Decision Review System: Call for justice or ineffective unnecessary diversion?

A television screen shows the Decision R

DRS has raised more questions since its introduction than it has answered

The first Ashes Test played at Trent Bridge has brought the spotlight on the Decision Review System once again after its comfortably successful employment at the Champions Trophy.

It’s performance at the Ashes Test, however, was less satisfactory as a number of incorrect decisions were made despite of its presence. The system has its fair share of supporters who believe that technology should be used to improve decision-making in situations wherever the human element is unsure, or incapable.

The introduction of technology in the hands of the third-umpire to adjudicate upon run-out dismissals, for instance, is now an acceptable proposition no-one argues against. But is the decision review system equally objective, equally error free? Does it hinder the passage of the play? Does it take away from the spectacle of cricket in any way?

Multiple answers have been give to the aforementioned question. Let us go over the arguments. Those who support the Decision Review System believe that the umpires are liable to committing mistakes that can shift the balance of a game. They believe that this stands to correction in the hands of technology that they perceive to be more objective if not absolutely objective, and hence technology must be employed.

The hawk-eye system for instance projects the possible line of movement of a delivery and adjudges whether it would hit the stumps or not. The hot-spot system can identify inside edges that afflict many leg-before wicket dismissals as well as catch the minutest outside edges that an umpire can often miss out on given the noise that is created in the stadiums these days.

Those who are against the Decision Review System have another issue to raise before they go on to discuss the efficacy and accuracy of the system. They argue that the sport needs minimal intervention of technology so that it does not interrupt the pace of play. The run-out decisions for instance that have been a part of the game for a while are not very time-consuming.

On the other hand, the Decision Review System being in the hands of the players prompts a minute discussion everytime a leg-before appeal happens. When the decision is actually referred, the hot-spots and the hawk-eyes get to work and a different kind of dramatic spectacle is created that they argue is not necessarily cricket at all.

These may be considered romantic notions of a person who has failed to adapt to the advent of technology and its advantages but the theory has its share of buyers.

Furthermore, the technical accuracy of the decision system review system is under scrutiny. How does the hawk-eye predict and adapt to the deteriorating pitch conditions for instance? Can it predict the amount of turn and bounce a ball will extract from a rough patch when hits the batsman’s pad on the full? In the current system being employed, if an umpire has adjudged the batsman not-out on an lbw call and the ball appears to be just clipping the stumps on hawk-eye the umpire’s decision is upheld whereas if the umpire had called it out originally it would have been called out.

The delivery of the decision thus becomes a matter of delivery, and convenience instead of accuracy. If that is to be the case, then why not just leave it to the on-field umpires (who anyway have an accuracy of 90% and above on average according to the ICC).

Another set of question is raised by the fact that what comes under the purview of the decision review system? Why are only leg-before dismissals and caught-behinds looked at by the third umpire? What about runs scored of the bat that are given as leg-byes? What if a legitimate delivery that brushes the batsmen’s thighs is adjudged a wide inflicts a one-run defeat on the opposition? Those who have seen cricket over the years know that that is not a distant possibility.

In the Champions Trophy semi-final, Mahela Jayawardene was denied a run when he sneaked a single on the leg-before appeal as the very same ball was referred to the decision review system for a leg-before decision even though the eventual decision was not-out. If the on-field umpire had adjudged Jayawardene not-out instantly the run would have been considered scored off the bat.

These are serious questions raised by the opponents of the review system. Meanwhile, Brad Haddin has called for the Decision Review System to be taken off players’ hands completely.

That will be in the spirit of perfect accuracy that the ICC appears to be striving for instead of making another weapon in the hands of the opposition. The incident involving Stuart Broad that caused a controversy in the first Test would never have happened if the umpires had the power to intervene as it was an in-your-face howler if there ever was one but justice was denied in that moment simply because the victim had run out of his share of appeals and was duly hanged.

Even if that decision of Haddin’s is taken, what is the feasibility of such a move? Once again, will the third-umpire intervene for wide, leg-byes and caught-at-slip calls? Will this level of intervention be justified? Where will that leave the on-field umpire? The list of questions is endless.


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