November 14, 2011

No DRS, no drama

The Kotla Test showed that decisions unaided by technology don't always spell disaster, nor are they a mark of old-fashioned, rigid values

Even the ICC will concede the current situation in international cricket is far from ideal. Some series are played with the Decision Review System (DRS) in place, with all the available technology, some with the DRS but with limited use of technology, while in others there are no reviews at all. However, this enforced compromise in international cricket allows us to watch and compare the effects of these different approaches to the game.

The West Indies tour of India, broadcast under the direction of the BCCI, has no DRS, and minimal use of technology in its television coverage, while Australia's tour of South Africa is being played with the DRS, using all the technology available.

As for my stand on the DRS, to start with, like a typical cricketer, I was opposed to technology. But when technology became an integral part of decision-making, I started to see some benefits and joined the masses who had begun to support the DRS. But now, watching the India-West Indies series, which takes you back to a time when there was limited use of technology, I am beginning to see some positives in the old-fashioned approach to cricket.

The BCCI's stand on the DRS is well known, but during the India-England one-day series the board went a step further and decided that the ball-tracking results for lbws wouldn't be broadcast for the benefit of television viewers either. I was outraged when I first learnt of this decision, but with time I began to understand the logic behind it. Why show the viewers what the board considers a flawed piece of technology and mislead them? Of course, the counter-argument would be: why not continue showing it as a viewing enhancement, as it was originally meant to be? But let's not forget that what started off as a "value-add" on TV had such a powerful effect on fans, players and administrators that it forced its way into the core of the game. This viewing enhancement was too potent to be used as just a television graphic.

The one thing I particularly liked about the DRS-free, ball-tracking-free coverage of the India-West Indies series was illustrated by the decision against Gautam Gambhir. He was given out leg-before by Rod Tucker in the second innings at the Kotla. It looked to many like the ball could have been slipping down leg. A review may have given Gambhir a lifeline, but because there was no DRS to confirm the line of the delivery, everyone - the players and the fans watching on TV - just moved on. Without ball-tracking technology, which could have thrown up further doubts, the dismissal incident did not become an issue. Obviously Gambhir would feel hard done by that there was no DRS, but his was one of the 40 wickets that can fall in a Test. Is one wicket that big a deal in the larger scheme of things?

Of course, there are obvious advantages of using technology. Having an all-inclusive DRS helps keep calm among players in a high-intensity contest, because they feel the best possible effort has been made to arrive at the right decision

Gambhir was out, not so much because the umpire decided it wasn't going down leg, but because he played across the line. And with no one making a fuss about the decision, that is what he would have concluded himself in the dressing room.

Those who tend to be dramatic and suggest that one wicket can indeed change the course of the game are looking at it the wrong way. A team never loses a match because of one moment in the game; it's always more than one event - in fact, a series of events - that determines a team's defeat. But often, taking our anger out on the umpires after a game is lost seems to give us greater relief.

The BCCI's decision has also made the umpire the boss again, as it should be. I still can't come to terms with the fact that the umpire's finger going up is not the end of the matter, as it once was. I also strongly believe that umpiring has become better over the years, and we have to thank TV technology for it. So maybe it's time to give the umpires the final authority again. Considering the number of decisions an umpire gives in one Test, howlers are rare.

Once again, we are reminded of the virtues of the old methods, which cannot be dismissed as signs of old-fashioned, rigid thinking. It's about which is better for the game as a whole in the long run. To rubbish this approach because it's being led by the BCCI is not right.

Of course, there are obvious advantages of using technology, and we saw its best endorsement at Newlands. Having an all-inclusive DRS helps keep calm among players in a high-intensity contest, because they feel the best possible effort has been made to arrive at the right decision. Secondly, the viewers, who drive the cricket market, love a DRS situation. They lean forward on their sofas with great excitement to see what transpires as technology takes its course. What the DRS also does well is help balance the game out by taking much of the human element out of decision-making, which has always been based on the principle that the batsman should get the benefit of the doubt.

But I don't like how the DRS gets far too much attention during a match. When a not-out decision gets reviewed and overturned, and the batman starts walking back to the dressing room, the talk revolves around the DRS rather than how good the ball was or what mistake the batsman made. Cricket should always be about the players, not umpires and video evidence. And like cricketers, technology can have a good or a bad game; it had a good run at Newlands but it failed in England.

We are running out of time on this issue. Very soon the ICC will have to standardise playing conditions in international cricket: it has to be DRS for all or for none. I am glad I don't have to vote on this.

Former India batsman Sanjay Manjrekar is a cricket commentator and presenter on TV. His Twitter feed is here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on November 17, 2011, 13:04 GMT

    Hi Cricket lovers and Comments makers. I am very much on BCCI stand. Hey first understand what BCCI is saying? Please don't comment without knowing correctly. BCCI says if your going to use any technology is good but ICC should provide 99.99% fool proof. Apart from run out decision no other technology still now recommended or used in cricket did not passed BCCI bench mark.

  • Dummy4 on November 17, 2011, 12:39 GMT

    do i have rights to comment on this article without reading it? coz i dont read anything that Mr.Manjrekar right or talk

  • Dummy4 on November 17, 2011, 12:33 GMT

    Any thing used to eliminate human errors in the game is good, as one bad decision could effect the game as well as player career.

  • Dummy4 on November 17, 2011, 10:46 GMT

    Well i'm afraid i don't agree with Sanjay's thinking and comments about DRS. I'm failed to understand why on earth only India is against DRS when all the other countries have already given green signal to it? If India is so keen to take cricket back to "Cave age" then why to have "Third Umpire" option, which to me was the first step in this regard! If we really want to lean on the ground umpires without technology then lets pull out third umpire, stump cameras and mikes!! Let's be technology free. Why be so choosy? Technology is created to help and bolster the human efficiency. When we are already using technology in every walk of life then why not cricket? I hope Sanjay must have watched SA - AUS first test match, which without DRS couldn't have been possible. I reckon we should be open hearted to welcome the "new" changes happening around us.

  • Dummy4 on November 17, 2011, 9:43 GMT

    DRS has its own advantage but some positives are there such as no debates or arguments to the umpire decision. i always believe that umpire is the best person to judge the behaviour of the pitch than it should be left to him. since he is also a human, errors will be there such as ball pitching outside leg stump, hitting outside the line of the stump, etc. here comes the need for DRS but in different form. it can be effectively used without tracking technology by just seeing the replays with naked eyes whether the ball pitched outside leg stump, hit the pad on the line, height of the impact on the pad, inside edge, etc. for these things no technology is needed since we can find in the replays itself. i say that technology can be used to find the actual things(above said) happened rather than predicting what would have happenned after its impact on the tracking should be used till the ball hitting the pad only and beyond that umpire is the best person to judge.

  • Michael Ponnudurai on November 17, 2011, 9:33 GMT

    This view will hold good for India and all Indians until they lose. Few losses through one or two even marginally wrong decisions will make their colour change. Fickle to say the least. Cheers to nations who have favoured the DRS. Developed thinking!

  • Dummy4 on November 17, 2011, 8:58 GMT

    Perfect job of sitting on the fence Sanjay. DRS is good. But it's bad, but I feel it's good. But then it maybe bad. But it has it's advantages.

  • Dummy4 on November 17, 2011, 7:41 GMT

    Sanjay,you have a good chance of being a spokes person of BCCI.....IN 2nd test Ifeel Bad for WI...

  • Dummy4 on November 17, 2011, 6:51 GMT

    To make cricket even more drama-less even the on field umpire can be eliminated, and the batsman walks if he had played across irrespective of whether it pitched in line or bounced over etc., and so on .. Sanjay is a genius, I just hope he doesn't get any where near the ICC decision making crowd!!!!

  • John on November 17, 2011, 6:51 GMT

    It's sad but true that I agree with Rambo2008 that it is sad but true that, for high-profile, televised games, the umpires really only exist for tradition's sake. Everyone goes on about how good Aleem Dar is (and I agree) but we only know that he's that good because TV replays have confirmed so many of his decisions. Obviously then, at least the vast majority of those decisions could have been made by an off-field umpire viewing those replays only. Maybe an off-field umpire should make all decisions when the technology is available and the on-field umpire's opinion should just be one of the inputs used in making that decision. Of course, in that case the standard of the on-field umpires would be significantly lower. In practical terms, that is the most likely scenario to lead to the maximum number of correct decisions.

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