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DRS has avoided obvious blunders

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As far as umpiring and throwing are concerned, cricket is on the right track, writes

Peter Roebuck

England’s grizzles about the umpire Decision Review System (DRS) are wide of the mark. Likewise Mark Benson’s hasty withdrawal after the first day of the Adelaide Test was self-indulgent. Darrell Hair’s outburst about the betrayal of umpires was hot-headed.

Far too much fuss is made about umpires. Far and away the most important thing is to get the decision right. International cricket is a tinder box. Whenever possible, justice must be seen to be done.

Six Tests in Australia were enough to confirm the value of the new-fangled system. Of course it is a work in progress. Especially in these early seasons, third umpires can make mistakes. For that matter the replays and sounds are often inconclusive. Third umpires are obliged to act quickly so that the game can go on.

Moreover it’s become clear that technology is not suited to detecting faint edges. Particularly on warm days, Hot Spot is not infallible. Apparently the glow only lasts an instant and the bat might easily be angled away from the cameras at the critical time.

Several supposed edges went unpunished in the Australian season. Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke were the escapees. On each occasion the fielding side looked agitated. The field umpire was not convinced, Hot Spot was unhelpful and the ball did not deviate. Only Kemar Roach was given out on sound alone, and that was by the umpire at the bowler’s end. On all the other occasions the third umpire could not find the evidence needed to overturn.

Perennial problem

Faint edges have always been a problem. As time passes field umpires will realise the decision is their responsibility. Already low catches have been given back to them. To focus on these contentions, though, is to forget about DRS’s contribution to the smooth running of those six Tests.

Overall it proved to be a reliable way of determining lbws, gloved strokes and catches off bat and pad. Indeed it is so dependable in these areas that batsmen taken at short-leg off an inside edge often walk.

Lbws can be overturned when replays reveal that the ball pitched outside leg sump or is clearing the bails. All these things happen regularly and till now everyone has been well informed except the poor mug called upon to make the decision

None of the batsmen dismissed in Australia had any reason to feel aggrieved. Now and then bowlers cursed their luck but that has been going on since the wild and woolly days. Not once was a field umpire scorned. Condemnation was reserved for blundering third umpires. That removes a lot of the tension.

No reason to complain

Nor had the umpires any reason to complain. Far from being undermined by the system, they were protected by it. Moreover the best umpires were repeatedly proved to be correct and the players were often proved wrong. By no means was their authority undermined. In any case cricket is about players not umpires.

Much the same applies to throwing. Far from tolerating throwing, the ICC has dealt with it in a mature way by trying to identify dubious actions at an early age and give bowlers a chance to correct flaws. Fears that cricket might be ruined by throwers are baseless.

On the right track

As far as umpiring and throwing are concerned, cricket is on the right track. Of course the DRS is not perfect. Progress cannot wait upon perfection. It is new and will improve.

In any case it was designed to avoid obvious blunders not minor errors, a task it has carried out admirably. Moreover the past recent was not half as rosy as Hair and the diehards pretend.

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