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Ian Chappell

Fabulous series, but can we deal with the DRS and on-field chatter?

India and Australia showed what good pitches and good leaders can offer to a contest. But the misuse of the referral system grated on the nerves

Ian Chappell
Ian Chappell
02-Apr-2017
Ajinkya Rahane (left) mostly lives in the shadow of Virat Kohli, but in Dharamsala he showed what an astute leader he can be  •  Associated Press

Ajinkya Rahane (left) mostly lives in the shadow of Virat Kohli, but in Dharamsala he showed what an astute leader he can be  •  Associated Press

The recent series between India and Australia showcased many good things about Test cricket and a few of the unsightly. It was the most entertaining series I've watched since the thrilling and dynamic Ashes battle of 2005.
First, the good things - the attributes administrators ought to highlight in promoting Test cricket.
The most important ingredient was the competitiveness of the two teams. Test cricket needs more teams that can compete at home and away. The administrators need to encourage improvement in the standard of the lower- ranked Test teams before they think about expansion.
Some of the pitches came in for criticism but they provided exhilarating contests, where the fan or viewer felt something was about to happen every ball. The pitch for the fourth Test was a beauty, where everyone had a chance to display their talent.
The moral? Provide pitches that give bowlers some assistance and there's every chance the Test will live up to its name. The surfaces also highlighted the excitement on display when slow bowlers are encouraged. Cricket needs to make a concerted effort to improve the lot of spin bowlers. It can't do without top-class tweakers. An educational programme aimed at young spinners and their captains would be a start.
Speaking of captains, there was some excellent leadership in the series. The stand-in, Ajinkya Rahane, was outstanding in the deciding Test. His decisive use of left-arm wristspin debutant Kuldeep Yadav in the first innings and the brave way he sought second-innings wickets in a tight contest were standout examples of how a captain can influence a game.
Rahane then placed the trophy firmly in India's hands when he was proactive in the chase and ended Patrick Cummins' fiery attempt to provoke a collapse. Good, imaginative captaincy is crucial to the success of Test cricket.
The prodigious run-scoring by Steve Smith and Cheteshwar Pujara reflected an old-fashioned approach to batting. Their concentration was relentless and the shot-making displayed a desire to eradicate error; they mostly hit the ball along the ground. It was reminiscent of a time when Test cricket was the only game in town.
Now, for the not-so-appealing aspects of the series.
The DRS doesn't achieve what it was introduced to do. It should simply overturn howlers and, within a margin for error, ensure decisions are correct. It shouldn't be constantly employed to review 50-50 decisions and tactically induced punts. It should also be under the sole control of the umpires. The adjudication process shouldn't turn a captain into a Money or the Box contestant, with onlookers shouting advice from the sidelines.
The DRS should not include reviews to determine if a fielder has caught the ball. M Vijay caught Josh Hazlewood in Dharamsala. Any fair-minded slip fielder will confirm it was a legitimate catch; a fielder doesn't catch the ball with his fingers pointing straight towards the ground. He only does that when he's intercepting a ball that has bounced in front of him. Vijay had his fingers curled under the ball. It's just that the foreshortening effect of the cameras made it appear otherwise on one replay.
Not only does reviewing these decisions often bring about the wrong conclusion - on-field umpire Ian Gould's soft signal was out - it also implies the fielder is a cheat. The evidence is flawed and should be thrown out of the court.
Then the incessant on-field chatter has to be drastically reduced. It should drive batsmen mad, but if it doesn't, it's the equivalent of a fingernail on a chalkboard for the television viewer.
We don't need to hear another "Nice, SOK" any more than the bowler does. These inane comments don't convey anything useful to team-mates or viewers, and they are not part of the game, no matter how much we are constantly assured they are by participants.
Those annoyances apart, it was a fabulous series, showing Test cricket in a wonderful light. It emphasised why this version of the game needs to be nurtured, albeit with some tweaking.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is a cricket commentator for Channel Nine, and a columnist