Let us start with the last one. It was just too bad that MS Dhoni was given out off a no-ball and that the video replay shown was the wrong one. What are the odds of that happening? Remote would be the answer when so much cricket is happening all around, year after year. Then the ICC goes on to apologize and gives a perfect explanation as to why this was just a random incident, likely not to happen again soon. Plus there isn’t really anything anybody could do about it. After all, they couldn’t ask the Indian captain to bat twice in the second innings, now could they?
Knowing the way he plays his cricket, Dhoni would have said to himself, ‘too bad, s**t happens!’, and shrugged it off. After all this is the season to think so, what with movies and real life incidents (both on and off the sports field) being a true pointer. Though having said that, the timing of this incident is of peculiar note, putting matters into sharp perspective. Only in the past week did we witness a weird compromise being sorted out between the ICC and the BCCI in Hong Kong, and pretty much that four letter word used above will summarise what it was all about.
Two different sets of rules regarding LBW decisions are now prevalent in world cricket – one that applies whenever Indian cricketers play and the other when they don’t. The BCCI’s acceptance of the use of DRS - with Hot Spot and without Hawk Eye - only underlines that they are not against technology as such. Instead they are against the parts that leave much to contention. You cannot really blame them, for what is the point of showing to the maddening crowds on the big screen, whether the ball hit the batsman’s pads 2.5m away from the stumps or not. Having witnessed such a moment of utter confusion at the recent 2011 ODI World Cup leads one to think if the original format of the Hawk Eye was the best one?
That was employed in the India-Sri Lanka series in 2008, a first-time ever when such an aid was deployed for the umpires’ benefits. It was known as the UDRS then, and the Indians weren’t charmed enough by it. The main point though is that it left out the part where the ball’s trajectory after impact is predicted and umpires were asked to make their own calls. It was a truer aid to decision making than its current format where much is left open to interpretation of various vested interests in this sport. Why, only if the idea of the pitch matting had been retained in the latest form of DRS, we would have still witnessed this aid in its purest form!
The inclusion of pitch matting would have allowed umpires to ascertain whether the ball was delivered and had an impact on the pads, both in line with the stumps. A watered down version of the Hawk Eye surely but enough to maintain consistency of decision throughout the cricketing world. Now, the Boards are allowed to decide whether or not they will use Hawk Eye and knowing the BCCI the answer isn’t going to be in the affirmative. What happens when TV replays that do make use of pitch matting and Hawk Eye aids show that the decisions given – or not given for that matter – have been poorly judged? This scenario is especially expected to play out when India tour Australia later in the year but it is doubtful if the BCCI will have learnt its lesson until then.
Even so, they are not the only ones to blame. Do we berate Ferrari for expressing their powers regarding matters of Formula One? Don’t the different associations of world football pull FIFA in their own directions whenever some bidding or voting is to take place? So how is it wrong for the BCCI to deploy power tactics when they enjoy the highest seat in cricket? Didn’t the other boards do so when they were atop the same ranking not too long ago? It is just that the balance has shifted and the direction that the Indian Board wants to take is a bit distinct from that of the world governing council. Perhaps that is the big difference from how Cricket Australia and England Cricket Board used to do business earlier, and truth be told, none too many are really liking it. So what, would be the BCCI’s retort!
Surely then, the ICC never expected them to cow down and accept the DRS for what it was. Nor could they expect to let the system wither away and die, because to be honest every sport does need technology today. If matters came to a head, they could always have exerted themselves and put the matter to vote. With everyone else aligned against them, the BCCI wouldn’t have had much to stand upon and hence would have had to agree this ruling. Furthermore, it wouldn’t have allowed them the high ground of getting things done their way and still come out looking as if they are the righteous protectors of this sport. Instead in doing things the way they eventually transpired, the ICC has allowed for a host of anomalies to take birth in the future, what with a dual set of rules in place.
When s**t happens, there does come a time when it eventually hits the fan. World cricket is only slowly but surely moving towards that meltdown moment.
(Chetan Narula is the author of soon-to-be-released Skipper: A Definitive Account of India’s Greatest Captains. His Twitter feed is here.)