Emotions over cricketing acumen sums up Rohit Sharma's DRS nightmare in 4th Test | Cricket - Hindustan Times
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Emotions over cricketing acumen sums up Rohit Sharma's DRS nightmare in 4th Test

Feb 23, 2024 07:41 PM IST

India lost all of their three reviews within 61 overs of the first innings against England in Ranchi

The Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS), as it was then known, was first trialled in international cricket during India’s three-Test series in Sri Lanka in 2008. Despite the scientifically-oriented Anil Kumble at the helm, India blew a succession of ‘challenges’ – their successful appeal percentage was less than 20 – while Sri Lanka displayed great smarts, using the system to their advantage as Mahela Jayawardene used his head, not heart.

India's captain Rohit Sharma looks on while fielding during Day 1 of the fourth Test between India and England in Ranchi(AFP)
India's captain Rohit Sharma looks on while fielding during Day 1 of the fourth Test between India and England in Ranchi(AFP)

So convinced were they that the system was flawed that, while the rest of the world embraced technology, India shunned the DRS in its reinvented avatar steadfastly for nearly a decade, until 2017. India’s distrust of the system was hard to understand because the DRS was introduced primarily to eliminate howlers, not offer a foolproof methodology that guaranteed 100% accuracy at all times. After all, if human error is excusable, then why not technological glitches, especially given that technology is a result of human endeavour?

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Today, it’s unthinkable that competitive international cricket – indeed, any big-ticket event – will be played without DRS. Indeed, its absence during the Under-19 World Cup in South Africa in January-February raised eyebrows. Why should the stars of tomorrow be denied the technology of today in a tournament as significant as the World Cup?

The use of DRS calls for calmness under pressure, more than anything else. Decision-making has to be swift – captains and/or batters have only 15 seconds to challenge the umpire’s call if they don’t agree with the decision – and firm. In Test cricket, teams are allowed three unsuccessful challenges per innings, with the proviso that if their challenge is rejected on the controversial ‘umpire’s call’, they don’t lose the review. It’s hard to argue with the logic or fairness of this process.

After all these years, however, the use of DRS hasn’t been in keeping with the progress made on other fronts. That’s both surprising and disappointing, because judicious use of the DRS can often be the difference between victory and defeat. Perhaps, teams don’t devote as much time to enhancing their DRS skills as they do to working on batting, bowling, fielding/catching and fitness, because otherwise, how can one explain the litany of errors that mar their decision-challenging prowess?

Ben Stokes has been a vocal opponent of the ‘umpire’s call’, particularly in this series after being convinced that Zak Crawley twice (in Visakhapatnam and Rajkot) received a raw deal. One wonders what the English captain would have made of India’s burning of their three unsuccessful challenges on day one of the fourth Test in Ranchi, which England finished on 302 for seven.

It could so easily have been much different had Rohit Sharma had at least one challenge in reserve when Ravindra Jadeja got one to rip past Ollie Robinson’s outside edge and pinged him on his pad, only for Kumar Dharmasena to rule in the batter’s favour. Replays confirmed that there was no bat, the ball had pitched in line and that it would have clattered into the stumps – three reds. England would have been 261 for eight after 80.3 overs. If only…

If only India hadn’t used up their third and final review in the 60th over, before the end of the second session. If only Rohit hadn’t followed the process of inclusive decision-making. If only the skipper hadn’t allowed his judgement to be clouded by the passionate and emotional entreaties of his colleagues, and primarily the bowlers concerned. It also doesn’t help that at the first hint of a dodgy decision that might entail the use of the DRS, six or seven players swoop on the captain with their individual opinions, something Dinesh Karthik alluded to on commentary.

The factors fielding captains consider when they ponder a DRS call for leg before are straightforward – whether the ball pitched in line, whether there was any bat involved, whether height could be a factor, and whether the ball would be smashing the stumps. Just grazing the stumps is still acceptable because then at least, the review won’t be lost. But opting for the ‘T’ sign in hope and optimism rather than any great conviction seldom brings the desired results.

The wicketkeeper is the captain’s best ally in such cases, as also catching men in front of the bat who have a decent view of whether there is an edge. The square fielder is in a good position to judge height. Beyond these, the others should have no business interfering. Rohit is generally good at reading the riot act. It’s time he started doing so when it comes to DRS conferences, otherwise Friday’s implosion won’t be the last in a series where unsuccessful challenges have far outnumbered successful ones.

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