December 30, 2011

Time for the DRS debate to end

This year gave us an excellent World Cup, some quality Test cricket, and an exciting new league. But the discussions about technology have gone on for far too long

Plus ça change plus c'est la meme. And little really changed in cricket in 2011. Yes, players were arrested for fixing for the first time, but that was inevitable - at some point a player was going to say something to the wrong person. But apart from that, we continue to debate the DRS and the IPL, the future of Test cricket, the growth of commerce, the stubbornness of the BCCI, and an Indian defeat in the first Test of a series.

It was the year in which opposition to the DRS replaced the IPL as the source of all evil in the game. The world is increasingly being split between those for the DRS and those against. And, as a corollary, those for India and those against. It is an unnecessary division but one that is increasingly being felt because the BCCI refuses to explain its point of view. There have been occasions in the last two years when the board has had a sound, coherent argument but it has remained shrouded because of the reluctance to enter into a debate.

To be honest, the use of the DRS in 2011 did cause me to question my support for the system, especially with respect to ball-tracking and Hot Spot. The failure of ball-tracking at the World Cup - whether it was to be effective if the point of contact was greater than 2.5 metres from where the ball pitched, or indeed less than 30 centimetres - suggested it was only the speed of the cameras that mattered. In countries with large budgets for production, ball-tracking will work better than in those with lower budgets. So the inequity will remain anyway. And while the creators of Hot Spot will say they have a better product now, it had a forgettable tour of England.

Until we get reliable figures on accuracy for different versions of ball-tracking, we might have to stay with something that will be available everywhere. And so maybe we should stick to eliminating howlers - a pitch map to judge where the ball pitched and hit pad, for line calls, and super-slow-motion cameras to look at inside edges for lbws. But this debate must end soon. It is already boring.

Test cricket was excellent in 2011, as it has been for over a hundred years. If there was criticism at all, it had to do with the ridiculous two-Test series we were subjected to. There is an ebb and flow within a game as there is within a series, and the administration cannot ignore that. Luckily, players are expressing their point of views more strongly now. Hopefully it is a trend that will continue in 2012. Gagging cricketers doesn't help.

The spectators and the patrons seem to like Twenty20 cricket, and it polarised, to borrow a phrase from the Hindi film industry, the classes and masses. The ratings for the IPL, a percentage rather than absolute number, dropped, but the number of viewers still went up, and the first edition of the Big Bash League in Australia opened to encouraging viewership numbers. I will be delighted if the BBL does well, because for cricket to be financially strong, T20 has to be strong. The IPL, which bears the brunt of the assault from the traditionalists, isn't faultless; it isn't entirely virtuous but it is still a teenager, and they are allowed the occasional wildness that they can remember as grown-ups. At one point in England I had to remind people that the problems with the euro, the trouble in Afghanistan, or indeed the 2G scam, weren't all direct outcomes of the IPL.

Meanwhile the subcontinent produced an excellent World Cup; the final had two classic innings from Mahela Jayawardene and MS Dhoni. England, at last, became the team they could always have been, and Australia produced an excellent new crop of fast bowlers.

There was deep personal sadness too. My first cricket hero and an outstanding gentleman, Tiger Pataudi, left us, and so did a person I always looked up to for his writing and intellect, Peter Roebuck. These were custodians of the game and we need as many as we can get.

My image of 2011 was the moment immediately after the World Cup win for India. As the cameras searched for Tendulkar, as the players held him aloft, as sound bytes flowed, the captain receded into the background with dignity. He let Tendulkar have his moment, and for that it will always be Dhoni's World Cup for me.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Srinivas on January 2, 2012, 18:58 GMT

    On a side-note, since when people have come to watch cricket for its accuracy? Aren't we in love with cricket for the uncertainty of its human and other elements - pitch, outfield, weather, Captaincy, hostile crowds, friendly crowds, condition of the ball, colour of the ball, appealing vociferously or mutedly for a similar situation, good balls purring to the fence, bad balls claiming Legends, dropping sitters, completing jaw-dropping catches, rookies cleaning up Legends, Legends whacked by rookies, Legends teaching rookies some tough lessons AND UMPIRES+PLAYERS? Well, DRS? Sorry, stay out of this great game with your grumpy face and flaws! Good riddance! I'm no fan of BCCI. Not one bit. But give credit where it is due.

  • Farhan on January 2, 2012, 16:59 GMT

    DRS must be used in all the test series becuse the players and the umpires have faith in it

  • Farhan on January 2, 2012, 16:55 GMT

    This unnecessary debate started back in 2008 when the UDRS was used in India and SriLanka test series. Not only did Srilanka went on to win the series but they used their reviews smartly whereas, the Indians did not. As a result the Indian players, board officials, ex players, all the indian analyst, commentators (i feel like mentioning names but i don't want to) and the indian public as well are all against the the DRS. In 2008 if the series would have been won by the indians then the indians would have start worshiping the DRS. It is remarkable that not a single prominent indian figure from the cricket fraternity has spoken in favor of the DRS. the rest of the players from other cricket nations adore the DRS and so does the viewers. All i can say is that no one is bigger than the game and the the right steps need to be taken for the betterment of the game.

  • kannan on January 2, 2012, 13:26 GMT

    let there be debate and let there be consensus. Lets at least agree to disagree, Dravid_Gravitas, McGorium and LilianThomson. India's blind opposition to the DRS does not augur well for the greater good of the game. We have to move forwards and technology has to be embraced. This is my 2 cents. 1. Take out the predictive path. Only analyse what's already happened. ( ie, inside edge, pitching outside/ in line etc) 2. No game uses "prediction" for decisions ( in tennis they are tracking something thats already happened). Predictive pathway is flawed ( doesnt work if its too close or more than 2.5 m away, doesnt work in shade and is speculative). 3. Unless there is evidence to the contrary, the umpire's decision stands. That would mean that Hussey would be not out ( 1st inns) but Cowan would be out ( as there was a sound) 4. Alternatively, give it to the on field umpires to check marginal/ tough calls. ( this does have a potential to prolong the game though)

  • Dummy4 on January 2, 2012, 12:02 GMT

    As Fan Guess we need DRS to Eliminate Howlers. Like Harsha & so many Pointed out here we could use Pitch Map, Sniko, Pitch mat and Slow mo cameras to eliminate Howlers. Using expensive technologies like Hawk eye & Hot Spot are not at all required to eliminate howlers. Then the next Point if the effort is to Eliminate Howlers why not give more powers to 3rd umpire rather than wanting players to apeal?!.

  • Robert on January 2, 2012, 11:48 GMT

    Write-alots like McGorium and David_Gravitas still don't seem to get it, whereas Lilian Thomson is spot on: it is NOT about 100% DRS perfection to arrive before we can use it. Even if the equipment is installed wrongly for a match, both teams will suffer equally, but only during this one match. T20 is a sub standard format and Lilian could not have phrased it more aptly: "I'm happy for our players to play in the IPL, just as I'd be happy if some fool paid them $1m to paint a wall or pick their noses. But then pay attention to Gambhir and Kohli and Yuvraj and Raina and understand that they are useless Test cricketers because they are being overpaid to slog in T20". Up to such time that the BCCI accepts DRS there remains the question: what have they got to hide?

  • Srinivas on January 2, 2012, 2:26 GMT

    @LillianThomson, Coming to flat track bullies - I really don't know what you have against India but do yourself a favour and have a look at STATSGURU by applying various filters to our batsmen's stats. Coming to popgun attack - Barring Sir Hadlee, The Majestic Shane Bond and The Work-Horse Vettori, I've never known of any NZ bowler who is not an integral part of a popgun attack. Indian attack isn't that great. But if one has to talk of popgun attacks, NZ takes the cake. Were you deeply upset that we defeated you in your own backyard in 2009, for your vitriol against us? Probably!

  • Srinivas on January 2, 2012, 2:17 GMT

    @LillianThomson, you sure realise that McGrath doesn't have much to do with the money from Indian Cricket. Next, you sure realise that there are many normal Aussies on this board who are looking for that 100th century. I'm no huge fan of that century. Just wanted to point out that your premise is flawed. One can look forward for that 100th century on varied premises. Drawing money from Indian Cricket need not be the ONLY premise. Regarding, India is the odd one out - I would take that as a compliment. If insisting on taking an informed decision as opposed to taking an uninformed decision is akin to being the odd one out, I would of course prefer to be the odd one out. In all fairness, I couldn't care any less if the guy who takes uninformed decision continues to complain.

  • Srinivas on January 2, 2012, 0:34 GMT

    Part 1: Thanks a lot to Harsha for bringing this up and for saying that this debate has to end. Hot-spot and hawk-eye have too many bugs at this time. Hawk-eye can't see in certain light conditions and hot-spot, well, decides to be cold randomly. Guys can't be serious to take this technology so seriously. Eg: Just imagine you spend 25,000 dollars on a Car and the engine responds as it should, not consistently but randomly, like hot-spot. And the headlights will not work in certain lighting conditions, like hawk-eye. Would all you folks be very glad to buy such a Car and call me a bully if I don't? We are not living in a dinosaur era that you will tell me what is acceptable based on what you wrongly accept. I will not buy that car. In fact, NHTSA (in USA) will slap a notice to that ACCOUNTABLE manufacturer and the manufacturer will have to recall those cars and FIX them free of charge to avoid a class action law-suit. (TBC)

  • Srinivas on January 1, 2012, 22:23 GMT

    Part 6: None of those outcries against umpires were moanings or whinings. Only the indifferent and callous can brand them as such. They are valid concerns and needed to be addressed appropriately. ICC responded appropriately by starting neutral umpires for the former and by asking Bucknor to step down in the latter. Post Sydney 07/08 Kumble rightly said, "Yes it is a sport and we have to be sporting about it. But to lose like this, as you all have seen, it hurts though it is just a sport". When we have neutral umpires we stand a better chance of letting the game progress as it should by reducing the probability of favouritism. But, just because we have neutral umpires doesn't mean boatloads of closely spaced, unintentional howlers will no longer impact the game's progress. (TBC)

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