I have always been a vocal supporter of the Decision Review System (DRS). Sure, it can be bettered and yes, there are grey areas but then it is a work in progress. It can be made perfect, even fool proof via the trial and error method but on one count there should not be any objections. Very basically it has the capacity to set right a wrong decision and that should always be its major selling point. On numerous occasions an erroneous decision by the on-field official has been corrected by the TV umpire after looking at various replays and with the benefit of slow motion technology.
However, I must admit that I agree with the many who found everything wrong with the decision against Suryakumar Yadav in the fourth T-20 between India and England. The debutant was going great guns on 57 when he was quite wrongly given out. First the on-field umpire KN Ananthapadmanabhan gave a soft signal of ‘out’ when David Malan appeared to have taken a low catch at deep square leg. His decision sparked off an intense debate as third umpire Virender Sharma remained unconvinced about whether it was a clean catch despite reviewing Malan’s pouch multiple times over a period that seemed like eternity. Finally, Sharma termed the evidence as ‘inconclusive’ which meant that according to the rules he had to stick with Ananthapadmanabhan’s soft signal ruling of out.
In the first place Ananthapadmanabhan was quite some distance away from where Malan completed the ‘catch’ and there was no way he could have been certain that it was taken cleanly, so how could he arrive at the soft signal of out? Secondly watching closely on TV, the slow motion replays suggested that Malan had grounded the ball. Indeed, there seemed to be enough grounds for Sharma to overturn the soft signal decision but he chose to play it safe and so ultimately Yadav got a raw deal.
Virat Kohli, obviously disappointed at Yadav being adjudged out, gave went to his feelings. I am no great supporter of Kohli and his outbursts but on this occasion the Indian captain had a point when he called the passage of play ‘strange’ and said that the rules around that part of the game need to be made clearer than the ‘grey areas’ that they currently are. Going further he was of the view that the umpire from square leg would not be able to see all that clearly and make a conclusive call. “Under the circumstances the soft signal becomes that much more important. I don’t know why there cannot be a sort of ‘I don’t know’ call,” he suggested.
Former England captain Michael Atherton was even more vociferous in his criticism of the entire passage of play terming as ‘nonsense’ the soft signal for outfield catches. “You have a soft signal from the umpire standing in the middle for a boundary catch and this is beyond me. I don’t know how the on-field umpire can see that the fielder has made a catch on the boundary.”
Former Indian batsman VVS Laxman was also forthright in his comments. “How can this be out? When you are not sure whether the ball was taken cleanly after watching so many replays using top class technology and still go by the soft signal of the on-field umpire I think is rule needs to be revisited and changed.”
Yes, as I said earlier the DRS is a work in progress and changes can be made in the grey areas like this one. There is always scope for improvement but the DRS per se should stay. In the long run it is good for the game.
(Partab Ramchand is a veteran sports journalist, the views expressed here are personal)