Watson believes DRS upstages benefit of doubt
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