Reviewing The Decision Review System

I’ve been itching to revisit this since the first weekend of IPL, so let’s dig in. Remember the KXIP-Chris Jordan-Nitin Menon-short run fiasco? Here are two truths and a lie about it.

Umpire Menon made a mistake. Umpire Menon followed the rules. Kings XI Punjab lost the game against Delhi Capitals because of that incident.

Now, which one is a lie?

That one run, denied by human error, couldn’t be reviewed because the playing conditions didn’t allow it. But it also didn’t cost KXIP the game, it just felt like that because it happened towards the end of the game.

Yet, the team’s owners and fans were right about one thing: It mattered. It’s safe to say #AllRunsMatter. Short runs wrongly given. Harshly judged wides. Free-hits missed due to high full tosses not called. They all add up. Not just the ones we see in the last over of a close game. This is why the Decision Review System—it exists to arrive at the right decision—needs to evolve. In its current form, DRS is employed too often where not needed and too little where it is.

Here’s my suggestion and it needs a leap of faith: we should have less needless technology and put human instinct front and centre again. You’ve seen how players react after even a close run out. As one party erupts in certainty and celebration, the other starts walking, pausing at the boundary line only to confirm the inevitable. Cricketers know when they’re safe and when out of their ground, even when they’ve got a marginal stumping. Since most umpires have been cricketers, or have watched the game enough, they know too. The first thing I’d do is require umpires to give decisions on the field for every line call they currently review. Run outs. Stumpings. Short runs. The next thing I’d do is allow those line calls to be challenged by players with reviews.

Here’s what will happen: We will no longer waste time reviewing obvious run outs and stumpings. Instead players and officials will use their instincts to judge them, something they’ve grown up doing. In case the instincts scream they have been wronged, or it’s too close to be sure, they can review. Remember the weekend game where Ravindra Jadeja and Shreyas Iyer hugged after a direct hit? Jadeja was sure he had got his man while Iyer flashed him a knowing smile, assured he was safe. Imagine the added drama if one of them had to take a review. Similarly, I know the feeling when I’ve run a short run. I can feel my stride length change, feel my bat reach in vain for the line. In the game KXIP threw away, Jordan would not have felt that and he should be able to review the umpire’s call.

But then line calls are the easy ones, the least subjective calls in cricket.

Judgement calls are harder: Wides, waist-high full tosses and catches carrying to infielders. We don’t have enough reviews for these, especially wides, and we need to. In an Instagram Live with KL Rahul recently, Virat Kohli said he would like to be able to review wides and no-balls for height, so this is hardly a radical idea. For what is a review but a second judgement call with more information?

With so many cameras around, players should be able to say, ‘I’d like another human to re-look that decision, with better information.’ Then the third umpire can make another judgement call, which should overrule (or confirm) the first one. Giving an umpire a replay and the technology doesn’t mean they will get it right every time; these are human decisions and they will go wrong. We’re giving ourselves the best chance of getting it right and that’s a process I can make peace with as a player.

There will have to be a few caveats. Umpires should be allowed to send boundary saves and catches in the deep upstairs because those happen too far away to make trustworthy judgement calls. And the number of reviews available to players will need to be increased: Data analysis of likely reviews and some trial and error can help us arrive at a number that will discourage time wasting.

A better balance between technology and instinct is what we’re seeking. The cameras are here to solve our problems.


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