The Indian angle of DRS issue

Cricket : India's stand on Decision Review System has often come under needless fire

The Indian angle of DRS issue

“Put your brain into gear and if you can add to what's on the screen then do it, otherwise shut up.” This, Richie Benaud said, was the mantra of his commentary.

Generations of viewers across the world will vouch for the delight the former Australian captain brought to watching cricket on television. Behind the microphone, he was everything what he defined the television commentary should be all about -- talk less and convey more. Listening to some of the current commentators on Channel Nine, which broadcasts all international cricket played in Australia, one can’t help but yearn for Benaud’s subtle humour and Bill Lawry’s restrained enthusiasm.  

There are a few reasonable voices still out there in the commentary box making perfect sense of what’s happening in the middle but there are others busy repeating trite opinions and fishing out problems with opposition teams where none exists. The praise for India, who have been more competitive than one would have expected them to be, has come in grudgingly but the criticism has been over the top. Whether it’s their opposition to Decision Review System or their on-field behaviour, the comments almost border on the contempt.

“Who cares? Just get lost!” Ian Healy shouted when R Ashwin stood in disbelief after he was wrongly adjudged caught-behind on the fourth day of the second Test here. “Go complain to your board (BCCI) that doesn’t want DRS,” the former Australia wicketkeeper suggested with a good measure.

Not a session of play passes without the mention of DRS and how it can be the cure-all tool for umpiring mistakes. If an Australian batsman is given out wrongly or an Indian batsman is ruled mistakenly not out, it’s the BCCI’s fault. And if an Indian batsman or the bowler gets a raw deal from the umpire -- and there have been quite a few such instances in this series already -- it’s again the fault of the BCCI!

There has been no attempt made to address or understand the concerns of India who were the first to use the system way back in 2008 in Sri Lanka. Their experience wasn’t too good with a procedure that was ostensibly aimed at ridding the game of obvious umpiring errors. Since then their reservations against DRS have been strong but not rigid.

The DRS is mandatory in the ICC-conducted events like the World Cup and the Champions Trophy where India have complied with the rule. They also agreed to have DRS is place during their tour of England in 2011 but with a caveat that lbw decisions wouldn’t be reviewed because they didn’t trust the ball-tracking technology, which even the makers agree isn’t 100 per cent fool proof.

India, as reiterated by MS Dhoni after the second Test, aren’t totally averse to using DRS but just that its application has to be more judicious. It wasn’t surprising given how all the caught decisions, whether bat-pad or caught-behind, have gone against India so far in this series. And hence it was almost funny to hear Mark Nicholas say, “Given how India have played in away series in recent years, it isn’t surprising they don’t want DRS!”   

“What is more important is that there are a lot of 50-50 decisions that are not going in our favour,” Dhoni pointed out when asked if there has been any shift in their view with regard to DRS. “We are at the receiving end more often than not. And what happens in DRS is that those decisions won’t go in our favour. If the umpire has given out it is still out because DRS is often used to justify the decision given by the umpire. What is important is to use DRS to give the right decision irrespective of whether the umpire has given it out or not out.

“There are a lot of ways to use the DRS, but this is something that needs to be put in a specific way that it doesn’t really matter if the umpire has given out or not out, if the ball hits the stumps it is out. (But if you say) If half the ball hits the stumps you are out and such stuff, then you are adding too many variables to the game,” he offered. 

What Dhoni meant was that the benefit of doubt that should go to the batsman is now going to the umpire. If an umpire rules a batsman lbw when the ball is just brushing the off or leg stump, the batsman stays out on review. But if an umpire rules another batsman not out under similar circumstances, he remains not out. How is that?  

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