Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Match 59 of IPL 2022 got off to an unusual start, with a power outage at the Wankhede Stadium leading to the unavailability of the Decision Review System for the first two overs. And it took only two balls for the lack of DRS to make an impact on the game, with Chennai Super Kings opener Devon Conway unable to call for a review after being given out lbw off Mumbai Indians left-arm seamer Daniel Sams.
Replays suggested that the ball, angling into the left-hander and nipping in further, would have missed leg stump, but there was no way to re-assess umpire C Ravikanthreddy's decision.
The next over, from Jasprit Bumrah, brought Mumbai another lbw decision in their favour, with Robin Uthappa playing around a good-length ball that straightened on him. Replays suggested this decision, from Chris Gaffaney, may have been a 50-50 call, with the ball straightening to strike Uthappa's back pad, which was on the move, roughly in line with off stump. There was no way for Uthappa to call on DRS to examine whether the ball struck him in line with the stumps or not, and whether ball-tracking's projection would have shown the ball to be hitting off stump or not.
At the end of the match, which his team lost by five wickets after being bowled out for 97, Super Kings coach Stephen Fleming was philosophical about being on the wrong end of the no-DRS situation.
"It was a little bit unlucky that it happened at that time," Fleming said. "We were a little disappointed, but that's still part of the game, isn't it? It sort of set off a chain of events that were not in our favour, but we should be better that than [being bowled out for 97]. It certainly wasn't a great start."
ESPNcricinfo experts Piyush Chawla and Sanjay Manjrekar, however, suggested that the decision against Conway was just the latest instance of below-par umpiring in the IPL.
"It didn't look out at first go, because the way the ball moved, at the point of impact, it looked like the ball was still doing a bit, so definitely looked like it was going to miss the leg stump, but DRS was not available," Chawla said on the analysis show T20 Time:Out. "We have seen some very ordinary umpiring this season, so that was one of the decisions [of that kind] as well."
Manjrekar felt both decisions had been "reviewable", and that Super Kings' inability to use DRS during that two-over window had tilted the game in the favour of Mumbai's fast bowlers, in conditions where they were already thriving.
"We talk about the white ball just moving for 2-3 overs and then suddenly stops moving. That is the talk at the international level. They keep wondering why that happens," he said. "Today, I saw in the seventh and eighth over, Riley Meredith bowling proper outswingers. It was great to see Bumrah come and bowl two early overs with the new ball, and we saw swing from Bumrah, the outswing to Uthappa, and that was too high-quality for Uthappa to handle.
"So ball swinging, good bowling at the top, helped by some glitch in technology because there were two decisions there, Uthappa's and Conway's, that I would call reviewable."
The quality of umpiring from the local officials this season, Manjrekar felt, had been particularly concerning.
"Because there is now a problem getting all the quality foreign umpires from all over the world here, with the Covid situation and everything, you have to make do with a lot of local umpires," he said. "The DRS was down for 10 minutes, and disaster happened.
"It pains me when those kind of decisions happen. I saw one earlier as well, when a ball that pitched outside leg stump, about four or six inches, and those are given out, so that is [disappointing]."
He did add, however, that the same situation could have benefited the team on another day. "It could have been the other way round as well. Some obvious decision would have been given not out, and then Mumbai Indians would not have had the chance to review that."