Australia endured a monumental setback when Sri Lanka won the second Test
in Galle this week, but it was the players' indifference to on-field protocol that causes most concern.
The match confirmed Australia still have a problem against good fingerspin bowling. However, they also suffered from the being at the receiving end of the DRS, which bedevils Test teams.
While England have recently done much to improve the image of Test batting, the worrisome DRS, and over rates that continue to be glacial, need urgent attention.
A few years ago the DRS was extended to include the full path of the delivery. The ICC indicated around that time that the change was intended to rid the game of the howler and to ensure the correct decision. The DRS rarely achieves those aims.
During the Galle Test, Dinesh Chandimal was batting on 30, with Australia having used up all their reviews. The Australians thought Chandimal got an edge to an attempted ramp shot but the not-out decision prevailed and he produced a game-changing 206 not out.
Australia definitely misused their reviews
on some fifty-fifty decisions. However, it was proved once more that the DRS doesn't always result in the correct decision, because the fielding side has a finite number of reviews.
If the ICC wants to employ the DRS, it should achieve the results for which it was meant. The DRS is technologically flawed and also inadequate because there are lbw and caught decisions that can be complicated.
Many countries can't afford the top technology, so they effectively play under a different set of DRS protocols than those who can pay for the best system. The best DRS technology should be provided to all teams by a cricket body that operates the system, rather than it being left to television.
The often senseless spreading of the field hasn't helped teams either dismiss batters or improve over rates
The system was introduced to supposedly help umpires rather than protect DRS itself. Currently it achieves the latter aim.
Over rates have been declining for decades and yet they are virtually ignored as the focus is on the money-making capabilities of T20. The reason 90 overs in a day were originally recommended is because it's very much possible for a team to bowl that many in that time.
Under Clive Lloyd, West Indies promoted the notion that over rates don't matter when matches are being won in less than the allotted time. That argument is flawed. The batting team should receive a reasonable number of deliveries in a six-hour day, while front-line bowlers tire at an acceptable rate. These days, overs are rarely completed even with extra time allowed - and those extensions are a blight on the game.
Umpires don't enforce on-field protocol in this regard, probably because they lack the backing of the administrators. This is unfair on patrons, who are short-changed.
The administrators could make some compromises and demand that players bowl 90 overs in six hours with no deductions accepted. A captain should be suspended without question if this aim isn't achieved.
There are many areas for compromise. The administrators could abolish advertising on sightboards, the replaying of possible boundaries, reduce the constant ferrying of drinks and gloves, and eradicate needless mid-pitch chats during overs. They could also return to a back foot no-ball rule (without a drag problem), thereby virtually eradicating a boring facet of the game as well as improving over rates.
There is no doubt the better bats of the modern day create field-placement headaches for captains. Still, the often senseless spreading of the field hasn't helped teams either dismiss batters or improve over rates.
The balance between bat and ball needs to be constantly monitored but these days it instead appears to be religiously overlooked.
The skills of the game are evolving but the laws often don't keep pace with the need to improve the spectacle. Some senior players have expressed a desire to improve Test cricket's image but to do so they require a working partnership with the administrators. If that much-needed partnership to improve the game is not forthcoming, it's time for the senior players to set the ball rolling.
Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is a columnist