The Investec Ashes 2013 August 7, 2013

Watson believes DRS upstages benefit of doubt

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Shane Watson believes the concept of giving the benefit of the doubt to the batsman has disappeared from the game with the advent of the DRS. The Australians have used the DRS poorly through the course of the Ashes, and Watson was one of the main offenders during the first two Tests.

He failed to have two lbw decisions overturned on review and, surprisingly, asked for a review when he was plumb in front to Tim Bresnan in the first innings at Lord's. But his review at Trent Bridge, when the ball was shown to be just clipping leg stump, was a more realistic one.

That decision cost Watson the chance to go on to make a big score, for he was on 46 at the time, and although replays suggested it was a very tight call, the DRS had been set up to support the on-field umpire's decision in such circumstances. On one hand Watson was supportive of the DRS for not overturning decisions unless they were howlers, but on the other hand it was difficult for the batsman not to have the benefit of the doubt.

"There's supposed to be the benefit of the doubt going to the batsman," Watson said. "Bowlers get a chance to come back and bowl another ball, but for a batsman, if they're out, they're out. DRS, for me personally, makes things pretty complicated when the rules of the game were set up to be as uncomplicated as possible. Batting-wise, if there's benefit of the doubt, the benefit goes to the batsman. As a bowler you accept that.

"So it's going to be interesting to see how DRS evolves. At the moment, there's no doubt that for the amount of airtime the DRS has got over these last three Test matches, it's certainly not working to how it was supposed to be set up to work."

The players from both teams have appeared uncertain of whether to ask for reviews at times during this series, not knowing whether edges will show up on Hot Spot, or if lbws are as close as they seem. There have been times when the system has worked as intended, for example when Chris Rogers was given out caught behind in the second innings at Lord's and his review showed the ball brushing his leg, but at other times both teams have gambled on close decisions.

"It was [intended] to eliminate the really bad decision that could significantly turn the events of a game, not for the 50-50 ones," Watson said. "That's not what it's there for at all, and that's why I'll never ever complain if it's a 50-50 one because that's not what DRS is set up for. And that makes me realise I'm not a good umpire because the 50-50 ones, sometimes I think they are definitely not out, or definitely out, and they aren't. So it is a bit of guesswork for the players, and the umpires are doing the best they possibly can."

There was one occasion, on the final day at Old Trafford, when the Australians were pleased that the on-field umpire's call was trusted when Kevin Pietersen was given out caught behind, and the decision was upheld despite no mark showing on Hot Spot. Watson said it was pleasing to see the back of Pietersen via DRS, given the earlier banter between the pair.

"One of my strengths so far throughout this series hasn't been the DRS," Watson said. "And he (Pietersen) certainly has reminded me of that a few times throughout this Test series, and that's why his two dismissals in this Test match were with DRS going against him. So, I found that quite funny."

The Australians could have had Pietersen out earlier in his first innings had they reviewed an lbw appeal when Watson was bowling, but Pietersen was a long way down the pitch. HawkEye showed that had a review been used, Pietersen would have been given out, but Watson said even he as the bowler felt there was enough doubt.

"I'm not the person to ask about DRS really," Watson said. "One thing I have learnt over these three Test matches is that I don't have a career in umpiring after I finish. I'll certainly leave it to the experts to be able to do it. Look, in the end he was a long way down the wicket and we all thought there's a bit of doubt there, as the umpire did as well."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • harmske on August 9, 2013, 11:30 GMT

    @ARad - i agree with you that without the DRS we'll still have controversies. and what i should've said in my earlier post is that i have a problem with the existing DRS. in my opinion, get rid of predictive ball tracking (only use it to check whether the ball pitched/hit the batsman in line), get snicko technology up to speed so that it can be used alongside hot spot, and make it only one review per innings to prohibit speculative use of the technology. that way, players are likely to use it only for howlers (which is why it exists in the first place), and not as a strategic tool.

  • JAH8 on August 8, 2013, 20:30 GMT

    Is there anything in the rules that says the batsman should get the "benefit of the doubt"?

    What if needing only a few runs to win the batsman is hit on the pads and the ball runs away for what (might be) the winning runs? Does the benefit of the doubt suddenly switch to the bowler, because while there's another batsman to finish the job the bowler wouldn't get a second chance?

    Batsmen are lucky that there is a historic tendency for them to receive an advantage - it is not their right to do so.

  • ARad on August 8, 2013, 20:27 GMT

    @harmske, the controversies would still be there even if we do not have DRS since mountains will be made out of molehills because of the 24x7 sports networks and websites with numerous columnists/commenters. C'est la vie. Actually, since umpires can fail and since technology is highlighting the failure, if we do not have DRS, the same people will be ASKING FOR DRS! DRS can be tweaked and improved but the game is not seeing any major differences in how it is being played except we are seeing more correct decisions for the loss of a few minutes of play. Shouldn't we consider that to be a BARGAIN?

  • thejesusofcool on August 8, 2013, 20:18 GMT

    On the one hand, we have Siddle bowling Bell with a no-ball that it needed about 4 replays to view before seeing it was 1mm over the line and on the other, a blithe assumption that an LBW would or wouldn't have hit the stumps with 50%+ of the ball.

    HOW can you tell, please? Is this programmed to accurately reproduce the speed and pitch of any type of delivery from any Test bowler and on any given surface? Or should we just assume that, say, an in-swinger from Starc or a straight ball from Swann will always be bowled in exactly the same manner and will behave in exactly the same way in Manchester or Melbourne, both venues, of course, always behaving in exactly the same way.

    It may be science, but it's VERY incomplete science and should be withdrawn except for ro's & stumpings until we can visibly see it's complete.

  • KiwiPom on August 8, 2013, 20:16 GMT

    Totally and utterly agree with Watson's sentiments. Benefit of the doubt to the batsman has been an intrinsic part of cricket for as long as I can recall. We need the DRS umpire to advise the on-field umpire that, in his opinion, a given decision falls within that scope. It's easy enough to say that DRS removes all doubt but that's not the point. There will be a problem when a decision would normally fall within "benefit of the doubt" but the umpire has already called "out". I think the on field umpire should not feel guilty about reversing his original call.

  • maddy20 on August 8, 2013, 20:04 GMT

    @jmcilhinney If its available they may as well be using or they will be like sitting ducks You accusing India of using it when its available is baloney. I for one would do without DRS any day. There have been more articles on this site about DRS than about the 3 test matches so far and one would think that the game can do very well without these controversies!

  • IAS2009 on August 8, 2013, 18:32 GMT

    DRS has already changed how batsman play spinners now, they used to pad as 2nd line of defense to avoid close catches now they get out and given more often, umpires also tend to give them out as they know the decision will be over turned on DRS. one big reason of 4 day test matches very common. On non DRS series the benefit is still given to batsman but it remains to be seen if umpires have changed their thought process and more inclined to give out LBWs in favor of bowlers.

  • dummy4fb on August 8, 2013, 17:47 GMT

    Saying you want 100% accurate is saying you don't want it at all. Nothing is ever 100% flawless. Nothing on this planet - cricket related or not. To demand perfection in anything is to demand that something be better than anything else in any field - animal , vegetable or mineral has ever been in the history of the universe. It is a long hand way of just saying "No" without rhyme or real reason. As for Watson - umpire gave him out (so even without DRS he was out) then DRS gave him out ball hitting stumps both times - how many more ways does he want to be proven out before he runs out of stuff to whinge about? All this "half ball or more" has to be hitting is nonsense. If it was bowled rather than LBW you're just out, half ball, 1/4 ball - 1/8th of a ball...less - your out. Seems batsmen have effectively had their stumps shrunk for LBW by 60 mm in width and 30 mm in height and yet still find something to moan about.

  • gdalvi on August 8, 2013, 16:08 GMT

    @jmcilhinney - actually it is ICC that has painted itself into corner by insisting on expensive technology like Hot-Spot etc. and not trying to address real issues like affordability, why inconclusive review against you leads to loss of your reviews, how howlers can be eliminated even when there are no reviews left. Also don't forget they almost managed to royally screw up Champion Trophy by not having a spare day - just to point to their lack of planning, foresight and general high-handed ineptitude. I think if ICC proposes (and many fans will agree), just using replays + stump mike is sufficient to eliminate howlers - BCCI will accept it. Some very faint edges may be missed - but so does the Hot-Spot. Why can't they propose this? Are there implicit promises made to these tech vendors?

  • jokerbala on August 8, 2013, 15:03 GMT

    DRS: AIM - to eliminate howlers

    Result- Howlers not eliminated (whether it is due to technology or human error is not the issue)

    Conclusion : DRS has not worked