DRS top-up will only be useful if the system becomes fool-proof

A nightmarish Ashes series had exposed numerous flaws in a framework that is tipped to move decision making towards perfection © Getty Images

The International Cricket Council’s (ICC) chief executive committee meeting agreed to provide teams with a review top-up at the end of 80 overs in an innings in a Test match, whereby they would regain their lost chances. Nishad Pai Vaidya argues that only a fool-proof system would make it more effective and also discusses some other issues.
It was obvious that the Decision Review System (DRS) would be the major talking point at the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) chief executive’s meeting. A nightmarish Ashes series had exposed numerous flaws in a framework that is tipped to move decision making towards perfection. Although, there were a few instances which highlighted the lacunae over the years, the Ashes 2013 was a real eye-opener for the authorities. But, they came up with the most interesting suggestion — that of a review top-up after 80 overs in an innings.

As things stand, each side has two reviews at the start of an innings. If they get one wrong, they exhaust an option. However, the new provision, which is on trial, brings back the lost reviews at the end of 80 overs in an innings. It is quite similar to the facility available to the players in tennis, wherein their reviews are refreshed after each set. However, since the DRS itself is under the scanner, an increase in the reviews has come as a bit of a shock, although it is only on trial from October 1.

The top-up scheme does reflect the tactical aspect of reviews. The captains have to follow their team’s instinct and also evaluate the situation before taking it to the third-umpire. So, they were cautious on many occasions and saved their reviews for more convincing calls later. Now, that they have a top-up available, they may be more proactive in using the reviews. At the same time, many times we have seen decisions go against a side that has lost all its reviews. They now have hope after the 80th over with all their options in store.

But, how much would this help improve the system? It certainly helps the teams who would want to challenge the decisions. The main issue here is its application and the lack of uniformity. There were too many howlers during the recent Ashes, when one piece of evidence was considered for one particular dismissal, but was ignored for another. That is something the ICC would have discussed as they need to move towards a more fool-proof system. If that isn’t addressed, expect more howlers with the team’s regaining their reviews. There has to be a concrete guideline on the evidence considered before making a decision.

Apart from the DRS, there were other important aspects discussed at the meeting. One of the most encouraging results was that if a One-Day International (ODI) is reduced to under 25 overs each innings i.e. before the start of the match, then there would only be one ball used. As per the current rules, a new ball is used at each end during the start of the innings and it is alternated throughout. Thus, at the end of the fifty overs, each of them would be used for 25 overs each. So, the ball does remain harder and the batsmen do have more of an advantage after the early spell. Now that this rule isn’t applicable for such reduced games, it would even things out and may help the bowlers a little as well. The ball wouldn’t be very fresh throughout the innings and the spinners may be in a better position.

Perhaps, one of the most encouraging announcements was that of the Test Championship. The classical format needs a push and a more competitive framework would encourage a positive approach from the teams. Also, the ICC has amended the Code of Conduct and a change in captains is not permitted if they swap in the middle of a tournament. Remember, during the ICC World T20 2012, Kumar Sangakkara captained Sri Lanka in one game to protect Mahela Jayawardene. Although they justified it by saying that it was to improve their luck at tosses, such excuses will no longer hold fort.

So, although the DRS issue may have stolen all the limelight, there were other important decisions made at the meeting. Those developments have been encouraging, but have sadly been eclipsed by the fierier problem.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)