UDRS: Bane or Boon?

Mahinda Wijesinghe … being a reprint of an old article

Efforts by the ICC for the Umpires’ Decision Referral System sometimes also known as Umpires’Decision Review System being introduced into international cricket (UDRS) has been drawing quite a lot of flak in recent times. In laymen’s term it simply means that each side is allowed to appeal against the field umpire’s decision perceived to have been incorrect. Originally each side was allowed three such challenges, currently it has been restricted to two. The fielding side may question a ‘not out’ decision give by the field umpire while a batsman can dispute an ‘out’ call. Then the Third Umpire comes into play. The latter will review the decision with the technology available to him and then relay his findings to the field umpire to make the final call. If a team’s challenge results in a call being reversed, they can continue to challenge throughout the innings until they make two failed challenges. 

  This system was first trialled during the Sri Lanka/India series in 2008. However, it was officially launched by the ICC in November 2009 during the first Test match betweenNew ZealandandPakistanplayed at the University Oval inDunedin.  During the SL/India series, under the UDRS,Sri Lankawon 11 of their 27 appeals whileIndiawon only one out of the 21 appeals made.  Quite naturally, Sri Lankan skipper, Mahela Jayawardene, commented: “I think this is the way forward……” while his Indian counterpart, Anil Kumble, referred to “teething problems” and was convinced “it is not 100%, that’s for sure.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

  The protagonists of this proposal claim – TV moghuls must be at the top of this list – this plan would result in fine-tuning doubtful umpiring decisions. However, are we talking about (say) installing an internal cost-control system in a commercial undertaking as proposed by their management consultants, or are we planning to improve a once-wonderful summer sport known as cricket?

  To begin with, the UDRS blatantly violates the old maxim of “the Umpire’s word is Law.”  The Laws of Cricket (Code 1998), inter alia, under section 42.13 states: “In the event of a player failing to comply with the instructions of an umpire, criticizing his decisions by word or action, or showing dissent, or generally behaving in a manner which might bring the game into disrepute, the umpire concerned shall, in the first place, report the matter to the other umpire and to the player’s captain, requesting the latter to take action……….”  Hence under this Law there was no opportunity for a player questioning the ruling given by the umpire.

   The game continued to evolve – obviously not in the best interests of the sport with mega money being pumped into the game – and under the latest Laws of Cricket (Code 2000) the above was not only incorporated under Law 42.18 but to make it even more effective, “The Preamble – The Spirit of Cricket”, was drafted as an introduction to the Laws. The Preamble begins by stating: “Cricket is a game that owes much of its unique appeal to the fact that it should be played not only within the Laws but also within the Spirit of the Game. Any action which is seen to abuse the spirit causes injury to the game itself……….”  Further, under Sub-section 5, the first point states under the sub-section: “It is against the Spirit of the Game”, ‘To dispute an umpire’s decision by word, action or gesture.’ Here again there is no way a player can question an umpire’s decision.

Alternatively, why pay lip service to the 250-plus year old Laws of Cricket as it stands by introducing UDRS? One need not be a Sherlock Homes to deduce the identity of the hidden hand behind this move, whose obvious motive is to make a ‘spectacle’ of the game to increase their profits via selling advertising time during matches. 

  Also, what happens (say) during the first ball of an over, the batsman exhausts the batting side UDRS quota by questioning a decision made by the umpires, and the Third Umpire rejects it. In the very next delivery, what happens if the same batsman is not satisfied when ruled out lbw, and instinctively displays dissent? Can the batsman now be fined for showing dissent? It seems ridiculous that in successive deliveries a batsman is not guilty in the first instance but is liable for punishment in the next.

This is not all. It is indeed an anomalous workplace ethic where a game that includes the use of UDRS may result in some cricketers losing or saving their careers while their counterparts in another country play (where UDRS is not being used) to a different set of rules. Needless to say, it is ridiculous that for a widely accepted and a universal game administered by a global body, there is such blatant inconsistency over such an important issue. Reportedly, the cost of installing UDRS technology at a venue is very high. If there are two or three international games being played simultaneously, can the technology for UDRS be installed at each of these venues? Who is going to bear the cost of these installations? Remember, for this system to be effective there has to be not only a string of technical aids but also the cost of hiring expert personnel capable of using them.

   Currently, some nations are in favour of this system while others are not, which begs the question: “If so, why have it at all?” As stated earlier, there has to be uniformity if a system is to be used in international sport. Surely that is basic. For instance, a century made under the UDRS and another made without this system in operation, how can they bear comparison? Will international statisticians be compelled to qualify their figures under separate headings – “with UDRS” and “without UDRS”? What a mockery this situation would become – if not already? 

 Is the ICC bending over backwards to please the TV tycoons who want to make a ‘spectacle’ of our once beloved game in order to rake in the shekels by forcing the UDRS down the protesting throats of their Full Members?

 The inconsistency of having UDRS at one venue and not at another, brings to memory the pick-up softball games children play in their gardens. If there be a difficult neighbour or a fierce dog in the adjoining house, the law in such games is “six and out” if a batsman hits the ball to the proscribed area. However, if the same players now shift to a more ‘friendly’ venue, there would not be any such restrictions!  Doesn’t that sound the same when there is UDRS at one venue and not at another?

  The obvious difference being, where UDRS is concerned, it embraces international cricket, under the umbrella of a global authority  – not garden cricket played by kids in short pants.


ALSO SEE essays and blogs under similar titles in http://www.cricketcountry.com/cricket-fan/posts/-UDRS-a-boon-or-a-bane-/post-507/comments/page/1 AND http://post.jagran.com/UDRS-technology-A-boon-or-bane-for-cricket-1315978254

AND “Technology and its Politics in Cricket: Mahela on the DRS,” http://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2012/04/05/technology-and-its-politics-in-cricket-mahela-on-the-drs/

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  1. Pingback: Informed Commentary on the DRS in Cricket: Mahela and Others « Critiquing Cricket

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