It is time for UDRS - Suresh Menon

2010 Nov 08 by Suresh Menon

Laxman is a mild-mannered gentleman and is unlikely to blame anyone, not even umpire Steve Davis who was on a hat-trick, having sent back two batsmen leg before despite inside edges.

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By Suresh Menon


While Harbhajan Singh thanked Sachin Tendulkar for his century (“he encouraged me, and told me that I could make it”) in the Ahmedabad Test, well might V V S Laxman have blamed Tendulkar for missing his. Laxman is a mild-mannered gentleman and is unlikely to blame anyone, not even umpire Steve Davis who was on a hat-trick, having sent back two batsmen leg before despite inside edges.

Had the UDRS (Umpires Decision Review System) been in operation, both Laxman and Zaheer Khan would have been reprieved. And the reason the UDRS is not being used in the series, or indeed in any recent series involving India is that Tendulkar does not favour it. Nor does Mahendra Singh Dhoni who has said, “I don't think it gives cent per cent result. If I am going to buy a life jacket, I want to be assured that it comes with a warranty. Similarly, I would prefer some sort warranty with it (UDRS).”

Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid support the UDRS, the former because he was unhappy with a couple of recent decisions. Dravid merely wants a guarantee of uniformity.

Neither Tendulkar nor Dhoni is immersed enough in the physics of projectiles (or indeed Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle) to argue from a technical standpoint, but they have a point about the accuracy. The predictive nature of Hawkeye, for example, is just that – predictive, and not actual, despite what excited television commentators might say.

Experienced commentators have observed that the predictive path more often than not shows the ball hitting the stumps. Michael Holding was once quoted as saying, “Get ready for the two-day Test if they use the predictive path of Hawkeye in the referral system.”

But the third umpire has a range of technology at his command. The equally predictive, but perhaps more accurate Hotspot is one. Then there is the old friend of the sportscasters, the slow motion replay and the super slomo which are not predictive at all. The idea is to arrive at perfection incrementally rather than in one massive bound. Most captains are happy to reduce the percentage of mistakes; Dhoni wants it to be a guaranteed zero before he gives his nod to the UDRS.

This is neither practical nor desirable. Not desirable because while other countries get the feel of the UDRS and gather the experience to know when to call for a review and when to let it pass, India will be denied this knowledge.

Even if Hawkeye and Hotspot do not inspire the Indians, the slow motion replays could still reduce the number of mistakes.

It showed, for example, that in Ahmedabad Kane Williamson who went on to make a century on debut was caught behind off Zaheer Khan on 56. Well might the UDRS have changed the course of the match.

Against Australia in that exciting Mohali Test, umpires made mistakes at crucial moments on the final day. Ishant Sharma was unlucky to be given out while Pragyan Ojha was lucky not to be given out as India won narrowly by one wicket.

Ricky Ponting, the Australia captain, summed it up best: “One thing I know about the UDRS so far is that you definitely get more correct decisions in a game of cricket than you do without it.”

South Africa, where India play next, are keen to have the review system, and although as hosts they can go ahead without consulting India, they are unlikely to do so.

As Bob Dylan might have said, “How many dismissals before India realize too many batsmen have been had?” The answer, of course, is blowin’ in the wind.