Challenge the decision review system

Last year the Decision Review System (DRS) was mandatory… for all of about four months. The ICC then, in their infinite wisdom, reverted back to their previous stance where the use of DRS had to be agreed upon by both competing sides. Complete and utter madness.

Then just last week the issue popped its head up again at the ICC Executive Board meeting. The ‘universal application’ of DRS had been recommended by both the ICC’s Cricket Committee and Chief Executive Committee but apparently that means absolutely nothing because it didn’t even get put to a vote. Again India are the sole hold-outs, standing firm in their opposition to any mandatory use of DRS at an international level. And, equally unsurprising, is that the ICC have said that they won’t be pressuring the BCCI to conform any time soon. But, you know what India, perhaps having DRS on-hand in your most recent tours of England and Australia might have come in handy…

Personally I’m a strong supporter of the DRS, I like the technology and believe it adds a new – interesting – dimension to the modern game. But the best thing about it is that it allows for incorrect decisions to be overturned. Just now I watched as Shane Watson was given out LBW, he reviewed the decision and sure enough his instincts were correct, the ball was missing the top of leg – decision overturned, and the game continued without skipping a beat. Then five minutes later, this time an LBW appeal was turned down, England challenged believing it was surely out, quick review revealed the ball to be hitting outside off – so, the not out decision was correct. Again the game continues. Great stuff.

But, and at this point it’s a huge sub-continental-sized ‘but’, if the DRS is going to be truly successful, and if people are going to have real faith in, and acceptance of it, then there still needs to be a few tweaks. Most importantly it needs complete buy-in from all international cricket boards, yes, India, I’m still looking at you. Clearly, the ICC’s approach of seeking unanimous agreement is not working, maybe it’s time to go with a majority vote instead, if 9 out of the 10 full members want it, then the BCCI will just need to suck it up and move forward.


Pretty much all of the technology that is currently in use started life as things that were introduced to add extra interest to tv broadcasts. They were, initially ‘gimmicky’, tools introduced for entertainment purposes. Hawk-eye, strike zone, hot spot, super slo-mo, snicko etc. While this technology is great it comes at a cost. In countries like Australia and England, where TV networks have bigger budgets and better resources, the technology is readily available, but because of the expense, it currently makes it somewhat prohibitive for lesser cricketing nations like Zimbabwe and Bangladesh to be able to offer the same level of technology for international matches hosted in their own backyard. Ideally the ICC should be looking at some form of cost-sharing between all the full member countries to allow for the same level of DRS to be available no matter where teams are playing.

Hawk-eye is brilliant 99% of the time, I’m pretty sure I’ve only see it completely mess up the tracking of a ball once or twice. One of those occasions was during last year’s Sri Lanka/Australia test series, a ball that in the video replays was clearly turning a mile from off to leg, was tracked by hawk-eye showing that it was going straight on – a result that ended in an incorrect dismissal. But even this mess up shouldn’t have been an issue, because I’m fairly certain that the third umpire has eyes, and he should be using them in conduction with the ball tracking, surely he had to have seen the turn on the ball even if hawk-eye couldn’t pick it up. Surely. Everyone else saw it. The third umpire needs to look at both, comparing the actual replay to see that it matches with what hawk-eye is suggesting, and to have the power to overrule (or just ignore) hawk-eye if and when the need arises.

Simply for the sake of consistency make the same set of technology available at all international venues, in all countries, not just some technology at some venues and not at others. For some of the innovations, like hawk-eye, it’s all or nothing, second-rate ball-tracking for example is almost not worth having and only leads to problems like the magical not-turning-but-really-turning ball mentioned above. Universally introduce ‘hot spot’ and ‘snicko’ into the mix, give umpires absolutely every chance possible to get the decisions right. The “did he or didn’t he” snick it is probably the hardest thing to for an on-field umpire to get absolutely right. The keeper and slips will always hear the edge (or at least think they did), the batsman might feel it, they might not – just like, some will walk, most will not. But in reality what chance do any of them have of really hearing it, especially when you factor in environmental noises, crowd noise etc. Hot spot and snick should fix this instantly. I’m guessing the technology for hot spot is pricey, which is why its not always available, but shouldn’t every test ground already at least have stump microphones in place that could be used for snick?

At the moment they’re only really used to produce some pretty pictures for TV viewers, but it would also be worth investing in more ultra-high speed cameras – invaluable for all those occasions where something appears to happen in-between frames – if you’re camera is running at 1000 fps this isn’t going to happen. No more 50-50 run-outs or stumpings. No more ‘did the catch carry’ nonsense. No more ‘did it hit the bat or the pad first’ close in catches. Guaranteed.

The Third Ump.

Give him more power. Let him override a shocking decision regardless of whether its been referred or not. He’s already mic’d up to the on-field umpires, as soon as an on-field decision is made he should be reviewing it – and relaying his feedback straight back to the on-field umpires. It’s not going to slow anything down, trust me. Eliminate situations like Shaun Marsh’s “dismissal” in Sri Lanka last year, where Sri Lanka appealed, Tony Hill gave it out, and then a simple replay clearly showed that it missed anything resembling bat or glove by about a foot. Still not sure exactly what went through Marsh’s mind, I suspect that he just forgot that he could review it, if that’s the case massive kudos to him for just accepting the shocking decision and walking off. I would have been inclined to go and wrap the bat around Tony Hill’s ears.

How many reviews?

Currently in Tests is two incorrect decisions per team per innings, in ODIs and T20s its just the one. With regards to Tests, is two too many, or not enough? I’ve heard arguments both ways. Having two means they can be used up in a very short space of time, but it also means, or at least should, that captains think carefully about what they review. Give them too many reviews and they’ll be challenging every decision. Learning when to review is a skill that players and captains need to develop, I’ve seen so many players throw away reviews challenging decisions that were very clearly out – which in the limited overs arena, where you’ve only got the one to play with, is a terrible thing.

Any review that comes back with “umpires call” should not result in the referring team losing that referral, it was obviously close. Only ‘penalise’ teams for shocking referrals … things like a claimed slips catch that clearly – and obviously – bounces a foot in front of the fielder, or a absolutely plumb LBW ruling. Really bad calls, like the catch scenario, could carry harsher penalties such as stripping all remaining referrals, and even penalising the umpire for letting them refer it to begin with. If you discourage the bad use of referrals teams will learn when and how to use them and everyone will be better off.

Perhaps what would make more sense is to split the system in two – referrals/reviews and challenges. Where referrals/reviews are something that the umpire has access to, as often as needed, much like they do for run-outs, stumpings and suspect catches. Then add to this things like checking an iffy LBW decision, or the presence of a faint edge. Separate to this, would be a limited number of challenges where the players can contest an on-field umpiring decision (obviously not much point in them challenging a referred decision…) With this structure, the current 2 referrals in Tests, 1 in limited-overs should be more than sufficient.

Too much of a good thing?

Some people are of the opinion that DRS is bad for the game. Different people have different opinions, some dislike it because they think it slows things down, some think its not in the the spirit of the game (and game changing bad decisions are?) and some are just BCCI board members. But the thing is, the particular form of the game where I’d argue the DRS is most important, Test matches, is a “slow” game by nature – it is also the format where a bad decision or two can drastically change the course of a match.

If the technology is reliable – which it is – and challenges/reviews are only used at appropriate time, and players/teams (even umpires) are penalised for reviewing things that clearly shouldn’t be referred – for example the in last year’s Australia v Sri Lanka test series, it seemed like SL reviewed every decision that went against them, with hardly any getting reversed – then ‘slowing the game down’ should never be an issue.

And if the purists out there are still worried that the overuse of the DRS will put further pressure one being able to get through a full 90 overs in a day’s play, then there is a simple solution for that too. Fix the damn bad-light rule… but that’s a topic for another day.