothing in it that will assist a player, it's purely and utterly an excuse to TV watching fans.

    Seriously though the use in this series is changing the very fabric of the game as we know it - and I'm a bit worried ! If Watson/ Clarke had won a review "proving" an LBW that hit the pad 4 metres down the pitch was out, I may have never watched televised cricket again (and I'm an aussie that would have loved to see the back of KP !). It used to be that any doubt was in favour of the batsman - if the use of DRS cannot maintain this basic tenant, it's mainly a nice way for the players to waste even more time ?

  • suresh on August 22, 2013, 12:34 GMT

    much has spoken about drs process. International matches are not a place to test drs. That's it.

  • Dummy4 on August 22, 2013, 10:32 GMT

    I always thought that DRS was there to overturn the absolute howlers - not help batsmen get away with marginal decisions, or 'take a chance, just in case'. I say that DRS 'appeals' should be completely taken away from the players & that only the 3rd umpire should be able to request a DRS review if, in his televised view, the original decisions looks wrong to him. That would restore some respect to the on-field umpires & avoid the unsightly & time-wasting 'shall we, shan't we go to DRS?' huddle of players on the pitch.

  • Ian on August 22, 2013, 9:10 GMT

    Alex quite rightly points out the tautology in the phrase "DRS system".

    But then, several times, Alex uses the phrase "DRS decision". Surely this is also an example of RAS syndrome (Redundant Acronym Syndrome syndrome).

    But perhaps "DRS decision" is slightly less linguistically incorrect than "DRS system". So that's a good thing, then. Like the DRS review system itself.

    Seriously, nice article.

  • Dummy4 on August 22, 2013, 6:33 GMT

    I'd say the Khawaja one, but that was nothing other than human error from the on-field ump (Tony Hill, wasn't it?) and the 3rd ump (Dharmasena).

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