January 27, 2013

Take the DRS out of the players' hands

Umpires should be empowered to use technology to improve their decision-making

If the BCCI had more faith in its hand-picked television commentators and allowed them to discuss the DRS on air, it might discover there are some like-minded souls out there - i.e. people who are equally sceptical of the system.

If ever evidence was needed that there are flaws in the Decision Review System, they were amply provided in the SCG one-dayer between Australia and Sri Lanka. With Michael Clarke having used up Australia's sole review, David Warner and Moises Henriques were then ambushed by incorrect umpiring decisions. Both batsmen got healthy inside edges to deliveries but were adjudged lbw.

Those SCG examples contradict the assertion of Dave Richardson, who was the ICC general manager when he spoke to a gathering of Channel 9 commentators at the Gabba prior to the 2009-10 series against West Indies. He told the commentators: "The DRS is designed to eradicate howlers and get the right decision." At the time I thought, how can you guarantee the correct decision will be reached when there are a finite number of unsuccessful reviews?

I suspected the individual aspect of a team game would ensure the bulk of the reviews would be utilised by top-order batsmen. As former Australian prime minister Paul Keating shrewdly observed, "Always bet on self-interest because you know it's a goer."

Little did I realise that the DRS would also become more of a tactical ploy than a review system. In the same way that West Indies in their heyday slowed the over rate down on the odd occasion they were in danger of losing a game, the DRS is often used as an unwarranted trick in strategy. Umpiring decisions and over rates should never be a part of cricket's tactical fabric.

The DRS, in the unreliable hands of players, is being used more for 50-50 decisions than to eradicate howlers. If a team's best batsman is at the crease and the side is in trouble, a review will almost always result - more a case of self-preservation than any highly principled attempt to be a part of improving the umpiring standard.

The constant reviewing of 50-50 decisions can only undermine the confidence of the umpires, and more importantly, is likely to change their decision-making thought process.

There never has been, nor will there ever be, a case where a 50-50 decision causes animosity on the cricket field. Players are conditioned to accept that one day these decisions will go your way and the next they'll go against you. What does cause animosity on the field is the absolute howler that can change the course of a match. Andrew Symonds being given not out to an obvious caught-behind early in his innings and then going on to score 162 not out in Sydney is a classic example of a howler that caused great animosity on the field. It also led to a terse retort from the normally equitable Anil Kumble at the after-match press conference.

One of the founding principles of the game is also flouted when the DRS is put in the hands of players. As kids we were told the umpire is right, so always accept his decision without question.

The DRS also interrupts the flow of the game. Some of the more exciting moments, like the celebration of a crucial wicket or a brilliant catch, are put on hold, never to be recaptured, as the review process grinds to a conclusion. It would be a case of criminal interference to interrupt the celebration of a hat-trick with a torturous review.

Surely it's time to put any review system in the hands of the umpires so that it stops being a tactic, rids the game of the howler, and on most occasions, brings a satisfactory outcome. Trying to devise a system that produces the correct decision is not possible at the moment (and probably never will be) and attempting to achieve that aim robs the game of one part of the delightfully enticing human element.

It's time to seriously rethink the DRS. It's a topic that should involve a lot of discussion and input from ex-players and some robust debate on commentary.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator for Channel 9, and a columnist

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ramesh on January 29, 2013, 17:56 GMT

    @ JoieDeVivre: Brilliant suggestion mate!!! If we have a resource (no offense to any 3rd umpires), why not use it. Give him powers to intervene if the decision was an absolute cracker jack!!!!!!!!!

    get the player back in/out......move on with the game.....

  • Ramesh on January 29, 2013, 17:52 GMT

    Continued from above:

    Adding DRS into his kitty is just going to be an redundant addition. And besides, theoretically the reason why they do go for the 3rd umpire is because they believe it is out or not out. Why else would he give his decision. Giving DRS is not going to make him refer to review because he already believess it is out/notout. THe only thing that it might do is prolong some of the decision that would normally be given out/notout instantaneously.

    I am a firm believer that adding DRS is not a major plus. The decision is supposed to be spontaneous. THe umpire's decision if given with unbiased intentions in mind is to be accepted by the team regardless. Yes, they will go against you sometime and for you the other, but that is the beautiful part and parcel of cricket and makes it beautiful.

    Why rob cricket of its beauty... It is like robbing Basketball of the rebound points and hockey off its assist points or tennis off its volley points. JUST PLAIN CRAZY...

  • Ramesh on January 29, 2013, 17:45 GMT

    I agree that the DRS is being used as a tactical ploy and not for the purpose it was introduced for. As a bowling captain I want to ensure that the opposition has run out of the DRS available asap so I appeal for far more cases than I should and it is quite possible that one of 100 would be given by umpire just on pressure. Now it does not quite work that ways completely, but I am sure there is a thread of possible impact on the umpire pschologically. And it might in turn force an error. Not definitely effective but as a opposition captain it does not hurt me trying. Self preservation is the other aspect of it when key players like Clarke use up the review and robbing Warner off his chance to "Eliminate howlers". But thats the way game is played.

    But i do not agree with the suggestion to give the power to the umpire. How is that going to work? An umpire at present makes his decision based on his read and gut feel. He still has the option of going to the 3rd umpire anytime.

  • Faizan on January 29, 2013, 15:15 GMT

    Asking umpire to take assistance from 3rd umpire in making a decision is not going to work.We should keep in mind that umpires dont give a batsman out if they are 50-50.They give out when they are 100% sure. so they have no doubt in their mind that they are making right decision. I think the current way is the best way DRS can be used coz the bastmen who are using that for tactics have to pay if some other batman of their team is given out wrongly.Just like Clarke used it for tactics coz he is best batsman of Australia and as a result two of his batsmen bear for his wrong doing.Sooner every batsman will realize that I dont have to be selfish and I should only challenge if there is a howler,not for any tactics.

  • adeel on January 29, 2013, 3:58 GMT

    i've said it before and i hope you read it too Mr chappel.

    get the 3rd umpire to earn his money a bit more. let him watch every ball like the on field umpire but with zoomed in camera (like the one they use forDRS). then as soon as he sees the edge or thigh pad, shirt etc, get on the mic and tell the on field umpire "not out. edge". "not out off thigh/shirt" etc. umpires are human but those two edges of warner and moises were bewildering really!

    players will be then content that 3rd umpire has seen it on the t.v and has made the right decision.

    either the above or put away drs for good or give unlimited reviews!

  • TR on January 29, 2013, 1:16 GMT

    The aim : Correct umpiring decisions without undue delay in the match.Solution: Replace the onfield & 3rd umpires with one "Decision Review Team (DRT)" comprising umpires and computer technicians, which reviews every case (doubtful in their opinion). There will be only one onfield "Game Conductor" (not umpire) whose job is only to conduct the game such as count the balls,overs, start/stop delivery etc. Let the game move on and not wait for DRT's decision. The DRT can press a button on their decisions, which is displayed on screens. The DRT can also easily monitor the players' conduct, such as if a batsman continues to play even after he is obviously out. The DRT holds the authority to declare the subsequent balls dead or valid balls - case by case. If the batsman was out 2 balls back the last 2 balls become dead obviously. But if it is a question of 4 or 6 no need for dead ball in most cases. and so on. Thus all decisions are good and no delays, including the umpiring signals !

  • Alex on January 28, 2013, 21:27 GMT

    There is no technology is perfect and fool proof. It is how to apply can be fool proof. Hotspot do not work well on sunlight. Hawk eye just guessimate. It may have some formulas..god only know how it can be accurate. The problem always where to draw the line? Do we trust 100% hawkeye? We need competition. We have to have more vendors who comes out with better technology. Eventually we end up with better technology which can cover all aspects. I still think appeal system is ok if it is with coaches. You need to make money anyway. We want people with better sight should appeal. I do not like third umpire make decision without appeal. I always felt sometime third umpires sleeping.

  • Partish on January 28, 2013, 20:46 GMT

    I agree a support with Ian Chappell's views. Players are definitely using DRS as a strategy and almost invariably the 2-3 top batsmen in the team end up using the DRS. I see some practical problems though - ball has pitched just outside the legstump. The umpire thinks he is out and gives it, the batsman will have to go. I think this will get the discussion goiong the other way. If the player had the right to challenge it, he would have done it, got a reprive and, who knows scored a match winning innings. Another problem that I see is, if any batsman is given out and he speaks to the umpire and asks for a DRS review, cos he genuinly felt he was not out (say a slight inside edge) he could be in trouble for showing dissent. So I think the way forward could be to keep the current DRS of the players and also empower the umpires to take DRS aid to make a decision. Agree it could slow the game down a bit, but lets ask ourselves, do we need more correct decisions or have a non-stop game.

  • stuart on January 28, 2013, 19:25 GMT

    DRS should be compulsory.Lets face it though what state would india be in if it had been used.They would have been massacred

  • cric on January 28, 2013, 19:09 GMT

    Finally a voice of reason and common sense. I still find it hard to believe that with all the technology available, they haven't found a uniform way of implementing it to assist the umpires. I always believe the third umpire should be part of the game watching each and every ball and should be allowed to intervene if he sees something which can improve the on-field decision making. When a wrong decision is given, the whole world knows instantly except the on-field umpires. DRS has already changed the momentum of the game as we see many decisions overturned after the initial celebrations. We should at least ensure that it improves the quality of the game.