UDRS: Cricket's Friend or Foe

Jaipur. India has never been a fan of the Umpire Decision Review System abbreviated as UDRS or DRS since it first used it in an away test series against Sri Lanka in 2008. The Indians made a total mess of it, as Mendis and Murli rattled the Indian batsman with good help from the UDRS. The visitors were not at all prepared to use the system and made all the wrong calls, eventually loosing the test series 2-1.

Since then, the BCCI has been strongly opposing this ‘flawed’ system. The Board’s reluctance to avoid the DRS has been termed as stubborn by some and muscle flexing by others. ICC can force the use of DRS in its own event like the World Cup or the Champions Trophy but not in a bilateral series. BCCI has never agreed for the use of DRS in any series after ICC introduced it in 2009.

The current furor started when India told ECB that it doesn’t want the DRS for the upcoming India’s tour of England and things became worse after Daryl Harper handed couple of bad decisions to India in the second innings of the first test against Windies at Jamaica.

The question everybody asks is why the BCCI remains resistant of DRS even when India won the World Cup despite DRS being used in the tournament. The answer is here, two of the biggest controversies concerning the DRS during the World Cup involved India, in the first case they were the victims while in the other case they were the beneficiaries of the DRS.

In the league stage of the World Cup England were chasing India’s 338, Ian Bell was given not out after a DRS review even after he looked plumb in the replays relayed at the giant screen. The reason being stated that he was struck 2.5 meters away from the stumps, and Billy Bowden gave the benefit of doubt to the batsman. Bell, convinced that he was out had already started to walk towards the pavilion before he was called back. Dhoni fumed over the incident terming it as an adulteration of technology and human intention.

However in the semifinal clash against Pakistan, Sachin Tendulkar, who has been a staunch critic of the DRS himself, was benefitted from it. In the 11th over, bowled by Saeed Ajmal, umpire Ian Gould gave him out LBW when he was on 23. When referred for DRS, the decision was over turned and the little master then went on to score 85 which eventually turned out to be a match winning inning. He also won the man of the match award in the game. After the match, Ajmal expressed bafflement, claiming that he had bowled an arm ball which appeared to be an off spinner in the replays and alleging that the ball tracking system superimposed the wrong ball.

DRS was introduced to improve the level of accuracy in international cricket and to eradicate howlers and controversies related to umpiring. Unfortunately, it has been able to solve none of the two problems significantly. In addition to the above to examples of the World Cup, who can forget the tiff between Aleem Dar and Ricky Ponting during the fourth Ashes test in 2010 or when Daryl Harper forgot to raise the volume of his video feed and adjudged Graeme Smith not out against England in 2010 when he has clearly nicked it.

Everybody would believe that in the current format UDRS is not 100 per cent full proof. All the three technologies, i.e. the ball tracking system, the Snicko and the hotspot used for the UDRS are not at all accurate. One cannot judge the trajectory of a cricket ball using a technology which is used to track flight paths of missiles, simply because a ball behaves differently on different pitches while missiles fly in the air. Talking of Snicko, Harsha Bhogle once tweeted, “in 2007 dinesh karthik was given out, Snicko showed nothing. When i said bad luck, he said "why, I hit it!"”

Hotspot too is not completely dependable by now. To sum it up, we can say that UDRS is not that consistent as it is expected to be. Also, the cost of UDRS per match day is around $ 50,000 almost equal to three human umpires per match day. This means the total cost of umpiring for a day’s cricket is around $ 100,000 and that too doesn’t ensure 100 per cent error free umpiring.

One would agree that UDRS has increased quality of decision making, but it has not been uniform. Also, in the past, India has always been at the receiving end of other countries’ conspiracy to gain some undue advantage against them. In 1974, there was a rule introduced, no more than 5 fielders on the leg side, this was done to negate the Indian spinners. In those days India didn't have the power to oppose, they do have it today, but it doesn’t mean that they should do it to avenge all those wrongdoings. Instead, they should use it for the betterment of the game.

UDRS is an evolving system and it should be given time to reach its precision point, in the meantime the cricketing world should be open to discuss methods to improve the system and other ways of improving the quality of umpiring instead of stubbornness on individual person’s or board’s stand.

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