The DRS must be mandatory

I have not always been a supporter of technology in cricket. I’m a traditionalist at heart and love the old fashion notion of walking off stoically even when you’ve had a howler. I was very happy in 2009 that the system was not trialled in a series as important as the Ashes. Subsequent debacles in South Africa and the West Indies ought to have deepened my distrust, but the more I saw it used the happier I became with it. Part of it was just a matter of getting used to it, but also there was the added comfort of knowing that our batsman weren’t going to be given out to a howler at a crucial moment. The poor showing in the 06/07 Ashes was not entirely, or even mostly, down to umpiring decisions, but they played a part. They also started a slide that could have ended Strauss’ career, and England would probably not be as good now without him. It is frustrating for one’s side to get a wicket and have it not be given, but it is more frustrating I think to have a batsman unfairly given out. Even in its early teething problems the DRS leaned more toward keeping batsmen in than giving them out.

The DRS today still isn’t perfect. It never will be, of course, nothing is. HotSpot has trouble detecting faint edges, especially in warmer climates. Sometimes Hawk-Eye gives very odd looking results, and the display could be altered to more adequately reflect the margin of uncertainty. (It is certainly more variable than just ‘half a ball width’.) The manufacturers of HotSpot have already worked to improve their system and Hawk-Eye will improve as cameras get better and better as well. Even if the current technology were as good as it would ever get, however, I would support making it mandatory. Even now it is better than the human umpires. As much as I like Jonathan Agnew, his suggestion that technology not be adopted until it is 100% is silly. Any improvement is a good thing, any time a poor decision is overturned the game is better off for it.

It is also not true to suggest that having the DRS encourages players to disrespect or undermine umpires. In the time when the quality of an umpires decision could not be immediately and independently inspected it was true that players could undermine the umpires by questioning the decision, but that is not the case anymore. Now the umpire is going to be undermined if he makes a poor decision with or without the help of the players. If an umpire gets one wrong everyone in the ground or watching on telly will see the mistake immediately and it will be all over the back pages the next day, undermining him far more effectively than a player ever could. I doubt there is a single umpire in the world who thinks that he never makes a mistake (although I can’t remember the last time I saw Simon Taufel make one) or who would rather have that mistake shown endless times on TV than have it be simply corrected and the game moved on. By the same token it is quite possible to respectfully question a decision. No one is suggesting that players be allowed to crowd around an umpire like footballers (or Australians at the MCG last year).

Although there are purists such as the aforementioned Aggers who oppose the DRS, most of the vocal opposition has come from India. They are the main reason why the ICC has not implemented the DRS full time and they are the only board who still refuse to use it in their series. I have never heard a good explanation for their opposition, apart from the fact that they don’t think the technology is reliable. (Which is patently untrue, otherwise there would not be an option to use it at all.) They certainly aren’t traditionalists or interested in maintaining respect for the umpires. The refused to use the DRS for LBWs in England and it hurt them when Broad took his hat trick at Trent Bridge, but it was worse for England who had a few plumb decisions turned down. Now in Australia they refused any sort of DRS and have got two dodgy wickets for it. It’s probably not going to happen, but the other boards need to force the Indians to use the DRS next time the ICC meet. In the meantime I can only hope that Tendulkar gets a few horrible decisions in this and subsequent series.

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