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DRS has not stopped bad decisions in IPL

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IPL_Umpire_wrong_decisions_DRS_CricketTo err is human but in an era when nothing but perfection prevails, each individual folly is analysed and dissected. The mistake-maker is now harshly chastised for their errors and the adage “perform or perish” is more relevant now than ever. In cricket, while it is natural for the players to fail on occasion, the “men who matter”, the umpires, are expected to be at the top of their game at every moment.

While they are forgiven a few slip-ups, a series of glaring blunders match after match remains impossible to overlook. With almost 25 umpiring howlers in the Indian Premier League last season, the poor umpiring standards in India were brought to the fore, and the unavailability of the umpiring Decision Review System sparked further controversies.

However, it is not that the howlers committed in 2017 were all tough decisions. 13 of those 25 errors were easy to spot – many were obvious edges and plumb leg-before decisions that were visible even to the naked eye of viewers watching their TV screens.

In a major embarrassment to the two officiating umpires CK Nandan and Nitin Menon in the game between Sunrisers Hyderabad and Mumbai Indians, David Warner had hit a four off the last ball of the sixth over against Jasprit Bumrah and faced the first ball of the seventh over, with neither the on-field nor the off-field officials realising. Needless to say, this negligence set a bad precedent and with the IPL reaching a global audience, the below-par standards of umpiring in India left a bitter aftertaste.

Almost in desperation, the BCCI who had been vociferously against the use of the DRS in international games that featured India, and only started using technology at home as late as the series against England in 2016-17, realised the value of an error-free IPL.

In T20s, one decision makes a huge difference. People have a misconception that only the longer format of the game needs DRS. But, in the longer version, there is enough time to absolve a mistake you make. But in T20s, you don't have such time. If a good, in-form batsman is given a wrong decision, that can finish off the game completely.

That is exactly what happened in Royal Challengers Bangalore’s game against Kings XI Punjab last year, when in-form Kedar Jadhav walked out to bat with his team struggling at 22 for 2. He and AB de Villiers were expected to anchor the innings, but a Varun Aaron in dipper hit him high on the pad. The batsman, who is not very tall, jumped during the point of impact and even though the replays suggested otherwise, Jadhav was sent back to the pavilion.

In another instance, Jos Buttler, playing for the Mumbai Indians, was batting on 38 in 18 deliveries and was adjudged leg before when a length ball by Imran Tahir deflected off his bat before rapping him on his front pad. Umpire S Ravi immediately raised his finger and the batsman who had scored 12 runs in the previous over was dismissed.

This decision took the total number of decisions against Mumbai in 2017 to four. Even though they did go on to win the tournament, it is rather unfortunate to think that the team could have been robbed of their title due to an umpiring error.

This year, seven decisions have already been overturned by the DRS in the first nine games of the league. Though the technology is already being seen as a good sign, the underlying fact remains that the umpiring standards are declining faster than ever. With only four ICC elite umpires in the IPL last year, the opportunity was ripe for the domestic umpires to make a mark, but the end result was disappointing.

To make matters worse, instead of ensuring that the senior umpires feature in more games, the BCCI decided to equally distribute the matches amongst all. While this move was taken to mitigate the hectic schedules of the umpires, a compact unit of world class umpires would have ensured quality.

The services of Simon Taufel, who had been brought on board to work with the Indian umpires in 2016, was done away with. The BCCI even stopped asking the domestic teams about the standard of umpiring in their matches. With no feedback from the cricketers who have to bear the brunt of dubious decisions, the BCCI was often not in the loop of any mishappenings on the field.

When Gujarat captain Parthiv Patel, who had been the victim of shoddy umpiring in the Irani Cup after being given out bat-pad even after the ball was nowhere close to his bat, showed dissent at Virender Sharma’s decision, he was pulled up and fined. When he was asked to comment on the wrong decisions against his team Mumbai last season, he avoided answering the question. “If we players comment on this (umpiring standards), more often than not, we will have to cough up hefty fines.”

MS Dhoni, wicket-keeping for the Rising Pune Supergiant last season, had signalled for the DRS in humour after Mumbai’s Keiron Pollard was given not out against Tahir, even when the ball was hitting pad first. India’s former skipper had been pulled up and reprimanded after the game.

To avoid another season of embarrassment, the BCCI thought it best to introduce DRS into the IPL and while it has gone a long way in removing errors from the game (though the DRS adjudged Hardik Pandya not out even when the snickometer showed an edge), the fact of the matter remains that the Indian umpiring levels are at an abysmal low. If not for technology, the first nine games of the league would have seen seven wrong decisions, which would have once again drawn the spotlight upon the BCCI and its administrators.

The DRS can go a long way in wiping out silly mistakes, but it is high-time that India’s umpires improve their standards and not turn to technology to cover up their own shortcomings.

 

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