Saturday, July 13, 2013

Umpires turn Test to Ashes, DRS needs to be reviewed

Even before Stuart Broad was ruled not out after being caught at slip off Ashton Agar, he should have been out LBW to Agar when he padded up to a ball spinning into the wickets without offering a stroke. The old way of thinking is that the umpire gave him the benefit of the doubt, and so it was okay even if Hawkeye later showed the ball was hitting the inside of off-stump. Why should the batsman get any benefit when he has the option to challenge the decision? In fact, the DRS should free up the onfield umpire to raise his finger even if it is a 60-40 call, especially on a deliberate padding.

You could argue that it was Australia's own fault that they had used up their reviews, and therefore could not appeal against the two wrong verdicts that went in Broad's favour. But here again the system is faulty. What's the logic of allowing only two unsuccessful reviews per innings? Agreed, we don't want repeated interruptions, so there must be a limit. But a Test innings lasts eight or nine hours, and there are umpteen stoppages for inane stuff like checking if the fielder has touched the rope or ridding a spectator from the batsman's line of sight. To get a decision right on whether a batsman is out is of far greater importance to the game. Why can't we have more reviews? The time spent on say one unsuccessful review per hour would hardly be noticeable. Rather than limit reviews to a ridiculously low number, the game can be speeded up if teams are made to concede a certain number of runs for every over they bowl short of the requirement for the day.

The third area of improvement for the DRS is to make adequate information available to the third umpire. English commentators were going on and on about Marius Erasmus, but on the evidence from the replay, he couldn't be sure that a bit of Agar's boot wasn't behind the crease when he was stumped. Can't we have a more zoomed in image to help the third umpire on these line calls? Better still, the computer could make this call, because that would remove any controversy. It doesn't matter if the technology is not 100% foolproof, as long as it is more accurate than the human eye and there is no judgement to be made.

Finally, the protocols for the camera views should be set out when DRS is in operation. The hotspot wasn't available to Erasmus on the Jonathan Trott LBW, and so the third umpire missed the inside edge. Apparently, Hotspot had been queued up to show a replay of the Joe Root snick, and missed the action. This is plain unacceptable for a marquee event like the first Test of the Ashes.

These bloopers have marred what was developing into a fascinating Test match with multiple twists and turns. The English batting failure on the first day, after the Aussies had been written off; the Aussie fightback with the bat as a teenage debutante made a breathtaking 98 at No. 11; and then the battle of attrition in England's second innings - nobody could have asked for more. Unfortunately, instead of the drama of the game, it's the umpiring that will make the headlines yet again, despite the use of DRS. Cricket needs to be managed better than this.

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