Wearing the garb of a natural human error, the umpiring blunderbuss continues to roll.
Consternation? Check. Controversy? Check. Howler? Check. ICC bashing? Check. Low umpiring standards? Check. Viewer stress? Check.
So, not much has changed, has it? The occasional instance when the DRS does seem to work has been overshadowed by the umpiring gaffe which seems to arrive with greater regularity. Wearing the garb of a natural human error, the umpiring blunderbuss continues to roll.
Fortunately, the audience kept its counsel only for so long. Once the DRS’ follies became too big to ignore, the sport’s fans didn’t waste much time before lampooning the technology. But whose fault is it anyway?
The technology innovators? Certainly not. The creators of Hawk Eye, Hot Spot etc have never vouched for the infallibility of their product. Its results have to be accepted with a pinch of salt. Actually, make that two pinches.
There’s no turning back on technology. The Hawk Eye (incidentally, the name of this blog, so you know where I stand) has been a wonderful addition to tennis. Football has adopted the goal-line technology too. To move away from such innovations would be akin to reject the advances of a sober version of Megan Fox. Not advisable, really.
Are the players yet to master the DRS? Perhaps. Yet, an improper use of technology would not harm the sport’s interests as much it would damage a team’s chances. Also, thanks to the BCCI, it would be unfair to expect the teams to achieve optimum efficiency since the DRS is not employed in all series.
The ICC and the current umpires, however, fail to withstand scrutiny in this issue.
The number of reviews allotted to a team in a Test innings is insufficient, by all accounts. A fixed number of two reviews each for both teams seems to be in line with the austere policies adopted by governments worldwide, but like the general public, the players have been left displeased.
When a decision is reversed or upheld on the thinnest of margins, even the best of DRS strategies could be found wanting. Moreover, as the technology is not foolproof, isn’t it just sensible to allot more reviews?
The umpires, though, lie at the heart of the matter. For sometime now, the officials have complained that the DRS puts “unnecessary” pressure on them to perform. If that’s the case, their recent performance has certainly not won them more fans.
Neo-Luddism doesn’t do the sport any favours. DRS, it should be recalled, was introduced to remove the howler from the game. Unfortunately, at the end of matches, we still discuss an official’s blunders. But, by and large, decision-making has become more transparent. The howlers have come to life, largely, when an umpire blindly follows the process or extends his purview beyond it.
Kumar Dharmasena’s decision to give Usman Khawaja out in the third Ashes Test at Manchester caused much consternation because there was no technological backing for his stand. Perhaps, the umpires are overworked. As Brydon Coverdale noted in an article for Cricinfo, the Sri Lankan had concentrated on 4,471 deliveries during the first two Ashes Tests as a field umpire.
The idea of introducing specialist TV umpires, who would expertly deal with the challenges of DRS, bears significant optimism. This would reduce the workload of ICC Elite Panel umpires considerably and, hopefully, lead to better decision-making. But this would not heal the major wound which continues to fester on cricket’s skin.
Little has been done to arrest the ever-decreasing umpiring standards. Perhaps, the problem was made to look worse by the risible performance of umpires during the ongoing Ashes. Nowadays, the regularity with which umpires refer run out appeals to the third umpire is unsettling.
It’s a pity the best of the lot can’t officiate in this series since they either belong to England or Australia. Eight of the 12 umpires in the current panel are from these two countries.
In the DRS age, perhaps, the idea of having neutral umpires has lost resonance. However, neutral umpires or not, the current lot’s distaste for technology will not find much takers in the present scenario. Yes, the current technology doesn’t inspire full confidence but it is making the sport better. Utopian standards of a foolproof technology may never be met, but the DRS mostly makes a positive difference to cricket.
So, more reviews? Check. Make umpires accountable? Check. Specialist TV umpires who are well-versed with the technology in use? As soon as possible, please.