Tony Greig is a wide-ranging and perceptive commentator. We should be thankful that he took the opportunity of raising the issue of the DRS system on the morning of the second day of the Second Test Match at the P Sara when interviewing Mahela Jayawardene. This moment of review was inspired by the fact that Mahela had called in the DRS review when he was given out LBW by Rauf or Oxenford (I forget whom) late in the day after Mahela had crafted 104 runs following a disastrous start to the first innings (SL 30 for 3) – a crucial decision that influenced the subsequent unravelling – of the Sri Lankan innings …. In short a turning point as seen in retrospect.Unlike some other cricketers Mahela is as honest as intelligent. He indicated that he had reacted instinctively in calling for a review and that this call was an error. After ten minutes in the pavilion he had reached a calmer state and realised his mistake.
This comment was prefaced by the remark that (a) umpiring was “a tough business” and (b) umpires sometimes make “honest mistakes.” In other words it is important to have the DRS to rectify such honest mistakes. Mahela went on to say that as a consequence of the DRS,
- umpiring has improved over the past two years and
- it has had a calming effect on the umpires [by implication a contention that its availability re-assures the umpires that bad decisions can be rectified].
Going beyond Mahela let me contend that it also has a calming impact on the players and reduces – without eliminating – the potential for on-field contretemps of the Harbhajan-Symonds type.
Note too that Ian Bell was convinced that the lbw decision he received in the 2nd innings in Galle was not out but the DRS confirmed the umpire’s call. He was way forward but the ball hit him between wicket and wicket and would have continued on to hit the stumps. This was/is an instructive case. The old school of umpiring would never have given him out. The newer lot have learnt to make bold judgement calls on such adjudications and are prepared to give outs when their assessment indicates the probability of the ball hitting the stumps without resorting on an automatic negation.
I had a disagreement with Joe Hoad and Trevor Chesterfield once in Galle when I was in the press box watching the Windies play Sri Lanka. On the second day Gayle was hit plumb and low in front by Ajantha Mendis in the first over of the day. The umpire decreed it not out and the DRS appeal was turned down by the Third Umpire. Gayle was already in his hundreds and went on to make a double or triple century.
Though respecting the views of Hoad and Chesterfield, my reading said OUT; but I was puzzled that the DRS on TV did not display the Hawk-Eye trajectory after the ball hit the pads. Subsequently I discovered that the technicians had not been able to get it working at that point of time. So the result was due to the malfunctioning of DRS not its innate inaccuracies. BUT what a difference that decision made for the fortunes of that Test match.
Even with DRS and a good virtual eye/Hawk eye there are 50/50 decisions and the ICC, wisely, has decided to take a pragmatic course and abide by the field umpire’s decision in such instances. Again, where there is doubt, as when the England side thought they had Samaraweera caught off glove/thigh pad at short leg on the first day of the Second Test, the benefit of the doubt goes to the batsman.
The DRS adjudications – with Hot Spot as additional aid — may not be hundred per cent accurate, but they are far better than the degree of erroneous decision-making that prevailed in the past under the REGIME of those men in white.
When a technical failure in the DRS in the NZ-Saf series recently led to an outcry from some cricketers – a knee-jerk reaction of the type that Mahela indulged in when given out (hit on knee too) – a friend sent an item on this issue from cricinfo to me, implicitly suggesting that my stance was wrong. This shortcoming was not due to the format of the DRS, but due to a malfunction. If a town’s electricity supply is cut-off due to some machine malfunction, that town will not revert to candlelit methods of the past. So, even intelligent human beings with Ph.Ds indulge in ridiculous arguments.
Tony-Mahela Q and A, verbatim:
Tony: Tell us about the DRS and how important it is in these Test matches to get it right?
Mahela: I think it is [important to get it right]. There can be crucial issues. We saw in the First Test there were a couple of ones. It is tough for the umpires. Sometimes a lot of things happen out there with wickets turning a lot. They are bound to make honest mistakes and [it is best] to try and rectify those things. It is better for the game. Sometimes, out of disappointment like I did last night I asked for a review … strictly out of disappointment. It just happened and you think you are not out, but when you go back after ten minutes you realise, you know, it was a very good call by the way.
You know, the umpiring has improved a lot during the last two years since the DRS. They are more willing to give good decisions. And they realise that if they make honest mistakes that you can always rectify that. So, you know, it [the DRS] is a calming influence on them.
Tony: Well you chaps have done well with this [calling for DRS reviews]. Going back to that first DRS experiment with the Indians they have never recovered from that one, so you [Sri Lankans] are obviously doing the right thing so far. Congrats on your innings, ….