DRS should eliminate howlers, not excuse them
Umpire Aleem Dar, centre, stands impassive. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Upon the evidence of last night, it is clear that the decisions about DRS and its implementations need to overturned.
No, we don’t need to get rid of DRS. That would be absurd. Perhaps, on evidence, not as absurd as the decision Usman Khawaja copped last night, but still absurd.
The decisions I’m talking about are those that made DRS the toothless tiger it is in its current format. DRS doesn’t go far enough.
We saw last night the absolute worst of DRS in its current format.
To any semi-trained eye who knows even the most fundamental thing about cricket, or baseball for that matter, that decision should have been overturned.
The technology was clear. Australian number three Usman Khawaja played a terrible shot, granted. He came forward, had a windy whoosh at a wide, turning delivery from Graeme Swann, and there were a couple of noises.
There was a reason that umpire Tony Hill gave it out.
Khawaja’s biggest mistake was perhaps not reviewing it immediately, as it was clear to most people, even on first viewing, that there was daylight between bat and ball.
Instead, he trudged down the wicket, asked his mate Chris Rogers, then reviewed it.
That still shouldn’t influence the final decision.
The umpire, the crowd and the television audience all across the world watched as the third umpire looked at hot spot, then replay after replay of the ‘dismissal’.
Hot spot showed nothing. Looked to be going well for Uzzy so far.
On the front on replay, slowed down and zoomed in, there was absolutely no evidence of a deflection, of bat hitting ball or vice versa. Again, tick for Uzzy.
Finally, we go to the audio.
Well, there were two noises. The first came about a foot before the ball even passed the bat, so that one can be explained by something else. But what of that second noise?
The ball looked to have just passed the bat when that second noise came about. Could this little, mysterious, strangely non-wood-on-leather sounding noise, be the source of Tony Hill’s finger raising?
It turns out the third umpire certainly thought it was, so therefore the initial decision stood and Khawaja was on his way.
It was a shocker. Everyone who was watching on television and at the ground knew it. Everyone on Twitter, the new banter centre, knew it. Even the parochial Sir Ian Bothan and 25,000 Manchester-folk had their cries of “out” dulled as the process delved into the ins and outs, mostly outs, of the wicket.
The only person who thought it was out was Tony Hill, and that’s why the decision remained.
The third umpire was looking for reasons to justify the initial decision, not looking at it objectively and weighing up whether or not it was actually out.
This is the problem with DRS in its current form. It acts more as a justifier of umpires’ decisions more than using technology to get the right call.
I’m happy with the review system being put in the hands of players. Only Khawaja really knows whether he’s hit that, so he should be allowed to challenge the umpire whether he has or has not.
The key issue is that the man in the box cannot simply be on the lookout for reasons to back up ‘his man’ in the middle. He should do what every umpire does; take a step back, ask him or herself whether it’s out or not, and make a decision.
We’re spoilt for LBWs, of course, because we have a relatively accurate hawk-eye system that more or less takes it out of the umpires’ hands.
But nicks, edges, snicks and tickles are a completely different story. They murky the DRS water worse than the infamous stormwater drain near Bondi.
The umpires don’t have access to snicko, because apparently it’s too unreliable. Well, going on the Khawaja decision, hot spot might soon find itself in the ‘optional’ category, as that too is unreliable. Usman found that out the hard way.
If there’s no hot spot, and no snicko, and no evidence of bat on ball or a deflection, and the only evidence for going with the original call is the faintest of sounds, later shown on the horribly unreliable snicko to be made about a metre past the bat, the system’s broken.
The technology’s fine; the implementation, quite frankly, needs to show evidence why it should stay.
Because when the best the man in the box can do is try and find excuses for howlers, the man in the box needs to be taken outside, and replaced by a new man in the box.
Preferably one that knows his ear from his elbow and his nicks from his nothings.
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