The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Do as the Ruler Says


Looking at the former Sri Lanka Coach Davnell Whatmore — who has exchanged his blue jersey for a green one — writhing in anger made me feel a bit uncomfortable while watching the proceedings of the first Test between Sri Lanka and Pakistan at the Galle Stadium.
He seemed to be turning purple while looking at some of the decisions that were given by the umpires during the match. He was quite animated and could not hide his true feelings. To me, watching the match, I had to agree with that poor chap as even I was of the view that some of the decisions were atrocious, to put it in a much-civilised manner.

At the same time, at the back of my mind, I was thanking former Pakistan Captain Imran Khan, who championed the idea of having neutral umpires to stand at all international matches, because if those decisions were given by local umpires they would have prompted the first cricket war between two countries.

In the exchanges of skill in the middle the Lankans were more disciplined and focused and deservedly won the game. But if all the decisions that were given during the four full days of the match were correct it would have been easier for the Pakistan team to accept defeat.

If that was the case, from which divine deities do we ask for intervention? Whoever it is, that divine power we seek solace from should also have a thorough knowledge of the game of cricket and moreover, should be neutral. Yet in these modern times reality says that divine intervention may not be the most plausible answer, but the ICC-mooted Decision Review System (DRS).

The ICC claims that the Elite Panel of Umpires hired by them to stand at international cricket matches generally hits the mark over 93% in reading right and the DRS was introduced to up that number and take their stake to the high nineties. Yet going by the number of mistakes that were made during the just concluded Galle Test, I feel the ICC’s claims should be challenged.

The DRS was initially put on the road in 2008 on an experimental basis when Sri Lanka were taking on Ritchie Rich of World Cricket India. The host Sri Lanka got eleven right DRS calls in the series to India’s one. Since that moment, the ICC might as well have withdrawn this facility. But it took the DRS system to the next stage. In June 2011 a compromise was struck when the world governing body agreed to make DRS with Hot Spot (according to availability) mandatory in all Tests and ODIs, with ball-tracking removed from the compulsory list.

But the joy was short lived. In October 2011 the ICC said the DRS was no longer mandatory, leaving it subject to bilateral agreement between boards, buckling under heavy Indian pressure. This is the spot where we are in today.

If the ICC decision remains at its present status and the hosts have to finance the Hot Spot aspect of DRS, and if India is not involved in the said series, the others could have the system in operation, to have the game of cricket cater to the cricket connoisseurs of technologically advanced today. We believe in this because cricket is considered a spectator sport and television magnates, especially in the Indian subcontinent, just embrace cricket.

Thinking back, in Sri Lanka the two Test series against England had partial DRS with the visitors we learn bearing a part of the costs. According to SLC sources the cost of the DRS full package is around Rs. 15 million. And Sri Lanka Cricket says it can’t afford the facility. We ask the SLC that if it is the cricket that matters, and they survive there because of cricket Rs. 15 million is not too big a bill in comparison to the other wasteful expenses that the SLC incurs.

After the game Pakistan’s stand-in skipper Mohammed Hafeez lamented, “One thing I want to say is that it is time for the highest authorities to make a decision about the DRS. It should be compulsory for every game. I feel as a player, not having the DRS puts a lot of pressure on you and that pressure goes to the umpires.

“If this technology can improve this game, then why not? The authorities should either go for it [DRS] or not (use it) at all.”
The DRS can be used to improve the game. Yet one cannot make any headway till the present ruler of cricket – India — opposes it. Maybe it is one ruse that India is using to demonstrate who the master in world cricket is. Maybe India must be remembering how England and Australia bullied them during the good old times.

But what India must learn is that these are ideas that go through a process which has been conceived by the Cricket Committee of the ICC. Certainly the Cricket Committee of the ICC has a better understanding of the game than its executive committee put together. But in reality it is interesting to note what transpires.

The application of the DRS, which was recommended by the ICC’s Cricket Committee and by its Chief Executives Committee, met an expected and swift end at the ICC’s Executive Board meeting in Kuala Lumpur, last week. It is believed the issue was discussed at the meeting but was not put to a vote. This came to pass a day after India publicly and plainly repeated its opposition to the DRS, when most other countries supported it.

This goes to prove that the ICC is a toothless organisation. Though the rest of the cricket community is convinced, along with them, that the DRS can be used for the betterment of the game, the ICC does not want to cross paths with India. Yet countries like Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh will say that they cannot afford the system in their bilateral series.

Then we come back to position zero. The ICC must sit tight and think of ways of footing the cost of the DRS and offer it to all top cricketing nations as part of its mandatory service. Then cricket will be the winner and the quality of the game will surely go up a few notches.

If every other country is using the DRS other than India (when they are part of a tour), the rest of the world along with the ICC would cut a new niche. Then as time goes by even the rich kid down the lane may begin to cry out for a hidden toy.

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