After a week of hearing about the pros and cons of the DRS, I’m still unclear about one thing: why exactly is India — or specifically, the BCCI and one or two cricketers — opposed to it?
Here’s a list of India’s grievances with the DRS:
- I am not going to buy a life jacket that doesn't come with a warranty. [Dhoni, November 2011]
- It is the judgment of one system (computer) against the other (the umpire). — [Shashank Manohar, August 2010]
- I have even told the ICC that we have no problem with HotSpot. Our objection is to ball tracking. [Manohar holds his ground, last week]
- Sorry, we do have have problems with HotSpot - it is an expensive, monopolistic, military technology, and it can get stolen. [Unnamed BCCI source]
- I am not fully convinced with DRS. [In Sri Lanka, 2008], I was not convinced with many decisions. I did not feel comfortable ... I would rather go with HotSpot because that establishes the contact between the bat and the bowl. [Sachin Tendulkar, 2010]
- I am not against DRS, but I feel it will be more effective with the support of Snickometer and HotSpot. [Tendulkar, toning down his stance a shade]
- The DRS isn’t 100 per cent foolproof. [Ravi Shastri]
Here are our responses to these grievances.
One — there's no such thing as fool-proof technology in cricket. Period. There will probably never be one in our lifetime.
Some weeks back, I had argued that the LBW law is unique because of its predictive element. It predicts events that could have occurred. And in predicting lies the scope for error. When a trained human eye can't do it right each time, how do you expect it from a computer program with its predefined algorithm?
Show me a computer that can get an LBW correct every single time, and I'll show you the two LBW decisions involving India against Ian Bell and Alex Cusack at the World Cup.
Two — there's a selfish reason for umpires to be sceptical of technology.
Because A: it often makes them look silly. And B: the day we finally create what Shastri, Manohar and Srinivasan call "error-free" technology, umpires would be made redundant. Or at least, they will be reduced to restoring broken stumps and keeping custody of the ball.
Why else would you need human umpires when fool-proof computing systems can correctly determine all dismissals?
Three — We had argued earlier that instead of being a costly exercise, the DRS is a money-making machine waiting to be milked. When a decision is being reviewed, you have the unadulterated attention of your audience. Having found ways to market fours, sixes, catches and other assorted moments of mediocrity at the IPL, is the BCCI saying it doesn't know how to market moments when there's maximum audience engagement?
Four — Monopolistic? Isn't that precious coming from the BCCI? It will get stolen? This has Whiskey Tango Foxtrot written all over it.
Five — As for Tendulkar's contention about HotSpot and Snickometer, refer to Kumar Sangakkara's dismissal in the Cardiff Test. A caught-behind originally given not out was reviewed. HotSpot showed no clear sign of an edge. But Snicko registered a noise. So the third umpire gave Sanga out. Understandably, Sanga was shocked.
This only strengthens Response No. 1 — even good technology like HotSpot can be made to look silly in the wrong hands. Computers only throw up data. Humans interpret the data. Sometimes, they interpret it wrong. It's not the computer's fault.
Six — All major cricket teams except India favour — and more importantly, can afford — to implement DRS. Several Indian players favour it but the two who matter — Dhoni and Tendulkar — have helped shape the company policy to oppose DRS and are sticking to their guns. DRS helped overturn 34 out of 159 decisions at the first stage of the World Cup. In the semifinal, had it not been for a curiously favourable review, Tendulkar would not have played the innings that put India in the final. Think about that.
As some wise man said about technology: "I like my new telephone, my computer works just fine, my calculator is perfect, but Lord, I miss my mind!"