UDRS resistance returns to hurt India
India can feel hard done by Billy Bowden's lbw decision against Gautam Gambhir, but they have only themselves to blame. The batsman hits the leather off the ball, and is also hit outside the line of the off. The umpire thinks it is pad first, and misjudges the line. The batsman makes a T sign, the third umpire has a look at it, and tells the on-field umpire he has made a mistake. The umpire then crosses arms, reverses his decision, and the batsman goes ahead with his innings. When that happens at a critical juncture, as it could have on two occasions today, it is a huge relief for those participating in, officiating in, and watching the game.
India, though, refuse to use it. The Gambhir decision, and the one against Michael Hussey, where everyone in the crowd immediately knew it was not out, is exactly what the UDRS is in place for. Umpires are human too. They too make mistakes. Admittedly some are more human than others. In recent times their workload has grown manifold, but the Elite Panel remains just as big - or small.
India's argument against the UDRS is that they are not comfortable with it unless a technology at least as reliable as Hot Spot is used. Rahul Dravid illustrated India's concerns about the system yesterday. "My personal view is that if it can be proved that technology is foolproof, there is no harm in going for it," he said. "As long as we can be sure that it is available for every Test match, every condition all over the world and it's uniform." And while neither the BCCI nor the ICC is willing to bear costs for the technology that is to be used for the smoother running of the game, it is unfair to expect the broadcasters - who have paid through their noses to obtain the rights - to foot the bill.
Yet, looking at the way Gambhir and Hussey were given out, there is a case for even half the technology doing more good than bad. The Indian team is not united in its opposition of the system. At the P Sara Oval earlier this year, when Abhimanyu Mithun and Ishant Sharma were given out caught off their pads, Virender Sehwag had said: "It happens in cricket. Sometimes the umpire gives you a good decision and sometimes a bad decision. But yes, I would love to have that referral system in Test cricket, or even in one-day cricket. That is my personal opinion."
Ben Hilfenhaus shared the opinion after the day's play. "Obviously there is technology out there to be used," he said. "Umpires are doing a fantastic job, but obviously with the technology you take a bit of that human error out."
Chances are Gambhir's personal opinion might not be too different from Hilfenhaus' after today. Personal opinions, though, should not matter in the first place. As many players have demanded before, the ICC needs to put its foot down and make it mandatory for all Tests to be played under the same set of playing conditions. Test cricket shouldn't become a backyard game of cricket where kids decide beforehand if they can be given out lbw or not.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at Cricinfo