The year-end essay, part two December 28, 2011

Thank god for swing, but what about the DRS?

The return of one of the less practised arts livened up the year, and there were other things to cheer as well
63

If the sight of Vernon Philander snaking the red ball around late this year did nothing for you, then perhaps you should not bother reading further: cricket might not be your game. Outside of legspin, swing is the most artful form of bowling, and like legspin, it creates the perfect environment for attacking cricket. Happily for cricket, Philander wasn't an exception: his was merely the best story in a year when the ball wobbled in many corners of the cricket world.

Raw pace produces the spectacle - balls flying, batsmen hopping, weaving and jabbing, or hooking, pulling and swatting. It tests courage and reflexes, and it gets the pulse racing. But swing bowling is set more in the image of Test cricket - it is subtle, more nuanced, tests the skill and character of the batsman, and draws the viewer in and keeps him engaged.

No battle was more engaging and more stirring than the one that heralded the new year, between Dale Steyn and Sachin Tendulkar in Cape Town. It is impossible to imagine outswing bowling reaching a level beyond what Steyn delivered over two spells either side of the lunch break. It was fast, not a ball off the perfect length, almost all of them landing in a corridor from middle to a few inches outside the off stump. Tendulkar was well into his innings already but it took all his experience and skill, and plenty of luck, to survive that 11-over spell. It fetched a mere two wickets, and that was only because Tendulkar weathered the bulk of it. Steyn ended the innings with five wickets and Tendulkar with 146 runs. They were both winners.

Steyn is that rare breed, a genuine fast bowler who can swing the ball. But James Anderson is evidence that you don't need to be express if you can move it both ways. During the last Ashes he showed he could do it outside England too, and at home against India he produced the finest spell of the summer, in the first Test at Lord's, and India never recovered. Equally delightful, if not as impactful, because of the woeful lack of support, was the performance of Praveen Kumar, whose hands the ball leaves like a gentle breeze, only to arrive at the batsman swaying like a drunk.

But no story was more joyous than Philander's, who, till the Australians arrived in South Africa, had caused amusement mainly because of his name. His bowling average, 12.37, is bound to inflate, and he will have tougher days, in conditions not as conducive to his wares, but when the ball swung, he made it sing. He might perhaps never have another day like the one in Cape Town, when he wrecked Australia with 5 for 15.

There is a broader aspect to the recent prosperity of swing bowlers. That everything is cyclical in cricket is true. A few years ago the classical offspinner looked destined to be driven out of the game. Today the lead spinner in most Test-playing countries is a proper offie. Graeme Swann is as classical as they go, and so is Nathan Lyon, whose rise in the Australian ranks is the stuff of fairy tales. Though Saeed Ajmal can bowl a mean doosra and R Ashwin has three stock balls, they both possess the most traditional tools of the offspinner: loop and dip. Of course they are all gifted, but they also have an advantage: the bulk of contemporary batsmen haven't faced too many of their ilk while they learned to bat.

A similar famine of swing bowlers for a good part of the last 10 years seems the most plausible cause of their strong comeback. With pitches flattening out and Glenn McGrath being the pin-up man for all aspiring quick bowlers, bowling back of a length and in the channel became the template, and batsmen adjusted by learning to hit through the line on the up. With swing back in the air, batsmen will have to recalibrate their games once again. But even when they do, watching swing bowling will never get boring.

A landmark investigation and judgement
In one part of the world swing bowling never went out of fashion. England may provide the best conditions for the ball to nip around in, but over the last four decades the Pakistanis can be credited with having not only kept the art alive but with having given it new dimensions. Seen in that context, Mohammad Amir's descent into the dark world of match-fixing is one of the great tragedies of cricket.

The problem with technology is that it raises expectations for perfection, where the reality is that it is nowhere near being able to deliver it on a consistent basis

From a wider perspective, the criminal trial of the three Pakistanis charged with spot-fixing and their subsequent sentencing was a seminal moment for the sport. The News of the World, as the world has learnt now, has been guilty of many unethical journalistic practices, but cricket owes it a huge debt of gratitude. Match-fixing is the hardest of crimes to nail, and it can be argued that a sting operation is the only way to do so. In this case, the means certainly justified the end.

Player associations reacted with horror to a suggestion that the ICC should explore similar methods to entrap corrupt players. Invasion of privacy is a legitimate concern, but as Rahul Dravid said in the Bradman Oration, players must be prepared to sacrifice a bit of privacy to protect their game. For all its best intentions, the ICC is ill-equipped to deal with crime and investigation. It did conduct an efficient trial and administer its own justice in the spot-fixing case, but as deterrents go, a jail term easily beats being banned from playing cricket.

It was fortunate, too, that the matter came to light in England, where the justice system is tight and swift. There were murmurs in Pakistan about matters of sovereignty, about Pakistani citizens being tried and punished in a foreign land, but cricket's problem with the earlier episode of match-fixing is that too many got away. Mohammad Azharuddin, who is serving a life ban now sits in the Indian Parliament; many others who were accused, charged and reported are now in positions of similar respectability. Some boards didn't even bother to follow the investigation to its logical end.

Six months is not a lot in a lifetime. It is only a matter of months before Amir walks a free man. Of course, he will still have four years of the ICC ban to serve, but with his admission of guilt he has already taken a huge step towards redemption. Cricket must give him a second chance.

Pakistan's healthy glow
On the field, the Pakistan story was far more encouraging. Statistically they were the most successful team of the year, winning 60% of their Tests, and nearly 78% of their one-day games - a higher success rate than India, the World Cup winners, and Australia, who remain the No. 1 team in the ICC rankings. The top wicket-taker in Tests is also a Pakistani - Ajmal with 50 wickets - and four of their batsmen feature among the top 10 run-getters in Tests.

Of course the numbers are a bit misleading because Pakistan played the bulk of their Test matches against Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and a weakened Sri Lanka. But numbers are not the thing. The real story about Pakistan is that they were back on the road playing cricket again, and playing lots of it. They have finally said goodbye to their comically catastrophic president Ijaz Butt, and though it is hard to see international cricket returning to Pakistan in the foreseeable future (the scheduled Bangladesh visit in 2012, pending a security inspection in January notwithstanding), they are settling into their home away from home in the Middle East, where they have recently taken control of the pitch-making process. The resumption of bilateral ties with India will depend on the politics of the region, but if the selectors stay patient and the administrators vigilant, Pakistan could be on the road to recovery

Technology: here we go again
The DRS story has stayed so boringly monotonous that I am almost tempted to reproduce what I wrote in last year's review. But in some ways the arguments about it keep pub chats interesting in much the same way that umpiring did in an earlier era.

Of course, the arguments in favour of the review system are fairly convincing and well laid out: it helps to reduce errors, allows umpires access to the tools used to judge them, and does justice to players. As Michael Hussey went, fuming, after being wrongly given out caught behind first ball in the Melbourne Test, howls of disapproval rang through the MCG: imagine if the batsman had been Sachin Tendulkar, commentators asked on Channel 9. Later in the day, Ed Cowan, the impressive debutant, was on the wrong end of a marginal caught-behind decision. It was close enough to the edge, but Hot Spot picked up nothing.

The counter-argument came later that evening. An impassioned appeal from the Indians was turned down after Zaheer Khan pinned Brad Haddin on the back foot. The pitch mat had the ball pitching in line and the line looked straight. Would India have won the decision had the review been available? No, as it turned out. Eagle Eye, the technology used in this series for ball-tracking, couldn't come up with accurate projections because of the extreme variations in light: it was brilliantly bright on most parts of the field but dark shadows covered the pitch. Imagine the situation had the DRS been in place. India would have got two decisions in their favour overturned, but when it came to their turn at seeking justice, the tool to deliver it wouldn't have been available.

Actually, the Cowan dismissal was the perfect illustration of the grey zone involving edges. The ball was certainly close enough to the bat; there was a sound, and the umpire's response to the appeal was instant. However, Hot Spot drew a blank. What would the umpire have done had DRS been in attendance?

Dravid had two not-out decisions overturned against him on India's recent tour of England, even though Hot Spot showed no contact. In the first case, in the second innings of the Oval Test, the television umpire went by a perceived deflection, only marginal. On the second occasion, in the first ODI, in Chester-le-Street, he went by the sound. The second instance drew the sharpest of reactions from MS Dhoni, but about the first dismissal Dravid conceded he had got a feather onto his pad.

The problem with technology is that it raises expectations for perfection, where the reality is that it is nowhere near being able to deliver it on a consistent basis. Hot Spot failed several times during the England-India series, and Hawk-Eye got its tracking embarrassingly wrong for a leg-before decision that went against Phillip Hughes in Sri Lanka. And earlier this year, the operator pulled out a replay of the wrong delivery in a Test in the West Indies when the umpire asked for a review to check if the bowler had overstepped on a wicket-taking delivery; it turned out that the umpire's instinct was right, but it was too late.

This is not an attempt to string together a series of isolated examples to discredit technology, but I have been consistently sceptical about the ball-tracking system, which has more variable and manual interventions than technologists will lead you to believe. And no perfect technology has yet been found for faint edges. Yes, decisions like the one against Hussey can be eliminated, but cricket hasn't yet found the perfect way to do so. Leaving the prerogative to call for a review in the hands of the players is bound to result in challenges for plenty of marginal calls. Can a way be found to hand over the tools to the umpires and let them make the best use of it, just as they do with run-outs, stumpings and now no-balls, without slowing down the game?

It's easy to sympathise with the Australian players. Playing different matches under different regulations makes a mockery of the integrity of the game. Why do I sense I might be repeating these words next year too?

Sambit Bal is the editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • RandyOZ on January 2, 2012, 5:33 GMT

    Sambit Bal has a terrible knack for supporting the BCCI, albeit not obviously. His continual definance to support it makes this site less and less credible.

  • allblue on January 1, 2012, 22:59 GMT

    Ahem! On non-DRS matters... I actually think it was a very encouraging year for Test cricket, as we have seen signs of progress from the teams that have been struggling for some time. The Windies, although by no means out of the woods, look to have stabilised and started to move forward with several exciting young players emerging for them. Although we shouldn't read too much into their recent win at Hobart, NZ also have a crop of young prospects pushing for selection where a couple of years ago things looked quite bleak for them. Zimbabwe cricket has been through the wringer but is re-emerging with a competitive side and pushed NZ very hard in the recent series. After their troubles it is also reassuring to see that the Pakistan cricket factory can still turn out high quality players on demand. Bangladesh continue to disappoint however, but SL are showing signs of life after Murali and England have their best team in decades. So on the pitch, things don't look too bad at all.

  • MrBrightside92 on January 1, 2012, 20:08 GMT

    I thought the point about Hussey, Cowan and Haddin is immaterial and why there is such contention with DRS...ok, it was not available for the Haddin decision but it WAS available for the first two..it needs to be available for umpires to make the best decision..for example, they don't have to use it as gospel..which they didn't in England, Dravid was given out off Swann CORRECTLY. Yes, DRS had a mixed performance in England but the umpiring was excellent BACKED UP with technology. They have to be ALLOWED to use it so they can get better with it even if it's taken off the players. Don't agree with R.Oz being scathing about India, but those who write 27-4 or 120-8 are deluded. Zimbabwee playing ENgland could say we were 0-0...so at a point in a test both teams were equal!! Good idea, India having their own ICC...then never have to play outside India! Go India in the second test...Oz getting a bit cocky with their ONE win in a row..Go SL too...Happy New Year!

  • Capround on January 1, 2012, 18:06 GMT

    Samit, Glad to see Part 2 is more focused on International Cricket than Part 1 whose focus seemed to be Indian Cricket.

    Also, Pakistan played weaker teams, but they also played all their matches away. International Cricket is returning to Pakistan as Bangladesh has agreed to tour.

  • Leggie on January 1, 2012, 17:46 GMT

    @zenboomerang: An appeal that is turned down to be a not out is also a "decision" made by the on field umpire. I agree with Krishnan. One must take into account all appeals and all decisions made to arrive at a percentage of accuracy.

  • katuss on January 1, 2012, 16:45 GMT

    ok if all those were wrong decision made because of the technology... comparatively how many right decisions were?.... if a umpire makes 10 mistakes and with the help of technology if you can reduce it to 5.. why refuse it?? try to get the most of the decisions right, that is the reason DRS should be used in all games played... if India are against it... no problem, don't use it only in the games played in India... give the host the rights to make the decision, problem solved

  • zenboomerang on December 31, 2011, 23:51 GMT

    @KrishnanN :- There are only 10 wkts that can fall in an innings... So counting appeals that are wrong is incorrect... Also there were 5 decisions that were incorrect by the on-field umpires... aka - less than 60%... So please only base your maths on the 10 wkts that can fall against incorrect decisions, as that is the basis for correct ratio functionality...

  • crickstats on December 31, 2011, 11:46 GMT

    I blame Dinesh Karthik for all these farce, he was the keeper when DRS was first trialed in Sri Lanka, he was like Dilshan now, wanted to review every time ball hit the pad, there were outside leg stump pitched balls for which he convinced Kumble to go for it, Mahela used it well and Mendis profited

  • Leggie on December 31, 2011, 5:35 GMT

    Sambit, you can pour your heart out writing some of the best articles about DRS. But now the world is too divided on us vs. them. India for some reason is vilified in this whole discussion & it will all fall on deaf ears. Example.., look at the comments by @pod or @wakakazi... There is just no rationale or no thinking explained on why a work-in-progress technology *must* be used because *everyone else* does!! Why should we look at the game only from an *entertainment* point of view?? In a democratic world where everyone has equal rights, India has a right too to refuse technology. If countries are finding it hard to play with a DRS-refused-India side then they have an option of not to play. They should ask their respective boards to stop playing vs. India if this is really a problem. This is getting absolutely ridiculous!

  • McGorium on December 31, 2011, 4:30 GMT

    @ dahosie: If you are a practicing engineer, and not one who got a degree and then did an MBA, you would know that every safety device like the seat-belt is subject to strict standards and tests. And, the burden of proof is that of the manufacturer. Show me ONE double blind test for ANY of the DRS technologies. Every road-worthy car, there are tends of dozens of crash tests done by the manufacturer and separately by regulators like the NTSB to validate their efficacy. Show me one third party test on DRS. Who is responsible for Quality Control of DRS? Not the broadcasters; they can be biased. Not the manufacturers for sure. It HAS to be the ICC and they have done nothing in this direction. The ICC has to specify standards and validate them for every game. And conduct third party tests in various conditions before deploying it. If you are an engineer, you will immediately recognize this as the scientific method. Imagine deploying medicines based on the paltry evidence we have for DRS.

  • RandyOZ on January 2, 2012, 5:33 GMT

    Sambit Bal has a terrible knack for supporting the BCCI, albeit not obviously. His continual definance to support it makes this site less and less credible.

  • allblue on January 1, 2012, 22:59 GMT

    Ahem! On non-DRS matters... I actually think it was a very encouraging year for Test cricket, as we have seen signs of progress from the teams that have been struggling for some time. The Windies, although by no means out of the woods, look to have stabilised and started to move forward with several exciting young players emerging for them. Although we shouldn't read too much into their recent win at Hobart, NZ also have a crop of young prospects pushing for selection where a couple of years ago things looked quite bleak for them. Zimbabwe cricket has been through the wringer but is re-emerging with a competitive side and pushed NZ very hard in the recent series. After their troubles it is also reassuring to see that the Pakistan cricket factory can still turn out high quality players on demand. Bangladesh continue to disappoint however, but SL are showing signs of life after Murali and England have their best team in decades. So on the pitch, things don't look too bad at all.

  • MrBrightside92 on January 1, 2012, 20:08 GMT

    I thought the point about Hussey, Cowan and Haddin is immaterial and why there is such contention with DRS...ok, it was not available for the Haddin decision but it WAS available for the first two..it needs to be available for umpires to make the best decision..for example, they don't have to use it as gospel..which they didn't in England, Dravid was given out off Swann CORRECTLY. Yes, DRS had a mixed performance in England but the umpiring was excellent BACKED UP with technology. They have to be ALLOWED to use it so they can get better with it even if it's taken off the players. Don't agree with R.Oz being scathing about India, but those who write 27-4 or 120-8 are deluded. Zimbabwee playing ENgland could say we were 0-0...so at a point in a test both teams were equal!! Good idea, India having their own ICC...then never have to play outside India! Go India in the second test...Oz getting a bit cocky with their ONE win in a row..Go SL too...Happy New Year!

  • Capround on January 1, 2012, 18:06 GMT

    Samit, Glad to see Part 2 is more focused on International Cricket than Part 1 whose focus seemed to be Indian Cricket.

    Also, Pakistan played weaker teams, but they also played all their matches away. International Cricket is returning to Pakistan as Bangladesh has agreed to tour.

  • Leggie on January 1, 2012, 17:46 GMT

    @zenboomerang: An appeal that is turned down to be a not out is also a "decision" made by the on field umpire. I agree with Krishnan. One must take into account all appeals and all decisions made to arrive at a percentage of accuracy.

  • katuss on January 1, 2012, 16:45 GMT

    ok if all those were wrong decision made because of the technology... comparatively how many right decisions were?.... if a umpire makes 10 mistakes and with the help of technology if you can reduce it to 5.. why refuse it?? try to get the most of the decisions right, that is the reason DRS should be used in all games played... if India are against it... no problem, don't use it only in the games played in India... give the host the rights to make the decision, problem solved

  • zenboomerang on December 31, 2011, 23:51 GMT

    @KrishnanN :- There are only 10 wkts that can fall in an innings... So counting appeals that are wrong is incorrect... Also there were 5 decisions that were incorrect by the on-field umpires... aka - less than 60%... So please only base your maths on the 10 wkts that can fall against incorrect decisions, as that is the basis for correct ratio functionality...

  • crickstats on December 31, 2011, 11:46 GMT

    I blame Dinesh Karthik for all these farce, he was the keeper when DRS was first trialed in Sri Lanka, he was like Dilshan now, wanted to review every time ball hit the pad, there were outside leg stump pitched balls for which he convinced Kumble to go for it, Mahela used it well and Mendis profited

  • Leggie on December 31, 2011, 5:35 GMT

    Sambit, you can pour your heart out writing some of the best articles about DRS. But now the world is too divided on us vs. them. India for some reason is vilified in this whole discussion & it will all fall on deaf ears. Example.., look at the comments by @pod or @wakakazi... There is just no rationale or no thinking explained on why a work-in-progress technology *must* be used because *everyone else* does!! Why should we look at the game only from an *entertainment* point of view?? In a democratic world where everyone has equal rights, India has a right too to refuse technology. If countries are finding it hard to play with a DRS-refused-India side then they have an option of not to play. They should ask their respective boards to stop playing vs. India if this is really a problem. This is getting absolutely ridiculous!

  • McGorium on December 31, 2011, 4:30 GMT

    @ dahosie: If you are a practicing engineer, and not one who got a degree and then did an MBA, you would know that every safety device like the seat-belt is subject to strict standards and tests. And, the burden of proof is that of the manufacturer. Show me ONE double blind test for ANY of the DRS technologies. Every road-worthy car, there are tends of dozens of crash tests done by the manufacturer and separately by regulators like the NTSB to validate their efficacy. Show me one third party test on DRS. Who is responsible for Quality Control of DRS? Not the broadcasters; they can be biased. Not the manufacturers for sure. It HAS to be the ICC and they have done nothing in this direction. The ICC has to specify standards and validate them for every game. And conduct third party tests in various conditions before deploying it. If you are an engineer, you will immediately recognize this as the scientific method. Imagine deploying medicines based on the paltry evidence we have for DRS.

  • McGorium on December 31, 2011, 4:25 GMT

    @ plod: That's an interesting argument: "For one country to disagree regarding the use of technology is a disgrace". I wasn't aware that truth was a function of whether the majority agreed with it. Show me one double blind, third party study done in the field that proves beyond reasonable doubt that DRS accuracy (esp ball tracking) is constant regardless of light and weather conditions. You won't find one. All you have is the word of influential (read $$$) broadcasters and manufacturers, and somehow BCCI's $$ clout is more profane than Sky TV or eagle eye. Let the ICC commission a third party study on the accuracy of Hotspot, Eagle Eye, etc. Sambit has pointed out cases in which it failed. How am I to know that the cameras are set up accurately each time such that there is no parallax error for the pitch mat or ball tracking? Just leave it up to the broadcasters?

  • zenboomerang on December 31, 2011, 3:42 GMT

    @dunger.bob... Yes it was reverse swing - there were a number of years where only Pakistan bowlers could get reverse swing happening, much to the every others bowlers frustration... Have a good 2012 yourself & everyone else :-) ...

  • dunger.bob on December 31, 2011, 0:56 GMT

    First of all I'd like to congratulate Pakistan for an excellent year on the field. I can't imagine what it must have been like to see some of your players (especially the young bowler, he's such a goodun) thrown in the slammer. To come back with good spirit and play so well is an amazing thing I reckon.

    Regarding the swing element, wasn't it Pakistan that taught the World to swing ? At least the reverse stuff anyway. When you think about it, reverse swing is such an important part of the game these days. In the days before it became commonplace, a new ball could be expected to swing for 15-20 overs and that was it. No more swing until the next new ball. These days though, you can can an extra 20-40 overs of reverse out the ball. That's a massive thing for the bowlers, and makes the game far more interesting in my opinion.

    Anyway, cheers to you all and have a great 2012.

  • plod on December 30, 2011, 2:50 GMT

    For one country to disagree regarding the use of technology is a disgrace. No individual or team is bigger than the game. Otherwise ban India altogether, I'm sure the game would survive without them.

  • KrishnanN on December 30, 2011, 1:49 GMT

    @Dahosie: I mean critical technology which can mean life and death, not television and the internet. Coming back to the airline example, If the seatbelts sign don't work, the maintenance of the aircraft would have been sloppy, which means there's likely to be errors in the more critical systems. I fly by commercial airlines all the time, but that is because it has been proven to be the safest mode of transport and most of the errors/disasters are human/natural rather than electronic. I digress. The point is, nobody forces anyone to undergo chemotherapy, nobody forces anyone to drive cars or fly by planes; it's a personal choice. By the same token, UDRS cannot be imposed upon anyone unless it is 100%. Using flawed technology should be a choice, as it currently is.

  • KrishnanN on December 30, 2011, 1:35 GMT

    @Zenboomerang: You seem to only be counting 10 decisions in the innings. If you count the various appeals that were turned down, some of which, I have to say, looked close on first viewing but were proved to be faulty after replays, you have to agree that the success ratio was closer to 92% or so. Two howlers, yes, but more than 25 correct calls (in the first innings) to go along with it.

  • Johnxyz on December 29, 2011, 16:59 GMT

    I have lost patience with the Sambits and Dhonis for their totally illogical views. To back their stupid arguments, they can only hark back on on a handful of instances where technology has failed. The reality however is that for every failure, there has probably been 20 successes through technology. Just take the corresponding series being played out - 1 Test in Oz without Tech sees something like five errors made - while two Tests with Tech in SAF has seen numerous errors made - but corrected and the right decision eventually made. Really, the only way for this to change is that we need to see the Indians undergo some absolute howlers - like Sachin on 99 for example!

  • GravyMon on December 29, 2011, 12:55 GMT

    What you have pointed out here in this article is that Umpires (and operators) still make mistakes. These instances you cite as cases against DRS were actually errors made by a third party, umpire or otherwise. We can't eliminate every mistake where people are involved, after all they are only human. That is why DRS is there to help improve the general situation and prevent those horrible howlers. Yes, disasters like the ones that occurred against the WI in their recent visit to India. Don't just knock the technology simply because the top teams like India get more of a benefit of doubt from the umpires otherwise.

  • wakaPAK on December 29, 2011, 6:56 GMT

    It's irrational on India's part, not to accept DRS in the game just because the technology is not perfected. I dont know what's up their minds! Is it because they want to show they are the heavyweights in ICC and they can do whatever they want? Indians might would have opposed referral of run out to third umpire, had they been so powerful then. But how stupid does it sound? It's like not using chemotherapy against cancer just because it's not perfect. If indians are confused referring decisions they should learn to do it. It makes the game more interesting. Cricket's so beautiful and so interesting because of the many factors involved ranging from wicket to weather, to spinners, no. of seamers. It's all about this and DRS makes it a lot more interesting and test the players 'sanity of mind' under pressure condition. on another note I'd like to say that Cricket needs good umpires more than DRS. If an umpire commit errors, he should be removed becoz he's not qualified for the job.

  • tgevans on December 29, 2011, 6:38 GMT

    Absolutely no DRS. Human umpiring is part of the game. A batsman is out when it looks out to the umpire on the field. The game is significantly poorer if we diminish the authority of the umpire. Hotspots and Hawkeyes are purely for entertainment.

  • dahosie on December 29, 2011, 6:27 GMT

    @ KrishnanN, who said "Technology has to either be 100% or not used at all. Would you fly in an airplane if the seat belts sign don't work coz, hey, it's still 99.99% functional?! Well done, BCCI!" - TERRIBLE REASONING!! Being an engineer I can tell you that no item of any level of technology is completely foolproof. Besides, whether the seatbelt light is working or not nothing is going to save a plane falling 30,000ft out of the sky. KrishnanN, if you're so against technology that isn't 100% workable send me a smoke signal when you've established yourself in a cave and forage for your own food.

  • zenboomerang on December 29, 2011, 3:03 GMT

    @KrishnanN :- "If we want a 95% success rate, the umpires are well up to it." ... Your logic is invalid... Only if we use DRS can we get 95%... In the Aust 1st Innings the on-field umpires were below 60% out of the 10 wkts involved - using the 3rd umpire with DRS technology would have brought this up to 90% & possibly 100%... After all, the DRS only aids the 3rd umpire to make his qualified decision...

  • Punters_Mate on December 29, 2011, 2:18 GMT

    @mishac; you have captured the main point very well. The technology will never be 100% flawless but it will be better than the human eye. I hope those complaining about technology never use it to make everyday decisions. Think about it next time you sit at the traffic lights and consider the technology in place to control life and death situations make the traffic flow. Using the anti technology posters logic and the BCCI opposition I wonder how on earth the Indian team travelled to Australia. Surely not by commercial airliner which relies heavily on modern and evolving technology although still not 100% fool proof. The stupidity of the issue is that everyone watching at the ground or television knew that Husssey was not out before he had walked 15 metres. Only the Luddites would argue that is good for cricket. My prediction of ten days ago that the series would degenerate into acrimony took just one day to be confirmed.

  • hattima on December 29, 2011, 2:17 GMT

    Well Hussey would have been LBW twice and caught behind once in the second innings if DRS was in place so it has more than evened out for him, hasn't it? I frankly do not understand why people are so upset at the rejection of imperfect technology; if imperfection is acceptable then umpires are doing a perfect job, aren't they? The truth is that despite the perceived 'progress' none of the million dollar technical tools like hotspot and various 'eye's are really very accurate. The super slow motion camera is very good but it is not real time so it can not be used right now either. Also the referral system is downright silly as the 'better' batsmen (read Sehwag in WC) often use it at the slightest pretext leaving others with none in genuine situations. It might be a better idea to allow the third umpire intervene if an obvious error has been made by the on-field umpire, much like they have started doing nowadays for the count of number of balls in an over.

  • sajjodaalman on December 28, 2011, 21:45 GMT

    we dont expect technology to be perfect, but it should still be used. sp called professional umpires make far too mant mistakes. almost every innings has a bad decision. and wrong decisions DO effect the outcome of a match, no matter what people say. Also no mention of west indies?? they had another year of drama such as dropping ramnaresh sarwan and chris gayle.. and the emergence of good young talent with devendra bishoo winning ICC emerging player

  • inswing on December 28, 2011, 20:12 GMT

    It takes a weak mind to believe that any technology that isn't perfect shouldn't be used. As long as the success rate is better than what would be otherwise, it ought to be used. Do further neutral testing for questionable parts, but that is no reason to hide behind the perfection excuse. And about "It's easy to sympathise with the Australian players." No, it isn't. At all.

  • Sreerang on December 28, 2011, 19:05 GMT

    The reason why BCCI, the Indian players are against the DRS is probably because quite a few decisions reviewed have wrongly gone against the Indian team due to the shortcomings of the technology like the Dravid decisions.

  • SLMaster on December 28, 2011, 18:47 GMT

    With all Blah ... blah ... blah and flawed UDRS still better than on-field umpire's decisions. Cricket improved a lot because of tehnology.

  • Puli_Biddalu on December 28, 2011, 17:38 GMT

    Excited to see "swing" bowling back to the forefront ....especially since I am one who is "not express fast but rely on swing bowling at my club level" type of bowler.

    Good article sambit. Even the current Ind-Aus series as well as the SA-SL series proving that batsmen should apply themselves well in order to succeed against good swing bowling.

    One interesting observation is that all the comments so far (all 20 of them) only focused on the DRS portion of the article and forgetting about the rest ... LOL :)

  • KrishnanN on December 28, 2011, 17:14 GMT

    For my part, I'm not a supporter of UDRS and the examples in the last paragraph succinctly highlight my concerns/grievances. I shudder to imagine what would have happened had UDRS been in place for Aus-Ind and the Indians had been denied coz of poor light. I won't hesitate in saying I would have been among those screaming for the heads of the broadcasters, ICC execs, CA mandarins and technology providers! If we want a 95% success rate, the umpires are well up to it. Technology has to either be 100% or not used at all. Would you fly in an airplane if the seat belts sign don't work coz, hey, it's still 99.99% functional?! Well done, BCCI!

  • Eezee on December 28, 2011, 16:05 GMT

    Case in point - Siddle's dismissal in the first innings. The edge was healthy enough to show a puff of dust off of Siddle's bat. Then Ch 9 played the hotspot camera, absolutely no indication, Of course that the camera was behind the short leg's back didn't help. What if Siddle decided to review? Hotspot is flawed. I agree with Sambit's thought on giving all the tools to umpires for use. Even if we end up losing 2-3 overs in a day. So be it.

  • cric_fan__ on December 28, 2011, 15:16 GMT

    @burnie01 England played well only in tests this year. they are inconsistent in ODI. Even though Pakistan didn't look dominant, they are consistent in all forms of the game..

    @Indain fans if BCCI didn't support DRS, why cant u guys support. there are many wrong decisions against India this year which are spotted with help of Technology..

  • amitgarg78 on December 28, 2011, 14:45 GMT

    Why does this remain so contentious? If the idea was to reduce, remove howlers then I am sure a replay is just about as good as it gets. With the DRS, the marginal calls are being called into questioning and that to me is just Not right. Players are using it for purposes other than the original intent and therein lies the problem. No one wants to see errors, but they are often what add color to the game, and so very much a part of the games history. Even the best umpires will make occasional mistakes and I think, excessive use of technology will just rob the game of a certain charm.

  • monis11 on December 28, 2011, 14:23 GMT

    LBW - GIVEN OUT BY FIELD UMPIRE, REVIEWED, FOUND JUST TOUCHING THE STUMPS IN HAWK-EYE; FINAL DECISION WILL BE "OUT". SIMILAR OCCASION IF IT WAS ORIGINALLY GIVEN NOT OUT & REVIEWED BY FIELDING TEAM; FINAL DECISION WILL BE "NOT OUT". where is the consistency? We already knew batsmen walking on edges and not captured in the HOTSPOT. What is the technology is to be used? This is not foul proof. Play the games in true integrity.

  • Biggus on December 28, 2011, 14:18 GMT

    @CricIndia208-What a fine idea you have there. By all means India should start it's own 'ICC' and play itself. It's a win-win situation. You'd never lose and then the rest of us can get by without you as we did before. All the other boards want DRS. If you think the rest of the cricketing world would desert the ICC and join this monstrosity you suggest I think you would be greatly mistaken. I would suggest that the reality is that the rest of the world is rapidly losing patience with the BCCI and would be quietly relieved. Test cricket existed rather well before India became the cash cow that it is today and it would happily survive such a scenario, ultimately becoming a less acrimonious community in the process.

  • Jim1207 on December 28, 2011, 13:02 GMT

    What about improvement in technology? what about increased reliability in ball tracking?

  • S.Alis on December 28, 2011, 12:48 GMT

    Wow. I thought DRS was used to reduce errors and not for perfection, because every technology and device around me has it flaws.

    If indians or anyone think DRS is for perfection then all i can just say is "lol logic"

  • RandyOZ on December 28, 2011, 12:15 GMT

    Yadav, Cummins, Philander, Pattinson. Gotta be the most impressive young bowlers on Earth right now.

  • chaitu14 on December 28, 2011, 11:54 GMT

    its not that easy to say weather to use drs or not. But what shud anumpire do when he knew there is a nick but hot spot failed to show? if the batsmen is given not out,it would be soul throbbing for the umpire and the opposition as we are bound to say its not out eventhough we know its out coz we thought it was ultimate and included in the game.And if the batsman is given out going with the human decision..people would say why did u opt for it in the first place if you dont wanto go with it. The better option is makesome new rules about hotspot making it just an additional information. oreven better not use it atall until we find a better one that hotspot

  • CaughtAndBowled on December 28, 2011, 11:50 GMT

    Mitcher, I guess you asked the right question.

    The big problem with the DRS is that when a team appeals against umpires decision, I can't understand why on-field umpire's decision is taken into consideration when the third umpire makes the decision. For instance, if the hawk eye shows that the ball is clipping the bails, either this is out or not out. It has to be consistent but the major issue here is ICC says it depends on the on-field umpires decision. This is a joke. The fundamental reason for appealling against on-field umpire's decision is because the appealing team is not happy/disagree. If that is the case, why on-field umpire's decision matters at all?

    Hot spot is another joke. We have seen instances when nothing is shown on hot spot but the third umpire gave out based on the noise when the ball went past the bat. Come on. Does this mean hot spot is unreliable?

    That throws both Hawk-eye and Hot spot out of the window.

  • BarmyIan on December 28, 2011, 11:27 GMT

    RandyOz, I'm with you there, about the ICC sticking 2 fingers up at the BCCI. If they get the hump kick them out of World cricket. They'll come snivelling back pretty quickly. Probably when they learn that no one really cares about 50 over or 20 over cricket apart from as entertainment.

  • BarmyIan on December 28, 2011, 11:22 GMT

    Mishac, you are wrong. You cant of watched the 2010 Boxing Day Test from melbourne. Ponting flipped his lid at the umpires because he thought DRS was wrong! It wasn't though and he looked a total idiot.

  • IndiaNumeroUno on December 28, 2011, 11:10 GMT

    As it stands, DRS is a joke. 1. Standardise DRS (every aspect of it). 2. Get it tested by independent agencies. 3. Get ICC to own and manage DRS... not some local channels. 4. Sort out who is going to pay for DRS (cost splitting). 5. Get the rules for DRS out and clear. Not some grey "guidelines". 6. Address the howlers with cold spot.. sorry hot spot.. too many cases of batsmen nicking and nothing showing up!! 7. Sort out Virtual Eye/Hawk eye or whatever its called now... seems like it becomes unavailable under "certain light conditions" (seriously!!) Then... BCCI should have no issues in using it.

  • Chris_Howard on December 28, 2011, 10:44 GMT

    @Mitcher. Exactly. Yes DRS is better. Yes DRS *does* reduce the number of wrong decisions. If we used the BCCI's logic we'd have to get rid of cars and go back to horses because even though cars are much better than horses, they're still not perfect.

  • Mishac on December 28, 2011, 10:35 GMT

    Good grief! The reason for using DRS is the same reason for using HawkEye at the tennis. And if you think the primary reason is to get the decisions 100% correct then you have rocks in your head. It is basically used to take away the claims of umpiring bias, both in tennis and in cricket. By using player challenges the players can get decisions reversed that would otherwise cause claims of biased umpires. Since DRS has been used in tennis and for all the series where DRS has been used in cricket, there has not been one occasion of bad blood towards the umpires. And if you think about the past, this is truly remarkable. Those against DRS should pull their heads out if the sand and look at the bigger picture. No system is perfect but surely using technology to eliminate egregious decisions should be mandatory (England/Genmany World Cup, anyone?).

  • dunger.bob on December 28, 2011, 10:12 GMT

    One thing that seems to be consistently omitted from these somewhat spurious arguments about confusing technical issues is the most important thing of all. The third umpire. He is a fully qualified, fully sanctioned, fully competent ICC endorsed umpire.

    People seem to think that it is hawkeye or eagle eye or whatever the system used that is making the decision. Not so. The umpire makes the decision. The drs is one of the tools that he uses. Others include his eyes, the tv replay, his training, his instinct, his experience and finally his overall grasp of the wholistic approach it takes to be a top notch umpire in the 21st century. The final decision is in the hands of the umpire. People speak of leaving it to the umpire. Well, with drs they still are. If it were solely up to the machine I would say NO, but it's still the umpires call and these guys are not fools.

  • CaughtAndBowled on December 28, 2011, 10:00 GMT

    RandyOZ, Perhaps you can explain why Australia is #4 whereas a useless test side a.k.a. India is #2 in the ICC ranking!

  • india_thegreat on December 28, 2011, 9:34 GMT

    RandyOz aus is a joke side...even struggling at home...can't see even challenging us in our home soil....they have been whitewashed 2 times in last 3 years.......AM I RIGHT MR---- { RANDYOZ}....??????

  • india_thegreat on December 28, 2011, 9:28 GMT

    people are just looking at hussey's dismissal...wat with couple of reprives to ponting,siddle and haddin.and how this cheater cowan say that he has not edged that one,even the the commentator said there was a definite edge...so it has helped australia more than india....what do u think guys...

  • burnie01 on December 28, 2011, 8:58 GMT

    Why didn't you mention England's success in 2011 ? in case you forgot here's some clues: 75% win ratio in the calandar year - P8 W6 D2 L0 Top of the ICC rankings Recent series wins against Oz and India 3 batsmen in top 10 and 4 bowlers also in top 10

    Worth a mention in a review ?

  • SendaiCricket on December 28, 2011, 8:49 GMT

    Lets stop singling out the Aussies for sympathies here!! The whole world barring the Indians feel that the system is necessary. You are just singling out decisions and isolated incidents where DRS may not have performed correctly but just think about all the correct decisions made till date when the system is in place!! I'm sure your arguments fall flat on its face that it is in the order of 95% to 5%, 95% being the percentage of decision rightly reversed and 5% the wrongly reversed one!! I concede that DRS has some flaws but use of it significantly reduces the error, and that is what is important!! The more I watch cricket these days, the more I feel its an India vs the Rest of the world thing!! I think its time to stop being stubborn and do what's good for the game!!

  • Outside_Off_Stump on December 28, 2011, 8:43 GMT

    Agreed with Sambit Bal. ICC should look for ways to improve the technology and the way it is being used. In its present form, the DRS (aka Dravid Removal System) brings so much confusion to the game, which is essentially the reverse it is supposed to be doing. People who blindly worship DRS thinking they are standing up to the BCCI are a joke and can be left alone.

  • CricIndia208 on December 28, 2011, 8:24 GMT

    BCCI is right, DRS is rubbish. Who cares for the ICC anyway and the other other cricket boards. BCCI should start its own ICC. Who wants to play rubbish teams like Australia. Let us start our own ICC, players from other nations will desert their stupid boards and will start playing for BCCI. Come on BCCI walk out of the ICC, we don't need them.

  • FatBoysCanBat on December 28, 2011, 8:17 GMT

    @RandyOZ: India are on par with [if not ahead of] Australia after day 3 of this Test. Does this mean Australia are a "useless test side' as well?

  • bharat111111111 on December 28, 2011, 7:56 GMT

    tony greg loves to cry when he sees the indian team guess all australians do one message for the australians beware sehwag just getting warmed up

  • Rahul_78 on December 28, 2011, 7:35 GMT

    @RandyOZ Mate with the popgun bowling attack India was the only team who was giving your mighty OZ team run for their money in OZ land and defeating them consistently on Indian shores in the past. Today OZ team was tottering at 4-27 against the same attack. As per not playing against India, your esteemed cricket board can choose to do so as rest of the 8 test playing boards are queuing up at the BCCI offices to allocate them Indian series.

  • Alexk400 on December 28, 2011, 7:13 GMT

    I don't get argument UDRS is bad. UDRS is a way to help umpire review their decision with slow motion replay or any other technology. What i don't like is do not make technology as a part of decision making rule. WHo ever designed the UDRS dd not have real world experience. I don't care about Hawkeye or HOTSPOT. i only care about whether umpire can review their decision with slow motion replays and any othe r new technology. How do you going to grow taller if you just sit in a chair. I think we all aware these technology tools are not perfect but we have to find what area it can be used. Completely rejecting HOTSPOT or HAWKEYE is not a good idea. But Boards must have UDRS with slow motion replays whether they agree to use the other techlogies upto individual boards. People are making UDRS is nothing but HOT SPOT and HWAK EYE which is not true. Slow motion replay with sound help remove most howlers. Never make Technology as a decision making rule. That would be a bad idea.

  • Alexk400 on December 28, 2011, 6:57 GMT

    I am 100% support of UDRS not as it is now. I need a review system where players do not get involved but coaches. Some captain are smarter than other in using them , so you bringing something to the game that is not cricket but more how smart you are or how quick you can make a decision. I support extreme slow motion camera not Hawk eye or hot spot. Because both seems Howler on their own. But saying no to UDRS is a bad leadership. It is more of powerful people bending rules to their favor to help their batsman. Without UDRS , things won't be fair to both sides. Umpires are human , they will make a key mistake than can change a game. We need a system that helps with howler. Final decision should not be based on technology (big no no) but based on common sense rules without technology. Technology job to help and assist if it is not accurate use slow motion camera , if every thing fails on field umpire decision is final. Hawk eye 2.5m limit should not be part of rule.

  • RandyOZ on December 28, 2011, 6:17 GMT

    No more excuses ICC. Sponsor the DRS to be used in every series. forget the BCCI, they are a joke. If the ICC doesn't have the guts then other nations should just not bother playing them. Who really cares if we don't play India, they're a useless test side and the Ashes are far more important than carting their popgun attack around.

  • stalefresh on December 28, 2011, 6:04 GMT

    Cricket and for that matter any sports does not need technology to make decisions. Tennis players crying at chair umpire made exciting veiwing, having umpire raise his finger to get batsmen out makes for a much exciting moment than to have it being referred and kill the joy. FIFA has go it rIght. Fans remember the controversies.

  • Rahul_78 on December 28, 2011, 5:38 GMT

    I completely agree with Sambit on DRS. Irrespective of any technology may it be Hawk eye or Eagle eye, I want to know how does one predict where the ball is going to head in case batsmen is stuck on his toe or a shoe? In this case technology has to predict first where the bowls impact is going to be in the creeze and then how the hell one predicts what path the bowl is going to follow after that and how much is it going bounce and spin in case a spinner is bowling. On Cricinfo when Harsha had a chat with the chief of hot spot technology he openly admitted that in case the sun shine is too bright his technology has clear limitations. This puts hot spot in serious doubt as it is always referred in case of faint nicks. Also the technology itself is prone to human errors as wrong replays have been produced in the past. With so many ambiguities what is the justification to depend on the flowed system and allow it to overrule the umpires decision in the middle.

  • JohnnyRook on December 28, 2011, 5:15 GMT

    The problem with DRS is that it has become synonymous with Hotspot/Hawkeye. If it is designed to eliminate howlers, even simple TV replays should do the job. In Aus-India first test, Hussey decision would have been overturned for sure since it was a rank howler. Most likely Brad Haddin decision also would have been overturned since it was clear in the replays that he was lucky. Ed Cowan most like would have been given out even with DRS since no edge on hotspot means decision stays with onfield umpire. So the value provided by hotspot/hawkeye, if any, is marginal and not worth the price especially with lower frame rates and without independent testing.

  • Mitcher on December 28, 2011, 4:48 GMT

    I have no problem with people advancing arguments against DRS. That's their right. But let's do away with this "it's not perfect" line. Of course it's not. No system ever will be. The question is, is it better?

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  • Mitcher on December 28, 2011, 4:48 GMT

    I have no problem with people advancing arguments against DRS. That's their right. But let's do away with this "it's not perfect" line. Of course it's not. No system ever will be. The question is, is it better?

  • JohnnyRook on December 28, 2011, 5:15 GMT

    The problem with DRS is that it has become synonymous with Hotspot/Hawkeye. If it is designed to eliminate howlers, even simple TV replays should do the job. In Aus-India first test, Hussey decision would have been overturned for sure since it was a rank howler. Most likely Brad Haddin decision also would have been overturned since it was clear in the replays that he was lucky. Ed Cowan most like would have been given out even with DRS since no edge on hotspot means decision stays with onfield umpire. So the value provided by hotspot/hawkeye, if any, is marginal and not worth the price especially with lower frame rates and without independent testing.

  • Rahul_78 on December 28, 2011, 5:38 GMT

    I completely agree with Sambit on DRS. Irrespective of any technology may it be Hawk eye or Eagle eye, I want to know how does one predict where the ball is going to head in case batsmen is stuck on his toe or a shoe? In this case technology has to predict first where the bowls impact is going to be in the creeze and then how the hell one predicts what path the bowl is going to follow after that and how much is it going bounce and spin in case a spinner is bowling. On Cricinfo when Harsha had a chat with the chief of hot spot technology he openly admitted that in case the sun shine is too bright his technology has clear limitations. This puts hot spot in serious doubt as it is always referred in case of faint nicks. Also the technology itself is prone to human errors as wrong replays have been produced in the past. With so many ambiguities what is the justification to depend on the flowed system and allow it to overrule the umpires decision in the middle.

  • stalefresh on December 28, 2011, 6:04 GMT

    Cricket and for that matter any sports does not need technology to make decisions. Tennis players crying at chair umpire made exciting veiwing, having umpire raise his finger to get batsmen out makes for a much exciting moment than to have it being referred and kill the joy. FIFA has go it rIght. Fans remember the controversies.

  • RandyOZ on December 28, 2011, 6:17 GMT

    No more excuses ICC. Sponsor the DRS to be used in every series. forget the BCCI, they are a joke. If the ICC doesn't have the guts then other nations should just not bother playing them. Who really cares if we don't play India, they're a useless test side and the Ashes are far more important than carting their popgun attack around.

  • Alexk400 on December 28, 2011, 6:57 GMT

    I am 100% support of UDRS not as it is now. I need a review system where players do not get involved but coaches. Some captain are smarter than other in using them , so you bringing something to the game that is not cricket but more how smart you are or how quick you can make a decision. I support extreme slow motion camera not Hawk eye or hot spot. Because both seems Howler on their own. But saying no to UDRS is a bad leadership. It is more of powerful people bending rules to their favor to help their batsman. Without UDRS , things won't be fair to both sides. Umpires are human , they will make a key mistake than can change a game. We need a system that helps with howler. Final decision should not be based on technology (big no no) but based on common sense rules without technology. Technology job to help and assist if it is not accurate use slow motion camera , if every thing fails on field umpire decision is final. Hawk eye 2.5m limit should not be part of rule.

  • Alexk400 on December 28, 2011, 7:13 GMT

    I don't get argument UDRS is bad. UDRS is a way to help umpire review their decision with slow motion replay or any other technology. What i don't like is do not make technology as a part of decision making rule. WHo ever designed the UDRS dd not have real world experience. I don't care about Hawkeye or HOTSPOT. i only care about whether umpire can review their decision with slow motion replays and any othe r new technology. How do you going to grow taller if you just sit in a chair. I think we all aware these technology tools are not perfect but we have to find what area it can be used. Completely rejecting HOTSPOT or HAWKEYE is not a good idea. But Boards must have UDRS with slow motion replays whether they agree to use the other techlogies upto individual boards. People are making UDRS is nothing but HOT SPOT and HWAK EYE which is not true. Slow motion replay with sound help remove most howlers. Never make Technology as a decision making rule. That would be a bad idea.

  • Rahul_78 on December 28, 2011, 7:35 GMT

    @RandyOZ Mate with the popgun bowling attack India was the only team who was giving your mighty OZ team run for their money in OZ land and defeating them consistently on Indian shores in the past. Today OZ team was tottering at 4-27 against the same attack. As per not playing against India, your esteemed cricket board can choose to do so as rest of the 8 test playing boards are queuing up at the BCCI offices to allocate them Indian series.

  • bharat111111111 on December 28, 2011, 7:56 GMT

    tony greg loves to cry when he sees the indian team guess all australians do one message for the australians beware sehwag just getting warmed up

  • FatBoysCanBat on December 28, 2011, 8:17 GMT

    @RandyOZ: India are on par with [if not ahead of] Australia after day 3 of this Test. Does this mean Australia are a "useless test side' as well?