Blog by: Tushar
Whether successful or not, the Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS) has been the talk of the cricketing world ever since its inception.
It was made to eliminate the element of human error and thus, render decision making almost 100% full-proof. But that hasn’t been the case. Worse still, it has overturned decisions which were correct to begin with, owing to technology limitations and the rules that go along with it that have sometimes favoured one team over the other.
Now there’s another reason to debate its feasibility with the new ICC rule, which will come into effect starting October 1. The rule gives an addition of two unsuccessful reviews to both playing teams after 80 overs have been bowled in a Test Match innings. This change is being seen as a direct offshoot of the Ashes Test series this year that fueled the controversy surrounding the system even more.
Jonathan Trott was wrapped on the pads by a Mitchell Starc delivery, and was given not out originally. Australia took a review and got the decision in their favour to everyone’s surprise. The replay showed a perfect lbw, but Trott indicated that he had edged the ball.
That could not be verified since Hot Spot was occupied with a previous ball dismissal. This is seen as an instance where the UDRS overturned a seemingly correct human decision. Usman Khawaja was adjudged out on a Graeme Swann delivery, which he felt he had not nicked. He went upstairs, but the third umpire could not help him for want of conclusive evidence, even though Hot Spot did not declare him out.
Stuart Broad was at the center of the biggest row surrounding the DRS. He refused to walk after he edged one to Michael Clarke in the slips. The edge was missed by umpire Aleem Dar. The replays very clearly showed an edge off Stuart’s bat. The Australians were furious at him for not walking out on his own, and they had no reviews at their disposal, having used up their allotted quota before itself.
Broad went on to score a useful 65, which was one of the key events of the match considering that Australia lost the game eventually, falling short by 14 runs, chasing a total of 310 set by England. This incident is probably the one that has brought about the new rule which will be observed starting next month.
It may prove useful because it will ensure more correct decisions from now on. It will be of a special significance in scenarios like this where a lower order batsman takes the game away from the opposition when they have no reviews left because they have used it up against the top order.
It is almost a double standard if a tail-ender is able to get away with a wrong on-field decision while the top order is subjected to the best technology available to decide their stay at the crease. This new rule can avoid such mishaps in the future.
On the other hand, it does create an unbalanced situation. While the average Test innings is supposed to last a day and a session (four sessions or approximately 120 overs), will it not be better if the number of reviews for the total innings is increased, rather than have two in the first 80 overs and the remaining two in the last 1/3rd part of the innings?
Giving the captain four reviews at the start and expecting him to use them judiciously would be a better option, because he can decide whether he needs a review now or save them for later, according to how the game stands.
Another point that goes against the DRS is that it reduces the faith in the on-field umpires and also mounts more pressure on the television umpires, who may not be the best ones to use technology effectively to judge an appeal. Australian cricketer Andrew McDonald feels that the ICC have faltered in making this new rule which will waste even more time in the future games when teams will want to take additional reviews.
Just increasing the number of reviews will not help. The Hot Spot technology should be improved so that it can measure results on consecutive deliveries if required, to avoid hassles like the one happened in Trott’s case (it was apparently non-available – whatever the cause, it should be straightened out).
A look at the existing rules might also help, so that incorrect human decisions on the field are overturned and correct decisions are upheld. Technology is sure to provide better answers than a naked eye on the field, and when in doubt, the results of the replay should be given a higher preference even if it may not be 100% conclusive. It will definitely be less erroneous than an on-field decision.
There has been a talk going on to train the television umpires to make them more tech-savvy so that they can use technology better to make decisions. This is a step on the right direction and should be carried out as fast as possible. Moreover, keeping a techie in the television room who can assist the umpires can be tried.
Most of the reviews that are called, are either for leg-before appeals or nicks that were not certain. So to speed up the referral system, the Hawk Eye that maps deliveries should be used for every delivery if possible, instead of only when a review is sought, which wastes time.
In case of an appeal, the television umpire checks the trajectory which is mapped as soon as the ball is bowled and the Hot Spot is fast enough to confirm an edge, the third umpire can communicate with the on-field umpire as soon as a review is requested. Sure, a lot of resources, people and money will go into this but it will definitely be worth it given the embarrassment ICC is facing with the UDRS controversies.
Only time will tell how the new rule pans out and how effective it proves to be. Let us hope that the return Ashes starting after next month will be less controversial in this regard.