Informed Commentary on the DRS in Cricket: CMJ, Tissera, Mahela and Others

Michael Roberts

I insert a series of opinions on the working of the DRS system from ex-cricketers and knowledgeable observers, commentary that is spiced at the end by Mahela Jayawardene’s response to questions from Tony Greig at a critical point during the Second Test match versus England in Sri Lanka. The sequence here is as follows


A: A web site reference to my slashing criticism of Indian cricketers and the Indian board for their position on the DRS in cricket, namely, Hegemonic Idiocy: BCCI and Dhoni on the DRS in cricket

B: my “Exploring Reader Opinion, an Addendum” in ……………..which, alas, drew no comment.C: Comments from Michael Tissera, CMJ and others responding to my Addendum.

D. Mahela Jayawardene and Tony Greig Q and A with a preliminary note.

E: A web reference to an older piece by my pal Mahinda Wijesinghe, entitled “Is the UDRS a bane or boon?” This is an article that presents what I see as an old-fashioned diehard conservative position …………… ……………..SEE   for this essay.

I will be inviting some keen young blokes in Adelaide to comment on the Addendum and this set of views, so WATCH THIS SPACE.


A.   “Hegemonic Idiocy: BCCI and Dhoni on the DRS in cricket,” by Michael Roberts =

 B. Roberts Addendum:  “An old friend sent me an email indicating that should “outline proof” before essaying such strictures as “the height of irrationality.” Let me note in response, that apart from (a) a reference to the ICC estimate on World Cup DRS effecting a seven per cent improvement (B) one anecdotal observation on my part referring a peculiar dismissal (that of Sachin Tendulkar at the SSC), I assumed that (c) cricket fans who read my article would be less than imbecile and would be guided by their observations of referrals during both Test matches and ODI matches where the DRS was in operation.

Thus, on several occasions I have observed on-field decisions being reversed by the on-field umpire after the third umpire has used the available technology to evaluate the evidence.

These reversals, note, have gone two ways: (X) when someone declared “not out” is deemed out; and (Y) when a batsman declared “out” is reprieved. In brief, in the course of a series, several “human errors” by on-field umpires have been rectified via DRS, the third umpire and some dialogue between the head umpire and third umpire.

In other words, on every such occasion a mistake that may well have swung the game one way has been averted. This is a momentous gain.

I have not kept count of such reversals. If any readers can provide statistics it would be appreciated. In any event, I invite reader recollections and commentary on this point. Anecdotes with empirical precision can aid our evaluations.

Let me add that, from snatches of information, my impression is that most of the younger generation umpires actually welcome the use of the DRS because they are as interested in getting it right; and because such reversals are outnumbered by the proportion of instances where the on-field decisions are confirmed (am I correct here?).

That is, where several old school umpires such as Dickie Bird and Darrell Hair object to the DRS, those still active are partial to it. One reason for this leaning is the fact that DRS has also revealed how well they are performing a difficult job.

The paragraph above is attentive statement based on grapevine threads. I would appreciate any information that rectifies or clarifies this issue.

Third umpire: On the odd occasion, “human error” is that committed by the third umpire. If my recollections are correct, Asad Rauf was in serious error in overturning an on-field decision and declaring Shivnarine Chanderpaul out in a Test match at Adelaide during the last Windies tour. Again, I believe one of Daryl Harper’s decisions in the West Indies created a great stir and alienated the England squad against the DRS. Again, my dim memory indicates that Harper was responsible for a third umpire bloomer on another occasion.

Such errors by third umpires are inexcusable because they have more time to reach a decision. This type of mistake is not the fault of the DRS scheme but is a product of “human error.”

We are aware of such howlers because the TV commentators also have the evidence before them and provide their views. Third umpires who make such errors should be demoted (though I would not impose such a harsh act on Bruce Oxenford for pressing the wrong button in Michael Hussey’s case recently at the Gabba).

C.   COMMENTS on invitation, February2012

Michael Tissera, 22 Feb. 2012:

“Hi Michael,When DRS was first introduced some umpires did not object as it was good for cricket if the right decisions were made. Also it took some of the pressure off them to know that they had not made a huge bloomer that might have turned a game. Simon Taufel was always against players being allowed to review. He felt then & probably still does that the right of review be left with the umpire. There has also been a suggestion recently that players tend to question umpires more after the DRS came to be used but this has not been substantiated, in fact there was another view that players’ behaviour was worse when there was no DRS in place. Latest statistics show that umpire correct decisions have improved by a %age pointor two but that correct decisions still show a 4-6% increase after the use of DRS.A problem faced by umpires now is to change the mindset when a match is played with DRS in use & when it is not. The ICC is doing more work on the ball tracking technology hoping that accuracy will get up to 97 or 98% and be acceptable to all.Kind Regards, Michael

 Christopher Martin-Jenkins, 23 February 2012

Michael, I have a torn tricep so writing is difficult. Forgive brevity.  I agree with your thesis, not least in respect of the red text. Errors have become fewer and spin bowlers have been the main beneficiaries, which cannot be a bad thing. … 

Warm regards, Christopher

Ranjit Fernando, 23 Feb 2012

While the DRS has certainly shown that it has improved the decision making process, technology has still a long way to go mainly because of the inconsistent levels of technology used from series to series. Darryl Harper made an interesting comment recently.

The variation in the speeds of cameras used is quite vast.

Although I haven’t done any detailed analysis, common sense tells me,that the DRS should be used, with refinement as we move forward.

There are some areas such as checking for a no ball when a batsman is out, is hard to understand because in that case every delivery should be checked because that entitles the batsman to an extra ball and an extra run ( a free hit in limited over games), and I can see that the outcome of many games would have been changed if this was done. Camera angles are looked from all directions to look at saving one run on the boundary, but no balls are allowed without a second look on the camera.( I know this is not practicable, then why should it be used when a batsman is out)

 Comparing averages of players with DRS and without would be an useless exercise and statistics would be a waste of time.

 What is most unbelievable is that with all these umpires (4), match referee, scorers, and TV available, short or extra deliveries are allowed in Internationals, without any rectification in the same over. There is the leg umpire, match referee who sees the graphics on the TV monitor, the scorers, and there is no intervention. The straightforward, simple matters are overlooked.


 Mevan Pieris, 19 February 2012

Dear Michael, As one belonging to the gentlemen eras of cricket in Sri Lanka and having started off at S. Thomas’ College, I really find it difficult to appreciate technology creeping into this noble game, which today is altogether not cricket as it was in the past. We learnt to play this great game in the days when it was held that the ” umpires word was law “.It taught us to accept errors made by others in good faith and fight a gainst odds. The umpire stood in the middle as a highly respected entity. The game could probably help to instil more character & discipline, if technology could be wiped off fully and the spirit of the game exalted more. This is probably an old fashioned point of view. It’s only my point of view.

Good luck to them that make technology the king and individual prowess of the umpire the slave.
Cheers! Have a nice day old boy and best wishes to your Thuppahi column as well. I like the name a lot.

Warm regards, Mevan

Ken Moncrieff, 29 February 2012

Dear Michael, I trust my comments will be relevant and later I will comment on the baseball umpiring situation in major league games which apply certainly here, USA and the much world.

It seems you are a supporter of the third umpire as well but maybe with some reservations. I certainly am for cricket for many reasons. It seems umpires exist only on a semi-professional basis to begin with and ability and qualifications and salaries for the job may not be at a level they should, to ensure the very best and fit people are selected to officiate.

 The nature of the game, esp in tests, makes total concentration 100% of the time- very difficult with some catches and LBW decisions in particular & can be like Russian roulette at times visually, and occasionally the application of the LBW rule itself. Here I believe if it’s out– it’s out regardless of limits to the rule. The third umpire solves that one straight away, so no limits rule are then needed. As for no limit rules without it…it would be possible IF there was co-operation between both umpires when needed for some decisions…. .ie whether the ball would have gone over the top of the stumps or not. The SQ- leg ump. must be on the ball too…not having a rest. Same goes for run outs. Some bowler-end ones rarely get side on to the action to really assess it.[and to the appropriate side] 

Deliberate interference by the batter/runner to any fielder or throw, he enacts, needs to be seen and must be called out if verified. Often that can only be done by the 3rd umpire as others may not see anything.[That rule definitely applies in baseball to prevent any runner interference.]

AS for the younger generation support…they’ve grown up now with advanced technology, and with the changed nature of cricket and the ways it is played means that at the highest levels, they want the vital errors in umpiring to be and must be eliminated. The occasional glitch with the technology may be inexplainable [power surge/etc.], but it’s generally fool proof—-as it is in professional tennis. Yet baseball still refuses to accept it mainly due to the very high standard of professional umpiring and the training and qualifications needed at the top level. The ‘Kill the umpire” attitude still prevails tho’, [sometimes for fun yet others in earnest!] but keeping a personal touch to it is part of the game]….also there are often more than two or three on the field and co-operation is the key to their success.

The one other thing that should be seen and heard is- any nasty sledging at any batter. The honour of the game should be preserved and the “play the game” fairly, be the only way to play. That’s one thing technology can be very useful for. 

Hope my comments are relevant. Regards, Ken

 Mike Morley, ?? late February 2012, commenting on a specific segment of my Addendum (in blue):

Let me add that, from snatches of information, my impression is that most of the younger generation umpires actually welcome the use of the DRS because they are as interested as anyone in getting it right; and because such reversals are outnumbered by the (proportion of instances where the on-field decisions are confirmed (am I correct here?).  

 That’s certainly my impression: I suspect that there may be a generational issue involved, even if not acknowledged. I suspect that statistics might show that those umpires not as old a or as inept as the Harpers of this wordl might get ir right more often than wrong. And are alos more inclined to acknowledge that they might make errors. Whereas people like Harper and the wretched hair before him are/were never inclined to acknowledge their errors seeing themselves as the ultimate arbiters of ife and eath rather like the figure hovering over Old Bailey.


D. Tony-Mahela Q and A:

On the first day of the Second Test Match played at the Oval, Colombo, on late March 2012, Mahela Jayawardene played a determined hand of 104 runs in the face of good England bowling after Sri Lanka were three down for 30 runs; but succumbed lbw to Graeme Swann as the fifth wicket to fall towards the end of the day when the score was 216. He immediately called for a review, but the decision was upheld by the Third Umpire after using the technology in place. So, Sri Lanka wasted a review. Before play commenced on the second day, Tony Greig interviewed Mahela on the ground and immediately (and usefully, I add) honed in on the DRS issue. This is what transpired:

Tony: Tell us about the DRS and how important it is in these Test matches to get it right?

Mahela: I think it is [important to get it right]. There can be crucial issues. We saw in the First Test there were a couple of ones. It is tough for the umpires. Sometimes a lot of things happen out there with wickets turning a lot. They are bound to make honest mistakes and [it is best] to try and rectify those things. It is better for the game. Sometimes, out of disappointment like I did last night I asked for a review … strictly out of disappointment. It just happened and you think you are not out, but when you go back after ten minutes you realise, you know, it was a very good call by the way.

You know, the umpiring has improved a lot during the last two years since the DRS. They are more willing to give good decisions. And they realise that if they make honest mistakes that you can always rectify that. So, you know, it [the DRS] is a calming influence on them.

Tony: Well you chaps have done well with this [calling for DRS reviews]. Going back to that first DRS experiment with the Indians they have never recovered from that one, so you [Sri Lankans] are obviously doing the right thing so far. Congrats on your innings, ….





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One response to “Informed Commentary on the DRS in Cricket: CMJ, Tissera, Mahela and Others

  1. Very useful if you’re trying to make up your mind about DRS.
    And a slightly unrelated comment: the response by Mahela to Tony Grieg at the end demonstrates for me once again what a fantastic temperament and maturity he has. It is unsurprising that he is such a good captain, and in his approach to leadership, he is quite ‘un-Sri Lankan’ where admission of mistakes is all too often conflated with weakness. I cannot for example imagine Sri Lanka’s most successful captain Arjuna Ranatunga ever making comments like these.
    Asanga Welikala from Edinburgh.

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