Published in www.cricketnext.com.
The Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS) is too significant an entrant to the cricketing world to be ignored by powerhouse India. The fact that Test Matches held in India have still not been enabled with the UDRS, unlike several Tests held in countries like England, South Africa and Australia, is unfortunate and uncalled for.
The irony is that while the UDRS technology is globally available in these connected times the BCCI has not been inclined to go in for it. Senior Indian batsmen (said to be wary of the UDRS) have been losing their wickets to ‘dodgy’ decisions in the meantime and these have cost India dearly at times. Visiting batters have not been too happy either and in a close Test Match like the recent Mohali Test played between India and Australia, each decision has proved to be of critical import to the eventual outcome.
The last session of the Mohali Test in fact provided several instances of glaring errors by the umpires, none more so than the dismissal of the gritty Ishant Sharma after he had been involved in a hair-raising partnership for the 10th wicket with the magnificent VVS Laxman. The ball in question was clearly heading down the leg side but Umpire Billy Bowden ruled him out LBW. The lanky speedster had till then belied his tender years and also our impression of his batting abilities to hang on for dear life while scoring 30 crucial runs to take India so close to victory.
Moments later, number 11 Pragyan Ojha, after receiving a real scolding from Laxman for not running hard enough, was wrapped on his pads plumb in front of the stumps but was given a ‘life’ by the Umpire. The resultant appeal and over throw for four runs was, for Australia, the severest form of insult to injury. India thus won a cliffhanger by the skin of their teeth and then went on to pile on the agony on Australia by romping home to victory in the 2nd Test at Bengaluru.
Gautam Gambhir got a clear edge onto his pads in the second innings at Mohali but was declared LBW and in such a tight game, the loss of a top batsman in this unfortunate manner was a potential calamity for India.
Leading batsmen all over the world are the ones who would continue to suffer the most without the use of the UDRS, as many leg-before-the-wicket (LBW) decisions would go against them without the benefit of the detailed replay on TV. Yes, the reverse would also be true and they may be given out after the UDRS is applied, when the original decision was ‘not-out’, but the game of cricket would clearly be the victor.
The South Africans have suggested that UDRS be used for the upcoming series against India. The latter would do well to accept the proposal and to ensure that in future the UDRS is used in India too. Already the series against the Kiwis on home turf would miss the use of this technology.
In South Africa, in particular, the ball bounces quite appreciably, and many LBW shouts are likely to go in favour of the batsmen when viewed analytically through the UDRS, with the ball missing the top of the stumps when it did not seem to be so to the Umpire. India is looking to conquer one of the last frontiers by beating the Proteas on their home turf, and would do well to accept the UDRS with open arms. Imagine what that would mean to Team India if Sachin Tendulkar’s or Virender Sehwag’s wicket was saved as a result!
A cleaner, more correct and judicious future is in store for Test cricket with the universal application of the UDRS. The ODIs and T-20s could also follow suit, provided the sponsors don’t object to the time delays!