Tim Bresnan

Tim Bresnan’s (right) non-referral of a questionable umpiring decision is a reflection that players don’t trust the efficacy DRS fully © Getty Images

The Decision Review System (DRS) might not be foolproof, but the people handling the decision making have added fuel to the fire by giving some appalling decisions. Sarang Bhalerao dwells into the controversial system.
The 2013 Ashes series in England has caused copious heartburn as far as umpiring decisions go. In the ongoing Old Trafford Test on Thursday, Usman Khawaja attempted a drive off Graeme Swann but missed the ball by a country mile. Umpire Tony Hill declared Khawaja out — a decision which was immediately challenged by the batsman. Here is a man who is trying to cement his place in the Australian side. He warmed the benches on the Indian tour while his side was routed 0-4. He was dropped from the first Ashes Test, but got an opportunity to play in the second Test at Lord’s, where he scored a fighting half-century. But at Old Trafford he got the shock of his life when third umpire Kumar Dharmasena upheld Hill’s original decision.

Three things were pretty clear watching the replays:

1. The Hot-Spot didn’t show any edge.
2. There was no perceptible change of seam movement as the ball passed the bat.
3. There was a sound, but it did not suggest an edge.

It was a gargantuan blunder by Dharmasena under these circumstances to declare Khawaja out — a decision which could cost Khawaja his career.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd termed the decision as the “worst ever” he had seen by Dharmasena, who is currently the best umpire in the ICC Elite Panel.

This brings me to my original point: Is there confusion with regard to the implementation of the DRS? Are players challenging the calls in the hope that Hot-Spot might miss the edge or Hawk-Eye might come to the rescue? Are players taking resort of the DRS assuming that the discrepancy and the loopholes in the system give them a life?

Take David Warner’s case. He had clearly edged the ball in the first innings of the Old Trafford Test. When Warner edged the ball he immediately looked behind — a possible indication that the player knew that he had hit the ball. But there was a doubt in Warner’s mind. He had simultaneously hit the ball and the pad. He might have genuinely thought that he had missed the ball or, maybe, he was trying to take a chance that Hot-Spot might not have seen the edge. The issue of sound: Warner had a strong case here since the bat hit his pad. He might have thought that is where the sound came from. In the end the decision was plain simple: Warner was out.

Tim Bresnan’s case was interesting. He missed a pull shot and the ball hit his thigh en route to wicketkeeper Brad Haddin. Bresnan was declared caught behind. He didn’t go for the review. It’s quite possible they did not want to waste a referral on a nightwatchman. What if DRS proved otherwise? Maybe, it’s also a reflection that players don’t trust the efficacy DRS fully. Had the same kind of thing happened to an Alastair Cook or Jonathan Trott, it was logical to go for the review because these men are expected to score runs. Under the circumstances, the prevalent system seems flawed.

The umpiring hence comes under the scanner almost invariably for every appeal made by the teams. There is this pressure on them to be right all the times. The umpires might start to doubt their abilities if the players review straight-forward dismissals. In this era of cut-throat competition, players stand their ground even after nicking the ball to the slips. They want the umpire to declare them out. The edge of Stuart Broad in the first Test at Trent Bridge which was turned down brought the issue of umpiring inconsistency to the fore. Had Broad walked, he might have earned a warm applause of few, but had England lost the game he would have been ridiculed for “walking”.

DRS has got more decisions right than wrong. May be there are a few things that could be implemented. Even if the teams have exhausted the reviews and still if there is a blunder made by the on-field umpire, the third umpire should be allowed to have his say. This might improve the decision making. There should be a technology expert aiding the third umpire to eliminate howlers and possibly get rid of the confusion in the minds of the umpires.

DRS still has a long way to be perfect. May be it is 99 per cent accurate. But players will always hope that their case is special and falls under that one per cent zone. Until and unless that is taken care of we might see players standing their ground even after knowing that they are out.

(Sarang Bhalerao hails from a family of doctors, but did his engineering. He then dumped a career in IT with Infosys to follow his heart and passion and became a writer with CricketCountry. A voracious reader, Sarang aspires to beat Google with his knowledge of the game! You can follow him on Twitter here)