Baffling reluctance

Cricket Issue

Baffling reluctance

Victims of own making? India’s refusal of UDRS has, in a cruel way, hurt them on many an occasion.It’s perhaps cruel poetic justice that the one team that has steadfastly refused to embrace technology has been the one at the receiving end of several dubious umpiring calls in the last few months.

Their less-than-pleasant experiences with the Umpire Decision Review System, used on a trial basis when they toured Sri Lanka in 2008, have convinced India that the UDRS is not the way forward so far as international cricket is concerned.

India’s continued refusal to so much as even give a thought to the use of the UDRS is one of the talking points of world cricket. Their perception of the lack of consistency of the system, as well as the failure of a foolproof guarantee to always throw up the right results, is somewhat baffling, because much progress has been made since their tryst with the review process in the Emerald Isles two years back.

Just as there is no guarantee that a newcomer will score runs by the bagful or take wickets in a rush, there is no certainty that the UDRS will make decision-making totally error-free. That’s the basic premise India must understand and come to terms with. Technology is no more than a human creation, and it is always work in progress, given the rapidity with which advancements are being made in the modern era.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni knew that Cheteshwar Pujara didn’t come with a ‘warranty’ – a word he has bandied around in the last fortnight – when he was pitchforked into international cricket. If warranty is the sole criterion, then the new will never displace the old. Just as investment in a player, on the back of proven performances at domestic level, is a risk of sorts, so is moving on with the times and adopting technological improvements aimed at reducing, if not totally eliminating, obvious errors.

If India sit back, allow their wisdom not to be clouded and think objectively, they will have to admit that they were caught unawares by the on-trial UDRS in Sri Lanka.

Ill-prepared and not entirely grasping how it functioned, India lost almost every single appeal and came away convinced, it would appear, that the review system had been introduced merely to halt their progress as a cricketing entity.

Total distrust

What’s most astonishing, given his stubborn reluctance to even consider the UDRS as a helpful tool, is the fact that Dhoni was not even on that Test tour! Otherwise sensible and not closed to thinking out of the box, the Indian captain’s total distrust of the UDRS is hard to explain.

India stand isolated among all cricketing powers in their stand on the UDRS. Every other top nation – Australia, South Africa, Sri Lanka and England – has the system in operation on a regular basis. There must be some reason why they trust it, and therefore advocate its continued use. That’s something India must factor in, because far too many potentially decisive calls have gone against them in recent times, most due to fundamental, elementary errors made by some of the top umpires in the world.

India will not find too much sympathy for being at the receiving end of bloopers because they are unwilling to consider the tool designed largely to cut down on those avoidable mistakes, but where does that leave the umpires?

Dhoni has made his displeasure at the quality of umpiring all too obvious twice in the last 10 days. Tempting as it might be to dismiss his remarks as the vengeful words of the wronged, there is plenty of substance in what the Indian skipper has to say.

Decision-making standards have declined remarkably, perhaps because the UDRS has sub-consciously undone positive mental tightness, just like the helmet has for batsmen. To suggest that there is a degree of laxity among the umpires, in the knowledge that players have the option of going on appeal, might appear a vast exaggeration, but that isn’t far from the truth.

Once incensed at the probing eye of the multitude of slow-motion and ultra-motion cameras that magnified every error they made, the umpiring fraternity now is more than happy with the introduction of the UDRS. In a way, they have their defence against all mistakes. “You had the choice to ask for the decision to be reviewed, why didn’t you use it?” could well be their answer to disgruntled players who might have reason to believe they have been hard done by, but does that absolve them of massive errors that could have career-threatening ramifications in this highly competitive era?

India’s cricketers, read the Tendulkars and the Dhonis, as opposed to the Dravids and the Sehwags, must understand that the UDRS is a friend, and definitely not a foe. The umpires, on the other hand, have to rely on their skills – they are supposed to be the best in the world, which is why they are standing in international cricket – and must take pride in the fact that not even the UDRS can force them to cross their hands over their shoulders and overturn their original decisions. Until this happy balance is struck, the last word on umpiring decisions, the UDRS and ‘warranty’ will not be heard.

How the UDRS functions?

*A player may request a review of any decision taken by the on-field umpires concerning whether or not a batsman is dismissed.

* Only the batsman involved in a dismissal may request for review of an out decision and only the captain (or acting captain) of the fielding team may request a review of a not-out decision.

* The request should be made by the player making a ‘T’ sign with both forearms at head height.

* Each team is allowed to make two unsuccessful reviews per innings. 

* The technology used by the third umpire: Slow motion replays from all available cameras; super slow motion replays; ultra motion camera replays; sound from the stump microphones with the replays at normal speed and slow motion; approved ball tracking technology; the mat, generated by the provider of ball tracking technology, not by the broadcaster; hot Spot cameras.

* On receipt of request for a review, the on-field umpire will initiate communication with the third umpire by confirming the decision that has been made and that the player has requested a review.

* The third umpire must then work alone, independent of outside help or comment, other than when consulting the on-field umpire. The third umpire shall not withhold any factual information. In particular, in reviewing a dismissal, if the third umpire believes that the batsman may instead be out by any other mode of dismissal, he shall advise the on-field umpire accordingly.

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