July 17, 2013

The DRS is not the solution, it's part of the problem

Not only does the review system rob the game of spontaneity and drama, it does not get rid of the mistakes it was created to eradicate

In a week of fantastic Test cricket filled with high drama and controversy, it was inevitable - given one of those controversies was over someone walking, or not walking - that I was drawn into the debate.

That was exacerbated when an idiot who was pretending to be me on Twitter, under a fake account, started to be quoted in newspaper articles as me. To clarify: I have never had a Twitter account and still don't, so any accounts claiming to be me are fake.

Despite the fact that I was a walker, I don't judge any player, past or present, who chooses a different approach. However, I believe the Trent Bridge Test focused the light clearly on the Decision Review System, and overall I think the game is poorer for its inclusion.

The spontaneity and drama, the magic and intrigue that Test cricket always possessed has been lost. The reality and finality of seeing the umpire's finger raised has been erased, because everyone now looks to the batsman or fielding captain to see their response.

Compare the way the Trent Bridge Test ended on Sunday with the memorable scenes at Edgbaston in 2005, when in a similar result Australia fell agonisingly short of the target. Michael Kasprowicz was the last man out, caught behind off Steve Harmison, and if the DRS had been in place, we would probably still be looking at the tape because I don't think anyone really knows even now whether it was out or not. That's fine: I have no problem with the decision that was made.

I was part of the Australian team on that occasion and we, and the whole nation, ended up on the losing side in an incredible match. But what a magical finish it was for cricket. There was no possibility of that instant being lost, whereas now those split-second moments and the ensuing few seconds are quite different. The scenes that played out at Trent Bridge won't be remembered in the same way as those from Edgbaston.

In my opinion, the game is poorer for that. I don't say that because the decision to give Brad Haddin out caught-behind cost Australia a Test match. I understand the proposed benefits of technology eradicating umpiring errors but this Test match, which was full of wonderful technique and skill and fight, showed quite glaringly that the errors are still occurring.

I have always found it a frustration that under the DRS a player can question an umpire's decision. One of the strongest elements of the spirit of any sport is not questioning the umpires or referees. We now have a situation where players can do that, albeit limited times. That doesn't sit comfortably with me. Yes, technology is here, but perhaps a Test match like this has gone a long way to indicate that the umpires need to have full control as to when a decision is reviewed, rather than the players.

One of the strongest elements of the spirit of any sport is not questioning the umpires or referees. We now have a situation where players can do that

For the first time, I'm starting to understand India's reluctance to go with the system. It's not a remedy that seems to have cured the problem. In fact, it may even have become more of a problem. Listening to Michael Clarke talk about using his reviews poorly, it has certainly become more of a headache for captains.

It was an outstanding Test match, the kind of hard-fought Test I remember watching when I was growing up. But I feel technology took something away from the game, for both the teams and for the spectators.

The only sport I've seen where technology has really enhanced the sport - and they're getting it right - is tennis. The review system in tennis is adding to the spectacle and the occasion. It's so quick, and in fact it has probably sped the game up because we don't have players spending time questioning the umpire's call. They just refer it and the decision is made quickly. But those are line decisions, like run-outs in cricket, not catches or lbws. Perhaps cricket's DRS needs to be put on the back-burner until a better system is found.

Despite Australia's loss, there is plenty for the team to take from Trent Bridge into this week's Lord's Test. There was strong evidence the players were really united in their effort and were totally committed to doing whatever the team required. Those are good signs. It's going to be very tough, but I think what we saw there was the foundation of a group that has the potential to succeed.

It was so refreshing to see Ashton Agar's approach to Test cricket. What spoke volumes, as much as the 98 runs and two wickets and his cool head, was his reaction on getting out: the disappointed smile and then his interaction with his family, apologising to them for not getting a hundred. It was a wonderful and uninhibited approach from a player who doesn't expect anything from the game, and I don't expect that will change just because of the way he played at Trent Bridge.

Agar and the rest of the lower half of the order showed that if you watch the ball closely and occupy the crease, there will be runs on offer in this series. There's a position or two in the batting line-up that might come under scrutiny. I think Ed Cowan is the one who will feel the heat the most. But he has just been moved to a new position from anything else he's been asked to do in Test cricket, so one more opportunity at Lord's would allow him to feel he's had a fair crack at No. 3. The top six know they have to step up and be the predominant run scorers and not leave it to the bottom five.

The Australians will be gutted but it's a good thing that there is such a quick turnaround between Tests. There has to be a binding effect for a group like that, to know they were so close to achieving success together. I wouldn't expect much change in the team for Lord's. Despite the result, they have built up a nice unit and there is a bit of momentum - a refreshing change from what we have seen recently.

Adam Gilchrist was speaking to Brydon Coverdale

Adam Gilchrist played 96 Tests for Australia as a wicketkeeper-batsman and was part of three winning Ashes campaigns

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Nilaksh on July 20, 2013, 14:04 GMT

    Finally the aussies are beginning to see that they are being sold a dummy in form of DRS. Just too many issues: a) There is no reliable way to predict a ball's trajectory, it cannot be done based on the path it has already travelled. The ball's condition, the moisture in the air, the direction & intensity of the wind to name a few all matter and are unaccounted right now. How much a ball would swing or spin (if at all) is not possible to be computed mathematically (and how would you account for late movement in the air). It's an art & lets leave it that way. b) Hot spot seems to go cold too many times, I say use the regular cameras to detect a broad-esque edge and uphold the umpires decision for close nicks.

    For me hawk eye/virtual eye need to be dumped & throw hotspot with it for good measure. Let the umpires review edges using normal cameras (including LBW edges) using the line call model.

  • Jay on July 20, 2013, 2:27 GMT

    You know ICC is in serious trouble over DRS, when you see headlines: "ICC defends umpires, DRS"! Once the Pandora's Box is open, it's difficult to close it. Especially when ICC takes the "unusual step of revealing its assessment of the umpires and the DRS analysis from the Test, arguing that the figures vindicate both". ICC says the 3-man umpiring team made 7 errors out of 72 decisions in the 1st Test. Four of the errors were corrected using DRS. No line calls were considered errors - though the Agar stumping was a tight n/o call by 3rd umpire. All 3 uncorrected errors were of the contentious type - lbws & edges - involving Trout & Broad: the latter is what ignited the heated DRS debate. Clearly DRS is not doing the job. That's why ICC is rushing today with a new approach: "ICC trials instant replays for third umpire"! CEO Richardson admits it's frustrating that, in the age of technology, Broad managed to escape. It's incumbent upon ICC to deliver a credible & reliable system!!

  • Dummy4 on July 19, 2013, 20:26 GMT

    After pushing strongly for DRS, aussie cricketers and fans have suddenly begun to find flaws and are advocating changes. If Aussies don't know how to use DRS, it is rubbish. Previously Aussies would say DRS should be made compulsory and is the solution to all umpiring blunders. Now Gilly says it is a part of the problem. Haddin says DRS should be taken out of players hands. Why? Because Aussie players can't use it! Didn't expect anything different from them. For the record, I am all in favor of DRS and think it is absolutely fine the way it is, as India showed in the champions trophy and England have been showing in the Ashes so far.

  • H on July 19, 2013, 15:57 GMT

    @jay57870 line calls work? Really? Agar's stumping? Bell's identical stumping? One given, one not? Different Third Umpires was the only real difference.

    The line stuff is actually the most contentious stuff. Hawkeye is by far the least, as usual when it doesn't go someone's team's way, they complain. Hotspot's worse, as are the cameras (foreshortening on catches, missing frames on stumpings). Yet we bleat on about Hawkeye which has been measured in Tests by the MCC, and margin of error has been accounted for.

  • H on July 19, 2013, 15:52 GMT

    @ScottStevo Come off it! Hughes definitely hit that, there was a noise that nothing else could explain (it was nowhere near pad or anything).

    Was it harsh the on-field umpire gave it? Probably. It was a faint noise and I don't think he could be certain the batsman's hit it. But once he's given it out, the DRS is supposed to only overrule him if there's nothing, no noise, no hotspot, nothing. It's why I keep saying that despite people insisting it's better for edges than lbws, that isn't borne out by the evidence. Hotspot is inconclusive; Hawkeye just has a margin of error (which is factored in anyway).

    Bear in mind, Root's edge behind at Trent Bridge in the second innings? No Hotspot there either. There was a noise, which is why he didn't review it. Hughes' noise was a bit softer, possible he didn't hear it, very faint edge, possible he didn't feel it.

    Not a bad use of the review, just unlucky.

  • Scott on July 19, 2013, 13:12 GMT

    @shawndavisalexander, completely agree. It's very difficult on bowlers once they're in a rhythm and not being called for no balls, only to find out that upon taking a wicket it's reviewed by camera's. As for DRS as a whole, there's still a place for technology in cricket, the ICC just need to amend some of it's apllication. Again, today DRS is rubbish. P Hughes, never out...

  • shankar on July 19, 2013, 11:38 GMT

    @jay57870, DRS is not the problem. The problem is 2-review limit. After the 2 reviews have been used, what next? The team is left with no choice but to go with the umpire's howlers. DRS works just fine. USE IT WHENEVER YOU WANT. It sounds like blaming the guitar when you don't know how to play.

  • Jay on July 19, 2013, 10:42 GMT

    Credit Gilchrist for his courage in changing his position. BCCI got it right. A year ago Martin Crowe too emphasised: "The BCCI is in the right over the DRS; the ICC has been wrong from day one but doesn't want to admit it"! Crowe added: "Surely all it wants is for the system to be trimmed right back". So why make it 'mandatory' when DRS is not ready for universal usage? Look at baseball. Its home is the technology-driven USA, yet MLB is moving cautiously. It started with instant video replays for home runs - 'boundary' calls - in 2008 (same time as DRS). Yet its plans to expand video reviews to other areas - trapped catches, batted fair/foul plays, safe or out baserunning - have been deferred to 2014 because of complex issues with technologies (Note: Hawk-Eye too!), costs & implementation. Only balls & strikes are rightly off-limits for replay review. (Hint: lbws???) MLB's approach is smart. ICC too needs to put DRS "on the backburner until a better system is found": Gilly is right!!

  • Jay on July 19, 2013, 10:24 GMT

    By golly, Gilly is spot on! DRS is part of the problem. Technology just for the technology's sake is not a solution. The endless DRS debate has sparked enough controversy for ICC to seriously question it: "How should the system work"? Let's first examine what works & what does not. Yes, line decisions - like in tennis - work for run-outs, stumpings & boundary calls. These are in or out calls: black or white. But what about grey areas: lbws, edges & catches? Therein lies the problem. Cricket is far more complex than tennis. The ball-tracking technology is most contentious: even the inventors of Virtual Eye (Ian Taylor) & Hawk-Eye (Paul Hawkins) are openly involved in a public spat. At least Taylor admits "placing far too much faith in technology" is not OK as mistakes will happen. He wants the 3rd umpire to "over rule the technology" if it's not right. He even criticised ICC's DRS usage in a SA-OZ Test last year. With such questionable reliability & accuracy, why make DRS 'mandatory'?

  • Shawn on July 19, 2013, 8:13 GMT

    This may not be quite on topic, and I am unsure as to when it started happening but one thing that I'm stumped about is the checking for no-balls for every wicket taking delivery. I don't see why special attention is given to these deliveries purely because a wicket fell. If they check these, they should be checking every delivery; which of course would not be practical. Does the third umpire override incorrect no-ball calls by the umpire also?