Why has the BCCI allowed teams to use DRS for wides and no-balls in the WPL?
The move is aimed at reducing the chance of umpiring error impacting crucial phases of the game
Remember the high full toss Virat Kohli faced in the 2022 T20 World Cup match against Pakistan that was called a no-ball by the umpire? Or the high full toss that Rovman Powell hit for six in Delhi Capitals' tense chase against Rajasthan Royals that wasn't called a no-ball and led to Rishabh Pant losing his temper? Or the wide from fast bowler Prasidh Krishna that his Royals captain Sanju Samson reviewed for caught behind because he felt it should have been a legal delivery?
Each of those incidents from the recent past led to debate on whether the delivery was legitimate or not, and the aggrieved team did not have recourse to review the on-field umpire's decision. That's why the BCCI, starting with the ongoing WPL and the 2023 IPL, has decided to allow teams to refer wides and no-balls for height to the TV umpire using the DRS, the first such usage in T20 leagues. The teams will still be allowed only two unsuccessful reviews per innings.
So what prompted the BCCI to widen the scope of the DRS? ESPNcricinfo has learned that the board wanted to give teams the chance to rectify an umpiring error that could prove costly in closely-contested tournaments like the IPL. With considerable pressure from players and experts to bring wides and no-balls for height under the scope of DRS, the BCCI consulted its match officials after last year's IPL.
In ODIs and T20Is, a team that concedes a no-ball also has to bowl a free-hit the next delivery, off which a batter cannot be dismissed in any manner apart from a run-out. The BCCI's experts agreed that it was prudent to reduce the chance of a match result being impacted by an umpiring error.
The BCCI, however, did not want to give teams more reviews per innings, as some experts like Daniel Vettori had suggested last IPL, to review the on-field umpire's decisions on wides and high no-balls. The board does not want to nullify the human element in umpiring and is also mindful of the time the extra reviews will add to the length of the game.
The modified DRS is already in use during the WPL as a trial phase before the IPL that starts on March 31. The BCCI is aware that the onus is on the TV umpire to make the right call, and the board is ready to allow match officials, most of whom are Indian, leeway and understands that errors will happen.
While there have been a few instances of players reviewing for wides and no-balls already, the most debatable incident happened during UP Warriorz' chase against Gujarat Giants. With 6 needed off 3 balls, Annabel Sutherland pitched one wide outside off stump, just over the guide line, and Grace Harris used the DRS to successfully overturn the umpire's decision that it was not a wide. The decision was debatable because Harris had moved towards the off side in her crease while trying to make contact with the ball, but the TV umpire over-ruled the original decision that it was a legal delivery.
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo