The Umpires Decision Review System is an important future development for cricket and — as two verdicts in four deliveries in the Colombo Test showed on Friday — after two-and-a-half years it is simply adding to the confusion.
Over No.36 of the Sri Lankan second innings against England in Colombo deserves to be notorious but if it drives the International Cricket Council to change the way DRS is used it will have served a purpose.
The first ruling, delivered by the TV umpire Rod Tucker — Australian and therefore independent — came after the on-field umpire Bruce Oxenford , another Australian, had given No.3 batsman T. Dilshan out caught off Graeme Swann.
The ball had gone between bat and pad and it took Tucker four minutes and 50 seconds and innumerable replays to decide that all he could do was accept Oxenford's verdict. I sympathise. It was impossible to make an accurate judgement.
It is worth noting that on a Poya Day — the day of the full moon when no alcohol is on sale anywhere in the island — the crowd were shown no replays and soberly accepted the umpire's verdict too.
Dilshan's body language said the verdict was wrong. He asked for a review immediately Oxenford's finger went up and when he was given out a second time stomped off the field furiously. It also seemed to me that the umpires got the wrong verdict. Hot Spot is not being used in this series mainly because it is too costly.
That was the first ball of the over; off the fourth Swann appealed for lbw against Kumar Sangakkara and when Oxenford turned down Swann's appeal, England asked for a review and lost it. The cameras clearly showed it was out but it had to be given not out because there was not enough evidence to overturn the original decision.
Coach meets Match Referee
By this time the Sri Lanka coach Graham Ford had gone to see the Match Referee Javagal Srinath to ask for an explanation for the Dilshan decision. Unless there is an improvement in the decision-making process there will be many more coaches going down the same route. I believe coaches ought to keep out of the umpire's room altogether.
Since November 2009 when UDRS was introduced there have been three permitted aids for the umpires. In this series two have not been used — Snicko and Hot Spot. The Sri Lankan Board, which for most of this winter has been unable to pay its players, could not afford either and the England and Wales Cricket Board has made a contribution towards the camera reviews.
ICC has argued that the television companies should bear the cost of the technology; the TV men have said no which means that in the long run the cost will be borne by ICC since TV is a huge source of its income already and can hardly be expected to dip its hands into its pockets again.
Whatever the method this confusion must be halted. It is making as much a mockery of the game as the old system by which the TV audiences knew when a major mistake had been made and the umpire was sometimes shown up.
Happily, the one benefit from UDRS is that umpires have the confidence to give their verdicts, knowing that 95 per cent of the time they are right. The world now has the best set of umpires in cricket's history.
Australia's Simon Taufel, five times the world top umpires since 2004, leads the way but all the world's top umpires need technology sometimes and it is down to ICC to see that it is not getting the verdicts wrong.
Keywords: Umpires Decision Review System