(Note: for the purposes of this post, when I refer to “DRS”, I am specifically referring to the ICC’s Umpire Decision Review System and its rules and guidelines as they stand today. I am not referring generally to a technology based review system. Clear as mud? Good.)
Ah, DRS. What would we all talk about if it wasn’t for DRS? Cricket, probably. You know, things like strike rates and pitch conditions and the like.
But instead, we get DRS as a discussion topic time and again. And with the ICC meet up happening this week in Dubai, we can expect yet another round of debate about the flawed review system.
First of all – cricket and DRS aside – I am of two minds when it comes to technology in sport, as I am sure most fans are. On one hand, I approve of and support the use of technology in officiating – no matter the sport. It works quite well in gridiron football, basketball, rugby, and tennis. Baseball is new to the technology party but it seems to be working all right so far, well enough to expand it starting next season. Association football is lagging far behind other sports, but this season the Premier League instituted goal line technology which is a step in the right direction.
And the above progression toward technology is a good thing because it is important, in the end, to get the call right, and it is worth a couple of delays in the game here and there. We, as fans, have all seen our team end up on the wrong side of a blown call, and so it is comforting to know that most sports have tried to take that out of their respective games. But fandom aside, there is simply so much money involved in sport these days that the financial stakeholders need to have assurances that calls are being made with the upmost accuracy. Otherwise the investment is just too risky, the money leaves, and the leagues collapse.
Get the call right, the technology is there, and it should be used.
That said: my other mind thinks that it really does take all of the rock n’ roll out of the game. I positively loathe those interminable checks for no-balls after big wickets in big games, for instance. And the review system in baseball just feels wrong – like it has stripped away the last vestiges of that great 20th century tradition that was BASEBALL in America.
And sport is great because it is unscripted – it is about human effort overcoming obstacles despite pressure both mental and physical. And the officials are part of that drama; but removing their humanity makes the games slightly more scripted – which is a real shame.
Like I said: two minds.
But then we come to cricket, and the DRS, and the situation becomes even more gray – it becomes three minds instead of two – because DRS, more so than any review system in any sport, is flawed beyond repair. And while some might disagree with that statement – that when used properly it works fine – it is too late, as the system has become so irrevocably controversial that the only solution is throw the entire system out of the ballpark.
Then what though? Go back to letting the umpires on the field make every call – like what we have in County Cricket and other domestic leagues – while waiting for something better to come along? Or does the ICC allow the DRS to limp along until said better system can be introduced?
Tough questions. But these are the questions we should be debating, and these are the questions the ICC should be answering in Dubai this week.
Because while we all might be of two minds with regard to technology when it comes to sport, we should all be of one mind with regard to cricket’s DRS as it stands today:
It needs to go.
Note: this is blog post number 400.