Once again there has been controversy in this Test about the use of the DRS. I already wrote my thoughts on the DRS in general, but this series has brought up some new points. Mostly the talk has been about the number of LBWs that have been given with the review system (never any mention that most of them were given out anyway) and how that caused the low scoring in this match.
I think, once again, that most of the criticism has been unwarranted. The DRS is changing how players have to play in that they are not necessarily safe even getting a big stride in. Whilst this is a change, it is not something batsmen cannot get used to. It may be easy to say from sitting on my settee, but one can never be out LBW if one hits the ball. Getting a big stride in and exploiting the benefit of the doubt used to ensure being given not out, but that does not mean all those ‘not out’ decisions were good. The principle of the LBW law has not changed: if one is hit on the pads and the ball would have hit the stumps one is out. It’s very simple and the other caveats of the ball having to pitch inside the line of leg stump and hit inside the line of off stumps have not changed either. The only thing that has changed is that the decisions are being made correctly now, instead of batsmen being able to exploit uncertainty. Now the batsmen must learn to hit the ball with the bat, which cannot be a bad thing. It will take some getting used to, but the necessary changes in technique will surely take place.
I have heard that it pointed out that the batsmen cannot always make contact with the ball and should be able to play with bat and pad together, but why? If one misses the ball and is bowled no one suggests one has been hard done by. The same is, or ought to be, true in this case. The onus must be on the batsman to hit the ball, not defend with his pad.
I have also heard it suggested that if the ball is only clipping the stumps it should be given ‘not out’ rather than ‘umpire’s call’. There is some merit in this. Theoretically, if the umpire has already taken ‘benefit of the doubt’ into consideration than there is no need for technology to do so. This, theoretically, is the situation currently in place. There has been some suggestion, and not unfounded I think, that the umpires are giving decisions out more regularly knowing that the DRS is there. I don’t think there is anything necessarily wrong with that, but if so the technology must give the batsman benefit of the doubt and give close decisions not out.
The final suggestion that I have heard that I want to address is that the DRS is the reason for all of these low scores. It has possibly played a role, but the batsmen have played brainlessly for the most part and a lot of the LBW shouts that have been given have been given on the field, not on review. On the low and slow pitches of the UAE, bowled and LBW are always going to be more likely than caught.
There are improvements that can be made to the DRS; in addition to the one given above there are improvements that need to be made to the technology. Virtual-Eye has been much less reliable than than HawkEye is the most notable one, but improvements to HotSpot are also in order and a version of Snicko that worked quickly enough to use in the DRS would be very nice. The system itself is a good one though. It may alter the way batsmen have to play on the subcontinent, but that will not kill the game and in this series at least has made it more exciting. Most importantly, there are more correct decisions being made now.