Sports - Sunday Musings

ICC playing dollar politics with DRS

Once a cricketing higher-up speaking ‘off the record’ was explaining how the Indian delegation came to the ICC executive committee meeting and spoke against the Decision Review System (DRS) with its own version of defence and called the new system the ‘Dravid Removal System’.

This was after India’s disastrous 2011 England tour during which they lost their collar as the number one Test playing nation and thus made way for the Englishmen to wear it. The Umpire Decision Review System was first introduced in Test Cricket for the sole purpose of reviewing the decisions made by the on-field umpires in the case of a batsman being dismissed or not. The new review system was officially launched by International Cricket Council on 24 November 2009.

Even India’s first taste of the DRS was an unsavory experience. It was against Sri Lanka in 2008. In the three Tests played here, India lost the series 2-1 to Sri Lanka when the system itself was on review by the ICC and introduced for the first time. There the Lankans under the shrewd captaincy of Mahela Jayawardene called it right more than twice as well as their counterparts in the exchange of calls.

On August 10, 2008 well known cricket website Cricinfo wrote “Sri Lanka have had the better of the review system so far in the series, with captain Mahela Jayawardene particularly making some superb calls in the field on the first day of the Test, with lbw shouts against Rahul Dravid and Gautam Gambhir, initially given not-out by the on-field umpire, were upheld on review.

Trevor Bayliss, the Sri Lanka coach, was for the system. "We've had a number decisions turned around in our favour. The other way of looking at it is sitting here and complaining about seven or eight wrong ones," he said on Saturday.

The story goes on to prove that the DRS has been a nightmare for the Indians in spite of them winning the 2011 Cricket World Cup with the DRS system in operation. Why India is against the system may be a personal opinion of some strong playing individual, but what most other playing members in world cricket feel is that if they have apathy towards it they must confine it to home.

What has happened here is more akin to what happened to Sri Lanka in Geneva where the stronger nation steamrolled its way through the UNHRC to get a consensus. There, the United States and its allies saw to it that their opinion on the matter was driven home.

Here, in cricketing circles, India is the strong-arm nation as a result of its dollar power and its one billion plus cricket market. In this the money-driven game, even the boards of other cricketing nations have to fall in line with India. Then, came the IPL dollars and the players were obliged to be in line with India. For instance, players of the calibre of Lasith Malinga and Chris Gayle have begun to pay more heed to their IPL obligations than their own countries’ international commitments. However that is another argument to be taken up on another date.

It seems even the ICC falls on its knees to please India. Once the ICC got brave and made the DRS mandatory to all Test playing nations, but then under sheer pressure from the India dollar bag, the world body subsequently took a step back and made the system subject to an approval between the two teams involved in a series.

I was rather surprised when Australia bowed to India’s call to go without the DRS till I learnt that it was a mandatory agreement between the two parties involved in the series. Yet the Indians in spite of their reservations about the DRS had one of their worst tours in Australia as far as the Test series was concerned. Adding to their woes the Indians did not make it to the finals of the Commonwealth Bank Series limited overs tournament, which also included Sri Lanka, and then failed again in the Asia Cup Tournament that was played in Bangladesh.

Recently ICC Chief Executive Officer Haroon Lorgat talking about the DRS system said, “Now the ICC panel of umpires has hit a target of 94% correct and what we want with the Decision Review System is to go at least four notches higher.”

Yet at this end we feel that when the DRS is in operation even the ICC panel of umpires tends to get smarter as it is their reputation that is at stake. During the first Test between England and Sri Lanka umpires Asad Rauf of Pakistan and Rod Tucker of Australia hardly made a mistake and even the two captains were rather reluctant to ask the question and risk losing a review.

At this time we pose this question: The ICC chooses a panel of f-cricketers to form the Cricket Committee which formulates innovations to IMPROVE the game. The recommendation to have the DRS was mooted by a pre-2008 Cricket Committee.

Then the ICC had a trial run and was satisfied with the implementation and came up with the ruling that it was to become mandatory in every form of international cricket. Then, after India’s English debacle, the ICC Board of Directors bent backwards and changed the rule and made the DRS system subject to the consent of the two playing countries during a given series.

The original decision was taken by the ICC on the recommendations of the Cricket Committee which is empowered to suggest improvements to the game. However the decision to revise the ICC Cricket Committee’s recommendation was taken by a set of men who have not played the game at the same level that the Cricket Committee members of the ICC have played.

Then is it right for the ICC Board of Directors to revise a decision recommended by the Cricket Committee and approved by the ICC? What happens here is a clear division of cricket -- International Cricket with DRS and International Cricket without DRS. Just imagine in two test matches that are being played simultaneously one batsman is trapped in front of the wicket and is not given out by the umpire, but in reality the ball is in line and is hitting the wicket. This batsman goes on to score a century and as a result his country wins that Test match or the ODI. In the second instance the same happens, but, because of DRS the correct decision is given and the country loses the Test or the ODI. This may be circumstantial but it is a reality.

The next point is that if the modern gadgetry is utilised in a series the whole lock, stock and barrel should be at hand for the umpires. Now during the current England-Sri Lanka series, the hot-spot technology is not being used. When asked why, a Sri Lanka Cricket official said that they could not afford it as it was costing the board a cool sum of seventy thousand dollars.

This is a sad situation. If the ICC is coming up with a recommendation it should also make sure that it is used by all countries involved in the game. At the same time if a country is using the system it also must make sure that it gets the full complement of equipment and not a fraction of it. After all this is very serious international cricket and not a game played by the flannelled fools anymore.

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