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DRS decisions are not infallible

Two incidents within half an hour on the first day of England’s second test against India prove that the process for technology reviewing decisions is not perfect. It is only when the umpire has the right data and uses it correctly that it adds to the spectacle. 

DRS in cricket has had a longer history than review systems in many sports. On-field umpires have been able to review some decisions to a third umpire since 1992 and a formal player review system began in 2008. Since then, the technology has changed but the principle has remained: to overturn conclusively incorrect decisions. 

The first incident was a contentious stumping. Rohit Sharma took a big step forward as he played a ball from Jack Leach and Ben Foakes whipped the bails off. The umpire was uncertain so sent it upstairs. The leg side side-on camera angle suggested that crucially there might have been a single spike behind the line. The stump cam, from behind, suggested that spike was on the line and thus Rohit’s magnificent innings should have come to an end. 

It is impossible cannot say whether his boot was on the line or behind it. Supporters of the different nations will watch the same pictures and come to opposing conclusions. But we can conclude that the umpire did not have the angles he needed. Multiple times he asked for the “reverse side-on angle” but to no avail. The DRS cameras had a leg-side view but seemingly no off-side footage. This fails to follow the minimum requirements as set out in the DRS protocols for a broadcast game which mandate side on cameras from both sides of the wicket. Would it have shown a conclusive picture? We shall never know. 

The second review was objectively handled badly. England appealed for a catch as Rahane appeared to have gloved the ball after it had hit his pads and Ollie Pope snaffled it at short leg. With the umpire unmoved, England’s captain Joe Root immediately reviewed and the chaos began. 

First, the third umpire checked for an edge as the ball initially passed the bat. This was not in question. The ball clearly missed the bat (and so there was no line). The third umpire declared himself satisfied that Rahane was not out caught. 

Second, as the DRS protocol requires, the TV umpire assessed Hawk Eye for an LBW that was evidently going down the leg side. Crucially, despite England’s on field protests, he did not play the footage through until the ball was dead. Once the play continued with Rahane still at the crease, the broadcaster showed the vital clip. Using the same UltraEdge tool available to the third umpire, they proved that there was a noise as the ball passed the glove after ballooning off his pad. Rahane should have been given out. 

The frustration comes from the fact that this is the type of decision that DRS exists to remove. It is understandable with so many aspects to work through that the on-field umpire might not get the correct decision at full-speed. It is less forgivable for the TV review to not roll through the footage until the ball becomes dead. England were given back the review by the match referee: proof the review was handled incorrectly. The DRS protocol, however, does not appear to mandate that the play is followed in its entirety – an oversight the ICC would do well to correct. 

Ultimately, these two decisions did not cost England many runs. Rohit soon walloped a ball to a man in the deep and Rahane was out bowled a few balls later. The potential for these two set batsmen to have scored heavily, however, should be a wake up call to the ICC. For DRS to be effective, it has to have sufficient angles to come to a decision and to be applied correctly. This day’s play has shown two different fallibilities. Like any tool, DRS only works when it has the right materials to work with and an effective operator. 

Image: Wikimedia via Creative Commons