A review of the Decision Review System
DRS still needs to be improved - so why has an imperfect system been made mandatory by ICC?
The Decision Review System (DRS) was part of the agenda in the recent International Cricket Council’s (ICC) annual meeting in Hong Kong where the administrators and executive members tweaked many rules of the game, only to compel cricket-pundits to turn cynics. Two bodies, the ICC and the Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI), are ruining cricket, by altering the game’s norms - the former is doing this through sheer absurdity while the latter, through tyranny.
The DRS along with the Hot Spot (infrared technology) was made mandatory by ICC after their annual meeting. But the system, in its current form, is plagued with several flaws and loopholes and in need of review. As the ICC has made it mandatory, the system will be used to suss out batsmen’s failures and bowlers’ triumph. I don’t oppose its implication but I am against both extremes - to make it mandatory or to completely deny it.
Personally, I think ICC has acted absurdly by making it mandatory. In a way, they are naively asking cricket boards to adopt an inept system. The DRS needs a lot of improvements to reach perfection or be near-perfect.
How can an imperfect system be made mandatory?
India and the Hawk Eye
The DRS has been stripped off its original component, the ball-tracking technology, Hawk Eye, while infrared thermal-imaging (Hot Spot) and audio-tracking (Snicko) have been made essential parts of DRS. This decision of the ICC seems to have come only to please the most influential cricket board, the BCCI, as they were not satisfied with Hawk Eye, which is a major tool to make Leg Before Wicket (LBW) decisions.
The BCCI believes ball-tracking is imagination of technology. Okay, let’s assume it is. But, this tool, the Hawk Eye, can be used up until it becomes imaginative; the ball’s trajectory till the impact, when it hits the batsman’s pad, is sufficient evidence to determine an LBW. This was used when the first time the DRS became part of a Test series between India and Sri Lanka in 2008. In my opinion, the ball’s trajectory only till the impact should be followed and beyond that the third-umpire must use his intuition to reach the conclusion. With this rule, the BCCI won’t be able to say that the DRS is an “Imagination of Technology vs Imagination of Humans.”
Moreover, ICC has made it clear that if both boards, in a bilateral series, have consensus on using ball-tracking then they can include ball-tracking in the DRS. This clearly depicts that the decision to make the Hawk Eye optional was just made to satisfy BCCI. Now, there will be different rules at different times for different teams.
Technology too expensive
As far as Hot Spot is concerned, my only problem with it is that it is too expensive and difficult to be accommodated by cricket boards of countries such as Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh or West Indies, who are not as financially strong as BCCI, ECB or CA. First, the ICC should make this technology easy for all cricket boards to acquire. Only then, it being made mandatory will make sense.
The two-camera system of the DRS costs around $6,000 per day, while the four-camera system costs $10,000 per day. The home board is subjected to pay for the system which will cost them at least $30,000 for a Test match. Spare a thought for a country like Pakistan, which is finding it difficult to even ‘host’ matches in other countries due to high costs. The DRS costs $30,000 per Test – a format which doesn't generate much revenue due to various reasons - will further hit the PCB. Three Tests and Five ODIs series will cost the PCB additional Rs10 Million only because the DRS has been made mandatory.
Think about it. Forty-three Tests and 142 ODIs were played in 2010. If DRS was used, with the two-system cameras, it would have cost around $2.1 million, more than half of the debt the Sri Lankan Cricket Board sought from the ICC during the World Cup.
Unavailability of technology
Another difficulty resides in the availability of infrared cameras. The ICC wanted to use Hot Spot in the recently concluded World Cup’s Semi Finals and Final but it couldn’t, as the vendors of the technology made it clear that security clearance was needed - thermal-imaging technology is mainly used for military purposes and can be misused by terrorists - which requires a three-month assessment, not to mention the fact that the cameras are also limited.
So, now the question is: How will the technology be made available, particularly when there are three or four international series being played simultaneously?
The ICC is mooting for sponsors to subsidise the DRS, but to what end? Perhaps we will soon witness a “DLF DRS” or a “Reliance DRS” and successful reviews as “Citi Moment of Success”. The ICC seems to be changing cricket from a sport to an industry.
Limitations of the Snicko
The audio-tracking (Snicko) isn’t foolproof either. Albeit ICC has mentioned that audio-tracking comprises “clean and real time” replays from microphones in the stumps, it is still prone to technical mistakes. Let’s take a look at a few possible situations:
1. Let’s assume, Sachin Tendulkar offers a shot with his bat brushing the pad, and the ball passes by the bat at ‘the same instant’, the bowler appeals for a caught behind. The DRS aided by audio-tracking would detect the sound, but what’s the guarantee that the sound which is detected is of the ball kissing the bat? It could be sound of the bat brushing the pad. You might argue that the Hot Spot will detect the edge. If the Hot Spot will do that, what is the audio-tracking for? Is it just a formality?
2. What if the ball squeezes past from in between the bat and the pad, in a way that the bat brushes the pad and at the same instant, it touches the ball as well. In this scenario, two spots, left on the bat by pad and ball, will be overlapped and will be shown as 'one spot'. In this situation, how can the third umpire be sure that the ball has also touched the bat? How will umpire conclude now? It will be a conundrum for every official.
3. The most funny situation would be if a batsman assumes that he edged the ball and goes for the DRS after being given LBW. The Hot Spot would detect that there is no edge but the ball is landing outside leg-stump, which won’t be considered by the DRS as it will not be using ball-tracking or a pitch mat. What will be the decision now? Will the umpire give a ‘Not Out’ due to the fact that the ball was pitched outside leg stump? Or, will he give “Out” as the batsman challenged only because he assumed an edge? Another brain-teaser for umpires!
The above analysis makes it clear that the DRS is in dire need of rectification before it is made mandatory. Perhaps, it would be appropriate to give it a few more years so it can be fully understood.
The ICC’s decision to make it mandatory without ball-tracking was inevitable as the cricket’s governing body, the ICC cannot dare to take a step which nettles the majesty of the BCCI’s monetary supremacy.
The ICC, surely, has become a yes-man of the BCCI.