Guest blogger: Raju Mehta, Ranji player
The ICC introduced the DRS (decision review system) ostensibly to reduce umpiring errors in international matches. First, the players were allowed to have two unsuccessful reviews, and now in recent times, they have made these three unsuccessful reviews per inning because of Covid. This was because it was felt that due to the pandemic, the ICC’s elite panel umpires might not be allowed to travel, and inexperienced umpires may have to officiate in international matches. However, previously no balls were reviewed only when a wicket fell, but many transgressions by the bowlers were missed. This deprived the batsmen of an extra delivery and a free hit in white-ball cricket. To address this, the ICC has now made the third umpire to adjudicate for no balls and allowed the on-field umpires to concentrate at the business end, which is the batsmen’s end.
The drama of the players deciding whether to go in for a review at the very last second of the 15 seconds adds to the spectators’ excitement. Still, after the team has lost its reviews, they are at the receiving end of a bad decision as it happened to Australia when they lost all their reviews, and Stokes got a vital decision in his favour when he was palpably LBW to Lyon, the repercussions are enormous. In this case, it cost Australia an Ashes victory as Stokes guided England to an incredible win.
It does not make any sense for a team to lose a match because of an umpiring error simply because they had mistakenly exhausted their reviews. The other major sore point is the “Umpire’s Call.” It makes no sense a batsman is declared out or not out depending on how the on-field umpire has called it unless a substantial portion of the ball has been deemed to be hitting the stumps, particularly in an LBW decision. Thus the same batsman is ruled not out if the on-field umpire has called it so, but is ruled out for the same delivery if the on-field umpire has ruled him out! Does it make sense? A batsman should be out or not out, and the umpire’s call should be done away with.
If the umpire’s errors are to be reduced, then the marginal decisions like the LBW decisions should also be left to the third umpire. The obvious question then would be, are the on-field umpires only required to count the number of balls in an over? It really is a tough call if all decisions are left to the third umpire since even for low catches or on the fence, normally the third umpire comes into play, and he overturns the soft signal of the on-field umpire only if there is no doubt in the umpire’s mind.
Would it be worth considering having the referrals to be taken away from the players and left in the umpire’s hands? If there is any doubt in the umpire’s mind about any decision, he should be allowed to go for a referral. Also, if there is a blatant error by the on-field umpire, he should be asked to correct his decision by the third umpire. Maybe this will reduce umpiring errors, and the players would not feel deprived of justice. Will this lessen the drama for spectators? Maybe it will. Will it add to the delays in the smooth conduct of a game? With the multiple views and angles sought by third umpires, even for the most clear cut decisions, already a lot of time is being wasted.
With the introduction of concussion substitutes, wherein a like for like replacement is allowed, if a player is injured during play, whether it is a batsman being hit on the head while batting or a wicket-keeper being injured while keeping, the game is being turned around from what it traditionally was. Maybe this could be how things will ultimately evolve. It will be interesting to see.
The ICC’s cricket committee, which comprises of some of the best brains in the cricketing world, suggests changes from time to time. Some of the changes seem unfair. If a fielder is injured, he can get a substitute fielder to take his place. However, if a batsman gets injured, he is not allowed a runner to run for him! The batsmen at times were perceived to be taking advantage of the law regarding the runner; they would feign injury and get a much quicker player to run for him, particularly in one-day games. One wonders if all these proposed changes are well thought out and then introduced as they all have repercussions in the game.
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