July 1, 2011

The DRS is not bigger than the game

Among the decisions taken at the ICC conference, the use of two balls and the change in Powerplay rules in ODIs will force teams to innovate

I don't know about you but I get the feeling that the DRS is being looked at like it's a Mandela come to save South Africa or a Gandhi come to liberate India; that it is going to change the face of our game, and agreeing or disagreeing is a bit like whether or not you want to go to war to defend your nation. Accordingly the rest of the world is being projected as keepers of the faith and India as the evil nation that wants to drag the game back into the dark ages.

Yes, we want fair decisions, we want to eliminate howlers (which was the original intention, before we took sides and tried to break down the wall) but this game also survived, grew and prospered without the DRS. Other games, bigger than cricket, continue to prosper. It is an interesting element in the game, but it is not bigger than it.

So now we have universal agreement on the Hot Spot and the Snickometer, which is nice, though neither, we are now told, is foolproof. We will have ball-tracking in some series and not in others, and frankly I am not losing sleep over that. If two teams agree to use technology, so be it, and if one of them is sceptical of it, with reason, they must have the right of refusal. If at all there must be unanimity - which happens in an ideal world we don't inhabit - I'd much rather we played without ball-tracking. It's great fun on television, but the game can move along absolutely fine without it.

My view is that we use technology where umpires are handicapped: line calls, where the action is too quick; boundary calls, where the umpire is too far away; little edges here and there that are too fine to notice or hear; and points of landing and impact, where an inch here and there is virtually impossible to detect. And all that can be achieved with Hot Spot, the locked-off line cameras, and the virtual mat from stump to stump.

The mat is an interesting issue, since it is manually generated, and therefore, as some in the BCCI believe, possible to manipulate. In theory they are right, but as a dear producer friend of mine told me, manipulation will be visible. And in any case, there can be no conspiracy, since some outs become not-outs and some not-outs become outs. It is not in anyone's interest to manipulate the mat, because you cannot do it incident by incident.

So I think that is good enough technology, and enough debate for now, for there are far more interesting decisions that a top group of cricket people threw up, and which the ICC accepted.

Moving the Powerplay overs to between 16 and 40 is one of those. The idea behind the Powerplay overs is sound, but the execution was not fulfilling the purpose, which was to make the middle overs interesting. So this is a fine course correction. It forces the captain to think a bit more about his bowling, and the batting order, and adds an interesting variable for the viewer. I will be very interested in seeing how captains react.

The runner was a charming anachronism. The idea behind it was noble, but in an era of increasing athleticism, and with players becoming fitter, it had run its course. And it didn't help that players were known to take advantage of it. But it also means the substitute fielder must go, because that is a provision in the game that is significantly more abused. If a batsman is expected to be fit and to run around, a fielder must too. I think that is now an inevitable change.

But the most far-reaching change of all is the decision to use two new balls, which suggests that like fashion, the old can sometimes become new again. It was used in the early nineties, when there was a fear that it would take the spinner out of the game. But look how times change. The spinners are now pretty adept at bowling with a shiny ball. Indeed, in Twenty20 they often get the new ball, before the faster bowlers. It is now time for the fast bowlers to wonder if they will be denied reverse-swing.

But I see more interesting possibilities. Clever teams might work on one ball more than another, get one to reverse more than the other, and keep switching bowlers around. So you don't only have two halves of the ball that are unlike each other but two balls that need not resemble each other very much either. It is also an admission that you cannot now make a white ball to last 50 overs. So why not pink in course of time? Because one ball, and the consequent wear and tear, just seems right with cricket.

So hopefully when India play in England, the talk will be about cricket and not about hegemony and display of power. For power in the boardroom never takes wickets or scores runs, and that is what our game is all about.

Harsha Bhogle is a commentator, television presenter and writer. His Twitter feed is here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • karthy on July 4, 2011, 14:01 GMT

    drs is just a gimmick.see what happened to dhoni in 2nd test even technology can't solve the issue.

  • Ashok on July 3, 2011, 23:12 GMT

    The need for DRS arose because of some attrocious umpiring decisions, notably India Vs. Australia test match at Sydney, 3 years back.In that match Symmonds was out caught behind when he had just arrived at the crease but the WI Umpire gave him not out. He went on to get a big score which deprived India of a certain victory.This is only one example. Gone are the days of Umpire Chester who was outstanding.Now at least 30% of the umpiring decisions are questionable.So DRS will aid umpires in correcting their decisions - LBW's, No balls, caught, run out, etc.I think its implementation will assist both the parties in challenging dubious umpiring.My only query is on ball tracking because it is very difficult to predict ball trajectory without including the pitch surface hardness + its uniformity in view of cracks. The hawk eye technology is available in all sports but people still have not adapted it in all sports.I say use the technology when it is available - compensates for human errors.

  • Dummy4 on July 3, 2011, 3:37 GMT

    If harsha thinks DRS hasn't changed the game ...................let me tell u how much it has......................esp the ball tracking technology has really influenced cricket significantly...1) modern coaches teach batsmen to defend with bat infront of the padsand lot more modern day batsmen are using this technique........................2) Earlier batsmen would come on front foot and would play spinners virtually with their pads and conventional umpires would never give batsman out lbw in case of sppiner bowling and batsman playing on front foot but now umpires give such outs. 3) Now Umpires like Simon Toufel and Aleem Dar who give higher percentage of lbw decisions are in ellte panel earlier good umpires were supposed to never give lbw. 4) Earlier if a basman was wrongly given lbw only that was discussed but now if a batsman is wrongly given not out for an lbw appeal that too is discussed

  • Neal on July 2, 2011, 21:38 GMT

    I am sure Harsha has good intentions with this comment but the Chanderpaul dismissal tonight is enough to demonbstrate why DRS is the way forward. Embarrassing for foth the umpire and the old fashioned views of the fielding side.

  • Dummy4 on July 2, 2011, 11:59 GMT

    Still no reason given to oppose the hawk-eye. If the pitch map is incorrectly drawn up, it will effect all the desicions in the match and has a rare posibility. If playing conditions have to be kept same for both sides than guess what we dont even need 3rd umpires.

  • khadeer on July 2, 2011, 11:52 GMT

    Spot on sjitendran. Harsha's article fell far short of what he is capable of and was a real disappointment

  • Amit on July 2, 2011, 11:38 GMT

    So true. People are Clamoring for DRS as if it will solve all problems around wrong decisions. And then do we really need the on-field umpires if the decisions that they can take are all possible using a bunch of cameras in real time? And the DRS is supposed to help with the easy ones in any case. I am not a "traditionalist" but I want to see human beings do that job. At least it would be easier to put the blame on human errors than to wonder how Dhoni was dismissed in the last test even when we could .all see that the bowler cut the crease. We now know because ICC accepts the umpire was shown a wrong replay. So whose fault was that? By the looks of all posturing in the cricket world, it must be a BCCI conspiracy too! :)

  • R on July 2, 2011, 11:15 GMT

    Harsha has written a beautical & logical piece. As to the question of whether cricket or the technology debate will dominate during India England matches, it depends on many factors. If Swann gets a ball to hit the pad of Tendulkar or Sehwag or Laxman and they are given not out, we can expect dozens of complaints. Harsha is correct in arguing that where technology aids, use it but where technology is suspect, leave it to the umpire. Just because BCCI & Harsha are saying the same thing, it does not detract from the soundness of the arguement.

  • Saradha on July 2, 2011, 11:11 GMT

    Harsha I used to read your article because it always talk sense. But not this one. Harsha singing BCCI tune does not make convincing. Yes DRS is not bigger than cricket but it should be part of cricket for betterment. If you say DRS is not important then none of the technological advances like TV umpire, floodlight, hot spot, snickometer, etc are also innsame category. Only fools read BCCI will object to use of technology in cricket. Nobody can stop technological advancement in cricket. It is already happening in other sports like tennis, rugby, american grid, etc. Just because some diehards wants cricket to be remain conventional it will not remain same. Alsosince BCCI does not want use of DRS in the current series then it should advice its captain and players to accept the verdict of 100% error-free human umpire decisions and not to whinge about the same

  • Rohaan on July 2, 2011, 9:54 GMT

    the most obvious argument to the fact the BCCI thinks that the UDRS was not 100% accurate is the fact that umpires are not 100% accurate either. i like the fact that hotspot has been made compulsory but i don't see anything wrong with having hawkeye. it's a fantastic tool and improves the overall amount of right decisions made. we want the game to be as accurate as possible don't we? i don't see why the ICC shouldn't make hawkeye compulsory......stuff india if doesn't want the game to become better. but as harsha said, the game is just a contest between bat and ball.

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