Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

Interpretation is the problem, not DRS

August 7, 2013

The Decision Review System (DRS) in itself can be difficult to comprehend but what is hurting the game more is its varied interpretation by umpires.

The system was introduced to eliminate blatant errors in umpiring but it has failed to do so since there is still enough discretion resting with the umpires, who might or might not have faith in the technology that supports the system.

The third Ashes Test showed two examples of how DRS should not be interpreted.

In the first instance, Usman Khawaja was given caught behind off Graeme Swann and the left-hander reviewed it with no hesitation.

Kumar Dharmasena, the third umpire, after numerous replays had no evidence to support Tony Hill’s on-field call. There was no mark on the Hot Spot, the audio didn’t synchronise enough with the replays to suggest an edge and there was no obvious deviation to the ball’s trajectory after passing the bat.

Astonishingly, Dharmasena deemed all the evidence at hand inconclusive to overturn the on-field call and Khawaja had to walk back in disbelief.

It would have only been logical had Dharmasena advised Hill to overturn the original decision since he could find no evidence in support of the on-field call. The technology, then, would have seemed like a winner rather than the villain it has been made out to be.

Kevin Pietersen also suffered at the hands of Dharmasena, when the umpire backed another on-field call under the same circumstances that surrounded Khawaja’s dismissal.

Pietersen was given caught behind but replays couldn’t unearth any evidence to support the on-field call. There was no mark on the Hot spot and no deviation to the ball’s trajectory but the batsman was still given the marching orders.

Actually, Dharmasena was forced to give Pietersen out since he had already set an example in Khawaja case. At least, nobody can accuse Dharmasena of being inconsistent.

The point, however, is that both the decisions were wrong in principle even if some pundits think Pietersen did actually nick the ball.

The benefit of doubt should go to the batsman, as in the case of run-outs. The evidence should have the final say and had that been the case, both Khawaja and Pietersen would have been given not out.

Also, as the system stands now, the original decision is given too much importance over the evidence or the lack of it. Let the final call be made on the basis of evidence and nothing else.

The umpires may have made a close call and the system needs to allow for a correction on review. 

The players, and more importantly the game, need DRS and umpires too stand to benefit from it but only if they interpret it right.

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