If I was an international batsman in 2012, I am not sure I would like the cricket world’s enthusiasm for the Decision Review System (DRS) and doubt that I would embrace it unreservedly.

However, the game is not just about batsmen; although many bowlers would vehemently disagree! We must all accept what is in the greater common interest.

When stalwarts of the ICC’s cricket committee like Clive Lloyd, Kumar Sangakkara, Mark Taylor, Ravi Shastri, Gary Kirsten etc. recommend that the DRS is worthy of adoption universally, we should at least do them the elementary courtesy of an extended trial — not a peremptory rejection based on a primal fear of being given out LBW or caught behind on review, because the umpire now has recourse to technology.

As a race, we humans are flawed, so it is unrealistic to expect anything invented by man to be perfect.

There is mechanical or human failure possible in many facets of modern life: on the roads, in the air, on sea. But, do we all just sit back at home and not travel because of that fear that our cars, planes and ships & the good folk that steer them are fallible?

In relation to technology, author Robert M. Pirsig said, “The test of the machine is the satisfaction that it gives you. There isn’t any other test. If the machine produces tranquillity it’s right. If it disturbs you its wrong until either the machine or your mind is changed.”

If we genuinely want the best decision-making for the game, then, I believe we have to accept that the DRS technology is the way to get it. While it is not perfect yet, we have to persevere and put our energy into finding ways to make it so, rather than let a few individuals control the debate for short-sighted reasons.

On that basis, India’s objection to the DRS may need a review of its own. Instead of looking at it through the eyes of a batsman they should look at it from a bowler’s perspective.

I agree that the system is not perfect, but it probably never will be. That is not enough reason to hold back the technology.

I can remember the days before independent umpires. It was a running joke that the home team (everywhere except England where the umpires were full-time) got the benefit of all the close decisions. This was an added benefit on top of any natural home ground advantage.

On the other hand, there were some umpires who believed that, provided they didn’t give any batsmen out LBW, they couldn’t make a mistake. This attitude created a lot of frustration and ill-feeling on the field which sometimes spilled over with emotional outbursts between players; usually bowlers toward batsmen.

Imran Khan was the godfather of the system of independent umpires. He campaigned long and loud about adopting it universally. He was sick of hearing from touring teams how bad umpires were in his country and how this devalued any win that his very talented team enjoyed.

It took a long time for this idea to be universally supported, but once it was adopted, people wondered why it had taken so long to get it agreed upon.

Immediately the heat went out of the debate. No longer was it the fault of an umpire who may have had conflicting allegiances; it was just a human error. Interestingly, not long before the introduction of the DRS system, ICC research showed that the humans got the decision right more than 90% of the time.

Not much better

So far, history shows us that the technology is not much better than the human eye. I find that hard to believe although, having worked in a few commentary boxes and talked to a number of technicians, it is, apparently, not as simple as one would hope.

Take replays of low catches for instance. The fact that the camera foreshortens a two-dimensional image makes it very hard to tell whether the ball bounced or not. Shadows can help those who read video-tape for a living, but for the novice, reading the occasional replay can be quite difficult.

Leg before wicket decisions are also difficult for the technology when you think that most cameras are mounted high above the playing field. Again, the foreshortening of the image along with the error of parallax makes it hard for the front-on camera to judge height accurately.

Add to this that the computer can only guess at the trajectory of the ball after striking the pad, one can understand why there are critics of the technology, but those that do, underestimate the ancillary benefits.

The major one is that, by removing the human element, much of the emotion is taken out of the game. Instead of the man standing at the umpire’s end, it is the technology that takes the heat if a decision is deemed wrong.

The BCCI should consider the perspectives and interests of its bowlers too in this debate. For every decision which could go in favour of batsmen, two or three might go against the bowlers and the weaker bowling outfits like India can least afford that inequity or luxury.

In fact, it could be the difference between winning and losing a close series.


Time to make DRS more effectiveJuly 13, 2013

Cricket’s uneven moralityJuly 17, 2013

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