Sri Lanka v India, 1st Test, SSC, Colombo, 4th day July 26, 2008

Review system under the scanner

The ball struck Virender Sehwag on the back leg, but only after it had brushed the front pad © AFP
On the stroke of lunch on the fourth day, Virender Sehwag entered the record books as the first batsman to be given out by the third umpire under the review system being trialled in the series. But the decision opened the door for more questions than answering the original one.

Sehwag had padded up to a Muttiah Muralitharan ball which was delivered from round the stumps, had just pitched on leg - half of it was inside the mat - and straightened. It hit the inside of the front pad, which was barely on leg stump, and deflected onto the back pad, which was plumb in front of middle.

Mark Benson turned down the appeal, but when the review was sought, the Virtual Eye, the ball-tracking device, failed to note the deviation off the front pad, instead showing the ball to be going on in the direction of middle. With these inputs, and the knowledge that Sehwag hadn't even offered a shot, Benson was left with no choice but to reverse his decision.

The technology has been brought in to aid the umpire, but in this case, both technology and umpire made errors. The tracker should have frozen the moment when the ball hit the front pad, but the technology completely missed the fact that the ball had deviated towards middle stump after hitting the front pad. Even so, Rudi Koertzen, the third umpire, should have noticed it and taken it into account during his discussion with Benson. The ball might still have grazed leg stump, but there was enough doubt to sway the decision in favour of the batsman. As it turned out, Sehwag was given out on the basis of evidence which was incriminating, but incorrect.

The review technology came under the scanner on the second day as well, when Tillakaratne Dilshan successfully challenged a caught-behind decision originally given against him. He had immediately asked for the review on the grounds that bat had hit ground, not ball. The snickometer - a device not used in the review system - showed later, though, that the ball had grazed the edge just before bat hit ground.

However, the review system made a case for itself on two occasions soon after, when Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid were both rightly given out. Tendulkar was adjudged dismissed off a deflection off the back of the bat and the thumb after Billy Doctrove had turned down the appeal. Tendulkar looked to paddle sweep a doosra from Muralitharan that pitched outside the leg stump, but missed and from the front angle, the ball seemed to have gone off his front pad to leg slip. Tendulkar stood his ground but fielders behind the wicket were convinced about the edge and were proved right by the replay. Dravid got a thick inside edge to a googly from Mendis on the stroke of tea, but stayed his ground as Benson turned down the appeal. Mahela Jayawardene opted for the review, and Dravid was soon on his way.

As it turned out, all the decisions went against India, both wrong and right. Had there been no review in place they would have got Tillakaratne Dilshan early and Sehwag wouldn't have been out - as it turned out, the on-field umpires had made the right decisions, only to be overruled - and Tendulkar and Dravid would have be reprieved.

Anil Kumble made no excuses for India's defeat, but he did say that the the system would need to be reviewed. "A few dismissals were obviously negated under the referral system," he said. "The new system is something we have to take forward. It definitely requires a review but it is too early to say."

Jayawardene was in support of it saying it helped rectify mistakes. "If it wasn't used in this Test we'd probably have had four bad decisions go against us," he said. "The decisions for both Tendulkar and Dravid were tough ones for the on-field umpire."

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo