Decidedly beneficial!

DRS may stand for Decision Review System but it can also be Decision Review Success — and that it most assuredly is, writes Ted Corbett.

The Decision Review System — DRS from now on — has been controversial from the moment it first germinated in the brain of some cricket-loving TV-trained technocrat years ago.

The great majority of the game’s fans hated the thought. Cricket grew out of the sheep pens of southern England long before slow-mo, replays and Geoffrey Boycott, they grumbled; and besides no one who has not played in at least 100 Tests has any right to propose ideas that will change the game radically unless they have a commission signed by the Queen, the Prime Minister and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The modernisers, the technically-minded and those who wanted justice for all loved the idea.

Fancy getting every decision right, they crowed; that will show up those cricketers who refuse to walk, the commentators intent on proving how clever they are and the coaches looking for excuses. You can hear all these arguments rehearsed at any ground with more than a dozen spectators, in the Long Room at Lord’s, the Press Boxes from Birmingham to Bangalore, and of course, it has been a boon to the commentators in rain breaks, tea intervals and before and after play.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India doesn’t want to decide just yet but my guess is that they will have to join the rest eventually.

DRS has one outstanding quality — it brings clarity to the arguments. Did he hit the ball? There is either a little white mark on the edge of his bat that says yes he did or no mark at all which suggests he got nowhere near the ball.

There is still room for debate. Why is he standing there? Why does the umpire not give him out immediately? Did the wicket-keeper ground the ball?

DRS gives an answer to all these questions, to viewers, to umpires, to players and to spectators. After you have seen the picture you need to apply your cricket knowledge to the problem and see how the whole subject fits together. Was his pad outside the line, did the bowler have enough of his leading foot behind the crease, has this batsman been out this way before?

It is yet another subject which has stimulated debate about cricket and it has the added attraction that anyone with good eyesight or a pair of glasses can join in. I love it.

For me DRS is the last piece in the jigsaw. Either in a modern Press Box, filled with TV sets, or at home on the couch, I have a better view than the wicketkeeper whose observations are obscured because he is in action, with the bulk of the striker between him and the ball.

I am not like the bowler still charging up the pitch when the ball strikes pad or bat’s edge. I am, with, naturally, the impartial view of a judge, ready to give my verdict and then, like everyone else, to stick to it even though, a dozen images later, I am forced to consider other angles, new viewpoints and different opinions.

I think DRS has improved our understanding of the game, just as the speed gun has made us more aware of all aspects of a bowler’s thinking as his deliveries speed through the air.

So I was glad to see that the World Cricket Committee, meeting at Lord’s recently, issued a statement which began — and you should note the force of this pronouncement — “It is the unanimous opinion of the committee that DRS has been good for the game.”

Solemn old Lord’s, with its ancient rooms, its lofty ceilings and its aged administrators, if not just the home or the heart of cricket. It is often its Parliament too.

Some of the best brains in cricket were sitting round the table in the committee room when that statement was composed: ex-Test captains, men wise in political finagling, men who have spent years poring over the Laws, men who knew to the last half inch where to place a mid-wicket when Viv Richards is 10 not out and facing Glenn McGrath; men with leathery old faces, men steeped in the traditions of the game, knowledgeable about its legends, its myths and its traditions.

Not, in other words, men easily fooled by a gimmick, nor men who want to cause cricket any harm; romantic men, practical men, businessmen, cricketers all.

They went on to say that now most of the Test decisions were correct, that the game was improved by the introduction of DRS and that it should continue and be improved where possible. I see that new technology is to be introduced later in the Ashes series and I trust that the training in its use will keep pace with the technology.

These improvements include the provision of a bank of TV monitors so that, like the director in the van remote from the commentary box, he can pick out his own picture. It is some years now since I wandered into an umpires’ room and saw a tiny TV being used to review decisions but I still remember the shock.

I trust that in due course the TV umpire and a technical assistant will be alone in their separate lounge, that no one will be allowed near them and that they will not be under any influence from the TV people.

In the early days of the third umpire, Tony Greig, bless him, was apt to shout “The TV umpire has got to give that out!” in a voice that could be heard 50 miles away and if that did not influence the poor man trying to concentrate on some tiny point of cricket lore in the next room I am a babe in arms again.

The committee also noted that errors will continue because that is the nature of human beings but I feel as smugly satisfied as they are that the game has taken a stride forward.

I even feel content that the Indian authorities are doubtful about its value and are waiting, I guess, for an improvement in cameras, replay facilities and the like before they accept the benefits of DRS.

If that is what they want, they are right to wait. I urge them to take note of the improvements that are coming, to hold a meeting like the one recently convened at Lord’s and to see if on balance the game will benefit from DRS.

There are two issues that have to be solved before DRS is acceptable everywhere.

First, there is the question of what should happen when something goes wrong and there is no remaining referral to put it right. It happened at Trent Bridge when Stuart Broad stood his ground although clearly out. The Australians had no appeals left — ok, that was their fault — but at that point an obvious injustice existed.

I hope ICC will step in and order the match referees to tell the TV umpire to review the situation and work out a remedy with him. The match ref is there to see that fair play is maintained and acting as a one-man court of appeal seems to fit in with that job description.

Other problems will arise if too many referrals are made and time is wasted. Over to ICC for a solution to that tricky issue.

DRS is a vast improvement from the days in county cricket when the umpire, anxious to catch a train, gave out 9, 10 and jack in a matter of seconds, or when — and it was a joke I know — an umpire said to the England captain of the day that he would not get any more close decisions unless he bought a benefit tie, or when close personal friendships, clan associations and prejudice played a part in an umpire’s rulings.

DRS may stand for Decision Review System but it can also be Decision Review Success — and that it most assuredly is.