The DRS debate: here we go again

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Yet another game goes by and the umpires are scrutinised despite the technology available to assist them.

With the tour of India coming up, don’t be surprised if we see a few more howlers in the coming weeks, especially with no DRS present in the series.

BCCI opposition for using the DRS has created considerable controversy. But is the current DRS too technology-focused? Does it ignore the human eye in cricketing judgement?

Decisions which should never have been given out are now being given out.

What does this mean for the best umpires of the past era? Does Hawk-Eye suggest the likes of Dickie Bird or David Shepherd should have given more decisions in favour of the bowlers?

What if a batsman is hit on the full around three metres outside the crease and the projected ball path shows it hitting middle stump? Can we give it out when such a decision should never be given?

The answers to all these questions will remain ambiguous.

One thing is for certain with the current application of DRS – it reduces the authority of an umpire on the field.

From a cricket perspective, DRS is definitely beneficial, but the objective of it is to assist umpires to make correct decisions. Over the years technology has assisted batsmen, bowlers and coaches.

DRS is supposed to be there for umpires’ use only. Hence, it should only be at a request of the umpire that the technology should be used.

When the technology was first trialled in the 2002 Champions Trophy in Sri Lanka, the principle of the trial was that only the umpires could review a decision.

This allowed umpires to rely on their own instinct and still have respect for their own decision. Secondly, it meant, in theory, that each and every decision by an umpire could be reviewed, if doubted by the on-field umpire himself.

This method would eliminate any chance of the umpire making a “howler” of a decision.

The flaw in the current format of reviews used by the batsman and fielding captains is that it is still possible, once all reviews have been used, that an incorrect decision can occur.

The current format exposes the umpires for incorrect decision and more importantly could still change the fortune of the match.

During the last World Cup only 12% of the umpiring decisions were overturned, reflecting that, on most occasions, umpires are making correct calls. In the 12% of times, if the umpire was in doubt, he needed further clarification.

Furthermore, ICC could also look into the trial by ensuring the Hawk-Eye technology will only be available to umpires.

This means the projected path of the ball will not be seen by the television audience. It can be only used by umpires and not made available to the public.

This will create less controversy as the public cannot openly criticise umpires. The public will then gain confidence that the decision was based upon the use of technology and the expertise of an umpire.

Although this option is extreme, it could well be needed so umpires attain the respect they deserve.

Now to those who believe current DRS is efficient, let me point out that current DRS technology is not up to the task and it too has flaws, similar to the human eye. To ensure DRS is a complete package, it is essential all components of the technology need to be imbedded into it.

It makes no sense to have LBW covered by the Hawk-Eye projector while Hotspot and Snicko cannot be used.

It is imperative that Hotspot and Snicko are imbedded into the DRS.

It should be known to the public that, even with the current growing technology, the speed that a ball is delivered cannot be captured in each frame. The impact of the ball on the pad is projected and not the actual impact.

It is the same with run-outs when the frame that identifies the batsmen is short of his ground is not available due to lack of technology. Experts may argue it may be marginally off, but this could well make the difference if the ball is clipping the stumps.

Letting a batsman decide his own fate in the game of cricket makes further mockery of an umpire. Even if the umpire is in doubt, let the umpire decide for himself if he needs to review it.

It should not come to the batsman to ask the umpire to correct his decision when the batsman is the one who has made the initial mistake.

At the end of the day the umpire’s decision, on or off the field, will always remain, so the players and public should rightfully respect it.

From a supporter’s point of view, an incorrect decision could well change the fortune of a match but so can a missed opportunity. In the current age, even with technological assistance, there are bound to be blunders.

But isn’t sport about controversies as well? One tends to forget that the controversies can be the start of conversations about individual players, teams and sports.

After all, cricket is supposed to be gentleman’s game and if this reputation is to continue then cricketers need to believe that the decisions made by the umpire and third umpire are correct.

Players need to remember to the decision on the chin and play the game like gentlemen.