The Decision Review System (DRS) is a system that allows cricket players to challenge decisions made by umpires during a match. It was first introduced in 2008 when Sri Lanka hosted the Indian cricket team. It was a new system which hadn’t been trialed in domestic cricket as yet but was directly introduced into the international arena. The BCCI and the SLC had agreed to be the ‘lab rats’ for this.
The DRS is a pretty complicated system and the rules on marginal LBW calls take time to get used to. India had a horrible time with the DRS and only made one successful review that season. On the other hand, Sri Lanka made 11 successful reviews. This was the first test series for Ajantha Mendis and Indian batsmen struggled against him. That combined with their inability to use the DRS effectively, India lost the series 2-1. Post this series senior Indian batsmen, including Sachin Tendulkar, did not take liking to this system (he has been a vocal advocate for the rejection of the DRS system). Since then, India has never used the DRS fully (including ball-tracking) in a bilateral series. However, India did agree to use the DRS without ball-tracking for the England tour in 2011. All other major test playing nations use the DRS in some form or the other. It is only in bilateral series involving India that the DRS isn’t used.
The DRS system isn’t perfect, but if one is able to improve the accuracy of decisions made in the game, it needs to be properly incorporated to reduce the number of human errors made. We’re not saying that the DRS is fool proof and that it gives us 100% correct decisions, a 100% of the time. But the DRS can be used to eliminate howlers and help remove errors that umpires make – they’re human too after all. The flaws in the system and it’s current application are ironed out, it could be applied universally for the better good of the all in the game.
The first, and one of the most important issues, is the cost and the kind of equipment available at the disposal of the third umpire using the DRS. For test series that take place in England and Australia, Hotspot and real time Snicko are used. But not all test series across the world have the availability of Hotspot. This sort of variance should be avoided. The ICC need to define a set of equipment which are to be used under the DRS which should be consistent across all cricket playing countries. To foot the bill for the equipment they could look at roping in a sponsor. Whenever a review is taken the commentators can call it the ‘XYZ review’. XYZ being the name of the brand which foots the bill for the DRS. If they aren’t able to find a sponsor to fully fund the DRS, the ICC should look at bearing some of the cost, thereby subsidizing the equipment in order to keep a level playing field.
The second issue is that of the umpire’s call. Under the current system we have a situation when 51% of the ball hitting the stumps is given ‘out’ if the umpire originally called it ‘out’; and the decision is ‘not out’ if 49% of the ball hits the stumps when the umpire originally gave it ‘not out’. Here, the centre of the ball with reference to the line of the stumps at the time of the impact on the pads is taken into consideration. The umpire’s call has to be drastically revised and an acceptable margin of error has to be put in place, depending on the ball-tracking mechanism capabilities. If there is a margin of error of 10% in the current ball-tracking system, then it has to be considered and not the current 51% for umpire’s call.
The third issue is the number of reviews a team has. While 2 are adequate per innings in test matches, 1 review per innings in an ODI is too few and no reviews in the T20’s is absurd. Teams have to be given 2 reviews per innings in all forms of the game. It might slow down the game a little, but this will ensure that a higher percentage of decisions are taken correctly.
The bottom line: One needs to embrace technology and think of ways to improve the system in order to improve the percentage of correct decisions being made. Rejecting a system entirely because it isn’t 100% accurate is hardly prudent for our teams.