ICC pushes again for DRS, BCCI says no
The ICC's Chief Executives Committee (CEC) has reiterated its commitment to the Decision Review System becoming mandatory in international cricket, recommending it to the Executive Board following fresh and successful testing of DRS technology. However, the BCCI - which has long opposed DRS - immediately responded by saying its stand remained unchanged, putting the proposal into serious doubt.
For the record, the ICC also decided to include Hot Spot cameras as part of the mandatory requirements for the DRS; they had been made mandatory following the 2011 ICC conference in June, but were taken off the list in October.
The recommendation to the ICC Board came with one rider: the application will be "subject to the Members' ability to finance and obtain the required technology."
The CEC stated it was "satisfied" with the improvements made over the two key components of DRS technology. These include the new Hot Spot cameras as well as the independent ball-tracking research conducted by Dr Ed Rosten, a Cambridge University department of engineering expert in computer-vision technology. Rosten, the ICC said, had "tested the accuracy and reliability of ball-tracking in a recent Test series and concluded that the results were 100% in agreement with the outcomes produced from his assessments."
All of this was undermined by the BCCI's statement, which came within a couple of hours of the ICC's decision. "The BCCI continues to believe that the system is not foolproof," it said. "It also sticks to its view that the decision on whether or not to use the DRS for a particular series should be left to the boards involved in that series."
The reaction contradicted the wording of the ICC's release, which said recommendations by the CEC were said to be "unanimous". Yet it is understood that the CEC had been explained India's "unreadiness" to use the technology as a whole, and the matter would rest with the ICC Board when it meets on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The BCCI have been the strongest opponents of the DRS, its president N Srinivasan saying that the system would only be supported when it was "100 percent error free." Srinivasan, who arrived in Kuala Lumpur by chartered flight, was not required to be present at the CEC meetings - the BCCI was represented by secretary Sanjay Jagdale - but will be sitting in on the ICC Board when the CEC's recommendations are discussed.
The member nations supporting the DRS are also believed to have told the ICC that they would like it to sort out the grey areas - over the nature, quantity and costs of the DRS - through the selling of centralised global DRS rights to a single sponsor. Most full member nations have indicated that they would like the ICC to take ownership of the DRS, as it has of neutral umpiring.
It is a suggestion that will give the technology providers of DRS technology some solace, as the technology upgrade required to become part of the game's rule book is far more expensive and sophisticated than the original aim with which the technology was provided to cricket broadcasters: to merely be part of the television-watching experience.
The ICC cricket committee's suggestion pertaining to the lbw regulation under DRS has also been approved. Under the LBW rule, the 'margin of uncertainty' regarding the point of impact with the batsman will be the same as that provided for the point of impact with the stumps.
The CEC has also endorsed recommendations regarding the Powerplays and passed them on to the executive board for its approval. These involve bowling Powerplays to be restricted to the first 10 overs and a batting Powerplay of five overs chosen and completed before the start of the 41st over. Similarly, a maximum of four fielders are to be allowed outside the 30-yard circle in the non-Powerplay overs and the number of permitted short-pitched balls should increase from one per over to two.
The CEC supported the promotion of day-night Test cricket, "with the approval of both participating teams" and with the usage of a "suitable ball" as recommended by the cricket committee. The CEC stated that both Test and ODI cricket should push for "extra context" through the promotion of the ICC's World Test Championship, which is currently struggling to find support in the broadcast industry, and a full qualification process for the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup, which must tackle opposition to lower-ranked Full Member nations looking for automatic entry into a 10-team World Cup.
The ICC CEC is made up of chief executives of the 10 Full Member nations, and three associate member representatives. The CEC meetings are chaired by the ICC Chief Executive and can include the ICC president and the chairman of the ICC cricket committee, in this case Clive Lloyd.
The ICC's Executive Board, which will study these recommendations, comprises the chairman or president of each of the 10 Full Member nations, plus three elected Associate Member representatives, the ICC President who chairs proceedings, the ICC Vice-President, the chief executive and then by invitation, the ICC principal advisor.
Over the next few days, the ICC's executive board - made up of the heads of every Full Member board - will once again jockey over the DRS issue as if it were as complex as finding the God particle in the Hadron Collider. It is not. The DRS is actually an arm-wrestling contest with three contestants: the Full Members who want it, the Indians who don't and the ICC's bean-counters, who would love it used but at someone else's expense. It is an annual, repetitive - and unedifying - skirmish.
The BCCI will hold its ground because it is the game's cash machine. It will now seek the favour of its Asian brethren; in exchange there will be a one-day series, a tour to India, support on other ICC issues. The Full Members who want the DRS have until now neither stood up to the BCCI's bullying nor played the political card smartly themselves. The ICC has not taken ownership or control of an idea that came to them originally from Duncan Fletcher, who now ironically coaches the Indians. The moment the DRS enters any set of playing conditions, it becomes the ruling body's responsibility. To turn away, mumbling about costs and bilateral relations, or to quibble about its finer points, is downright disingenuous.
Were the DRS easily available to all nations, it would make the case for universal application stronger. Were it made universally mandatory, what would the BCCI do? Stop playing international cricket? Secede from the ICC? Cut off ties with England, South Africa and Australia? It's time to sort it out, once and for all.
Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo