Umpiring errors bring DRS into focus

Controversial dismissal of Bairstow in the second Test adds fuel to the raging debate

Umpiring in the on-going series between India and England has been quite inconsistent with the on-field officials Aleem Dar and Tony Hill struggling to make correct decisions, especially the ones pertaining to leg before wickets.

During the first Test in Ahmedabad, Hill had given England’s Samit Patel and Ian Bell out when the replays later picked up an inside edge in Patel’s dismissal while the ball seemed to have missed the leg-stump in Bell’s case.

Indian spinners’ shouts too were turned down, particularly the one against Matt Prior, when the English batsman seemed plumb in front on a few occasions, agitating a premier member of the Indian think-tank. “May be they should think about cutting umpires’ allowance for making wrong decisions,” he had said then. That may sound a bit extreme suggestion, but the train of events in the second Test here could force one to follow his line of thought, along with India’s reluctance to use DRS (Decision Review System) in series involving them.

On the second day of the match at the Wankhede stadium on Saturday, umpire Dar upheld an appeal against Zaheer Khan after Graeme Swann’s ripping off-break spun and nestled in the hands of Jonny Bairstow at forward short leg.

The veteran pace bowler had an amused look on his face when Dar raised his finger, and later the replays showed that the ball had not made any contact with Zaheer’s bat or glove.

A day later, Bairstow found himself in the centre of action when Gautam Gambhir held on to a catch at silly point off Pragyan Ojha to dismiss him. Here the umpires may not be entirely at fault as Bairstow chose to walk off the field.

He might now be regretting his decision to walk as the replays during the lunch break showed the ball hitting Gambhir’s helmet before he pouched the ball. According to Law 32.3 (e), it was not out.

“The act of making the catch shall start from the time when the ball in flight comes into contact with some part of a fielder’s person other than a protective helmet, and shall end when a fielder obtains complete control both over the ball and over his own movement… however, it is not a fair catch if the ball lodges in a protective helmet worn by a fielder. However, it is not a fair catch if the ball has previously touched a protective helmet worn by a fielder. The ball will then remain in play,” states the law.

According to information from England side, the visiting team staff had approached match referee Roshan Mahanama to overturn the decision to give Baristow out. But Mahanama said only Indian skipper MS Dhoni has the power to withdraw the appeal, and Dhoni, with the support of coach Duncan Fletcher, refused to accept the request. As such, Samit Patel walked along with Kevin Pietersen to resume England’s innings after lunch.

Gambhir later said it all happened so quickly to assess the situation correctly. “I went into lunch thinking that the ball hit my body and then the grill, it all happened so quickly, as I realized it only later that the ball came off grill. But I didn’t talk to Dhoni about overturning the decision as I said it all happened so quickly.”

The minor controversy and other umpiring errors are sure to bring DRS into talk again as the series progresses.

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