Is DRS hurting cricket?

I’m about to tell you that Stuart Broad was right; umpires are lazy; and teams who fish for decisions get exactly what they cherry

The first Ashes test has ignited a debate about the decision review system. It had been welcomed with open arms by everyone except India but now the cracks are beginning to appear. How the system is used by both players and umpires is now coming under scrutiny.

For those not quite up to speed, the DRS is designed to avoid poor umpiring decisions standing – the howlers… the ball pitches outside leg stump… an inside edge onto the pad given LBW… no inside edge given out caught… that sort of thing. Umpires are human, they make mistakes and it is an amazingly difficult job so surely a great idea, great support for the on-field umpires and reassurance for players that obvious errors can be corrected. Good all round, right? Well, kind of, but…

The change in behaviour of players and umpires during matches can be directly attributed to DRS.

The fielding team… the temptation is there to ‘fish’ for decisions, relying on the umpire to think ‘well, maybe so I’ll raise the finger and see if the batter refers’. Australia did this, making a series of ridiculous LBW appeals. Interestingly, it backfired on them because it led them to use their referrals injudiciously, losing their capacity to appeal decisions later in the innings – and this really hurt them with the Stuart Broad incident. They got what they deserved in my opinion.

But this isn’t always the case. If you get umpires who will nod and raise the finger rather than shake their heads, the pressure is on the batter to appeal and, with LBW in particular, once given out it is tricky to get the decision reversed. Now there are going to be some out there who say ‘so what? If he’s out on appeal, then it was a good decision, right?’ Not necessarily. My point is that if there were no DRS, a significant number of decisions would be adjudged not out, giving the benefit to the batter as it should be, not passing the decision on to a third party..

And secondly, this is not using DRS properly. This is not correcting a howler, this is hoping the umpire will adjudge a batter out on a close call and then have DRS back that up. And remember, if an LBW is given out, the ball can be kissing the top of the bails and the decision will stand. My contention is that this is not benefit of the doubt being given, hence wrong use of the system.

The umpire… First up, umpires are amazing. Their capacity to give the right decision first time round with a ball travelling at 90mph, is astonishing. But there is a creeping tendency, with DRS as a back-up, for the umpire to err too far in the batting or fielding side’s direction and effectively leave the decision to the players – either they appeal the decision or they don’t. It’s lazy umpiring and we saw some of that at Trent Bridge alongside some fantastic decision-making and the odd howler.

The batting team… I’m going to concentrate on Stuart Broad here because the example is so perfect. Broad edged to Haddin, a very clear edge. The ball bounced off Haddin’s gloves (which were very close to the bat) and into Clarke’s hands at slip. Broad gambled and stood his ground and was given not out. Without any reviews, he stayed at the crease and scored more runs. Critical runs.

There is no doubt whatever, that had Australia had a review left, Broad would have walked. There is equally no doubt that it was because they had no review that Broad stood his ground, just in case. I’m certain that he had been told to stand and wait for the umpire, all players are. Broad was absolutely right to do what he did – he was playing the system exactly as the Australians did when making spurious appeals and gambling on referrals. Would Broad have walked if there was no DRS? Well, we’ll never know but I would suggest that he would not and there’s a separate blog on this subject coming up.

This is the legacy of DRS but is it is a bad thing? Not entirely. There needs to be more honesty about its use. England got it right at Trent Bridge, Australia patently got it wrong and I’m sure they’ll work out a system in time for the Lord’s test this Thursday. DRS can really help cricket if it is used correctly and in the right spirit. But if it is continually used by umpires and players as a speculative tool, it will ultimately do the game damage and India’s stance will suddenly become very sensible.

Can anything be done to force this more responsible use of the system? Only one thing that I can see, which is to give each team one referral only and increase the time they have to decide whether to appeal or not. That would force a side to think hard because to waste it would be truly criminal.

I also heard on the radio a suggestion to have one referral per 80 overs (one each new ball) which is worth considering.

Get involved in the debate… what do you think? Comment away, do.

• July 15th, 2013 • Posted in Blog, Cricket • Comments: 0

Ashes 1st Test – the thousand word review

Terrific game. England outplayed almost the entire match but hung on in there and in the end, battled out a draw. I know it was desperate but in times gone by, we would have crumbled and it gives us great strength to hang on and see the expressions on the Aussie players’ faces. Moral victory in the end and amazingly, we take momentum into 2nd Test at Lord’s.

BUT. This does not disguise our shortcomings and they were many. I’ll do a player by player summary cos that does it best. Oh, before that, one for the Aussie team: Excellent performance and deserved to win (snork!). Demonstrated how to bat in a test match and how to captain and declare with imagination. Bowling was OK but that’s all it had to be because… see below:

Strauss – Captain but not in the same league as Ponting. Ponting is experienced but he is also very clever. Strauss should look there for lessons. Strauss got stuck too often not knowing what to do in the field and was not smart enough to try field changes to inspire pressure, or to bowl people like Pietersen and Bopara. Took him an age to go to Collingwood and the other two might have worked for him too. He has a lot to learn. As for his batting. Bounced out in the 1st inns and that’s no shame, happens to all. 2nd inns, gave it away. Cutting the spinner very dangerous. Yes, we needed to score but we had all day. Poor shot choice. Retain.

Cook – His batting flaws exposed. Follows wide balls outside off stump and gets trapped in front because of where he plants his left leg. Needs to improve or be dropped, possibly even for Bell as opener. Keep him in for Lord’s. He likes playing at Lord’s. A lot.

Bopara – Such promise but got out-thought in the 1st Inns. Needs to remember he’s not in a one day game. Not everything needs hitting for four. Unlucky to be LBW in 2nd. Ball too high. Retain.

Pietersen – sigh. Look. I get it that he’s our best batter. He is incredibly exciting. But see above. This was a test match. Look at how the Aussies went about compiling centuries. His out shot in the 1st inns was utterly stupid and I don’t care that ‘that’s the way he plays’. He’s playing in a team. He is there to score big runs and sometimes, he needs to look further ahead than the next flash shot. Pietersen playing sensibly need never get out and would still score at four an over. 2nd inns… could have happened to anyone. Retain but remind about responsibilities to team as well as entertainment and celebrity.

Collingwood – Our best batter this test match. Should have made 100+ in 1st inns but was brilliant in 2nd inns and was the man who effectively saved us the match. Retain with a big pat on the back.

Prior – His keeping was pretty solid. Again, should have made 100+ in 1st inns. Out to a good ball but should have been defending with end of play so close. 2nd inns a stupid, stupid shot. Cutting a ball that was too close. Cutting… we’re trying to save a game. Anyone heard of the leave and the straight bat? Retain.

Flintoff – He batted pretty well but got himself out both times. And his first spell of bowling was wonderful. But no other spell matched that pace or intensity. Questions have to be asked whether his body can take test match cricket anymore. I hate to say that his best days are behind him but he just was not the threat of 2005 and the news he’s tweaked a knee was somehow no surprise. Retain (if genuinely fit) but we cannot rely on him the same way anymore.

Broad – Heart still rules head too much. A brilliant young cricketer and could be a genuine all-rounder. Batting was average for him and I think the Aussies know how to work him over. His bowling lacked penetration and his attempts to mix up length, line and pace didn’t fool them. Needs to work on disguise. Retain because his runs are valuable and he will get better and better as a bowler.

Swann – Batting just excellent. Second only to Collingwood in that department. Obdurate and aggressive by turn. Many specialist batters in our team could learn a thing or two. Bowling was right off by his standards. Too many loose deliveries meant he got no pressure on their batters and hence no wickets to speak of. He can do much better. Retain as sole spinner for Lord’s.

Anderson – As our premier bowler, he suffered from a lack of swing and, given that, a lack of variety. He was accurate enough but when the ball was straight, he had no proper variety. Nor did he go round the wicket enough. Needs to work on Yorkers, Slowers and Bouncers so he has a plan ‘B’. batting was perfect for a number 10. He with Monty were brilliant in the final overs but let’s remember, he should not have been put in that position. Stirring stuff nonetheless. Retain because he is our best fast bowler and still improving.

Panesar – He is predicatable because he is so one-paced. He needs to insert these variations we are told he has. Actually, he needed to do it in Cardiff. His only wicket was down to a mistake by Ponting who had already got to 150. He is not living up to his potential. 2nd inns batting was wonderful. Solid defence and real mental strength. But he is not in the team to bat. Sorry Monty. You need to sit the next one out. Drop for Harmison (though I fear it may be Onions even though we want pace and bounce at Lord’s and Harmison can deliver that in spades).

• July 13th, 2009 • Posted in Cricket • Comments: 0

Ponting fury at time-wasting

Hmm interesting one this. Click here.

for the full article. In summary, Ponting was sour graping about England sending on physio and 12th man close to the end of play. I thought it was not the best move but all the overs were bowled and getting messages on to the pitch is utterly legit and the Aussies do it too.

What gets me is Ponting whining on about them playing within the rules. This is the same Ponting who practically exploded when his claim to have cuaght Collingwood bat pad was turned down. The ball missed the bat by inches. It was not even close. He would have known that. he watched the ball all the way from Collingwood’s pad into his hand. Greenhouses and stones, Ponting.

• July 13th, 2009 • Posted in Cricket • Comments: 0

KP captaincy greeted with a tidal wave of negativity

Ever wondered why the English fail so often at the highest level? It’s because fans and the media cannot see the upside to any change whatever. The latest one is the appointment of Kevin Pietersen as captain of all Englands cricket sides – test, one day, 20/20.

Sure it’s a risk. Every captaincy appointment is a risk. But surely it’s one worth taking. What grates with me is that so few pundits and fans are applauding the decision and getting behind him. I mean, he must have been delighted to wake the next morning to see and hear the whining worriers bothered about everything from his ego to his experience.

Yes, yes, he is inexperienced but he has players with huge experience all round him. Sorted.

Team play? Well perhaps he hasn’t always done the best thing for the team while at the crease but now he will have to. Or be sacked. Sorted.

Batting to go into decline? Look. It may have happened to Botham and Vaughan but why does that mean KP will inevitably suffer? It doesn’t. At all. If there is one thing of which we can be certain, it is that his confidence in his ability as a batsman will not suffer one iota. He has proved his ability to play the great innings when under the most enormous pressure as well as the ability to forget everything, including the match situation (!!) and do something daft. It sounds odd but even this latter point suggests he can put his cares aside when he bats.

Why are we so incapable of supporting decisions and getting behind our best talents? Sniping away before he’s even taken the field as skipper is ridiculous.

So, whingers. Keep your Botham and Vaughan fears. I’ll stick to my examples of why he will succeed. R Ponting (who became no 1 batsman while skipper of the Aussies). And G Smith. I note he got 150 not out in the innings that beat England last week to precipitate all this. Lack of confidence? Don’t think so.

• August 5th, 2008 • Posted in Cricket • Comments: 0

Unsporting conduct at Headingly

Shame on you De Villiers. Shame on every South African player who saw De V drop a slip catch, scoop it up and claim it as good. That means you, Mark Boucher and you, Graham Smith, the South African captain.

For those not in the know, I have just this minute witnessed Andrew Strauss edge to slips. The ball carried, was dropped and then claimed. This is cheating. It is low and it should result in an apology from the South Africans and a ban for De V. This sort of behavious has to be stamped out or cricket will go the same way as football and plumb the depths of unsporting behaviour in the pursuit of victory.

We all understand genuine errors but this incident was simply indefensible. I repeat. Cheating. Leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.

De V, look at yourself. Smith, think about how you skipper your side.

• July 18th, 2008 • Posted in Cricket • Comments: 0

A true great calls time.

Today brings the announcement that Pakistan’s Inzamam-ul-Haq is to retire from test cricket after the Lahore test match versus South Africa next week. Having already quit the one day game, Inzamam’s retirement brings to a close, the career of one of the world’s best batsmen of all time.

He has always been an uncomplicated cricketer and in many respects a genuine throw back to what could be termed more relaxed times. Fitness was never at the top of his agenda. He fielded in the slips and was one of the safest pairs of hands you’ll ever see. Running in the field was a rare enough sight. And when batting, he was a stranger to the quick single, preferring to deal in boundaries or gentle ones and twos if necessary. Mind you, after 16 years at the very top and scoring bucket loads of runs, why wouldn’t he play the way he wants and not bow to modern pressures?

It sounds a bit like I’m having a go at him for being, well, a little large, and I’m not. I will always remember him striding to the wicket and praying that we could remove him early whe neven the best are vulnerable. Too often though, I have sat and watched the bitter-sweet sight of him scoring heavily against England. His grace at the wicket was a joy to watch. He kept it simple, always appeared to have time and his range of shots was unsurpassed. A magnificent batsman. One, unless you are Pakistani, that you are delighted to see the back of. And that is perhaps the biggest compliment you can give him.

He’ll be missed on the international stage but one hopes he stays on to coach the new generation. The game can always do with more Inzys.

• October 5th, 2007 • Posted in Cricket • Comments: 0

Twenty/20 World Cup Hots Up

The Twenty/20 World Cup has already had plenty of tension, unless you’re an England fan, and has spawned a couple of great matches. Pakistan’s victory over Australia was one and last night’s victory for India over South Africa was the other. The Proteas defeat means their world cup is over and if there is one team deserving of exit for being arrogant and complacent, it is South Africa. Actually, England run them a close second although our exit was more down to stupidity and carelessness than arrogance.

Sport is a wonderful and cruel thing. When South Africa restricted (if that is the right word) India to 153, they clearly assumed that ambling out and batting would do the job. However, the Indian bowling attack was, barring Sreesanth, quite superb. RP Singh and my favourite angry off-spinner, Harbajhan Singh bowled beautifully. Even without the injured Dhoni behind the stumps, two wafting SA batters were stumped. And the fielding backed them up too, not often you can say that about India. On the SA bench, the dawning realisation that they were first, under prssure and later, about to go out, was a joy to watch. That’s where square-jawed, gum chewing, chippy chat gets you, Graham Smith. Absolutely nowhere.

So, I snigger at the host’s exit while very much looking forward to two excellent semi finals… Pakistan, India, Australia, New Zealand. Impossible to choose a winner and that is the great thing about 20/20. Played hard and focused (England take note) 20/20 matches can go either way and it is a game in which a single over can turn a match. Great entertainment.

• September 21st, 2007 • Posted in Cricket • Comments: 0

England batting frailty exposed… again

England’s defeat to New Zealand in their latest 20/20 World Cup game means almost certain elimination from the tournament. Three defeats out of four is a poor return for a team that looked very well balanced on paper. But there’s the rub. Packed with 20/20 specialists, England have misfired badly. New caps have not shone as hoped and old heads have made daft mistakes at crucial times. Against South Africa and again today against NZ, England forged a very strong position with good new ball bowling only to leak buckets of runs in the final ten overs to turn easy targets into challenging ones.

Still, neither total we faced was huge. But what we haven’t learned is that the loss of a couple of wickets means little. NZ went from 34-4 to 163-8 with a little patience linked to well-picked big six hitting. By contrast, having gone serenely to 60 odd without loss, England lost their heads yet again, losing wickets to stupid shots (KP… trying to reverse sweep perhaps THE cleverest spin bowler in world cricket and getting bowled through his legs) and comical run outs.

So what lessons can be learned from this poor display? Well, that Atherton was right (sorry, Athers). Domestic 20/20 specialists do not necessarily make good on the international stage. Luke Wright is a great talent but young and naive. Chris Schofield looked lost as soon as the pressure was on his bowling. Maddy scored runs today but has had a very average tournament besides. So. Pick your best batters and bowlers and ask them to do what they do best in every form of the game. Don’t get cute with your shots. Straight hitting brings runs. Funky pick ups over fine leg and reverse sweeps only work half the time. Don’t play across the line of straight deliveries. When you’ve been hit for six, perhaps don’t bowl the same ball in the same spot. Oh… just like normal cricket then.

Ah ha.

• September 18th, 2007 • Posted in Cricket • Comments: 0

Triple whammy for England

It is a rare day indeed when England win three important games in a single afternoon. But such a day was Saturday 8th September. We won important matches in Rugby, cricket and football… but how to score them in terms of quality?

As a fan, wishing to see all three matches and not being omnipresent was a problem. All three ought to have clashed at around 5pm. And because they did not, performance of the day has to go to England’s cricketers. Beating India in the decider of a seven match series was a terrific achievement. it really does look like brighter days are ahead for our one day side. We outplayed India throughout the day and won deservedly by seven wickets with 12 odd overs to spare. That is a resounding win against very good opposition. Great to see Freddy back but I worry about his long term fitness. Great to see KP score runs and keep concentration under pressure. And great to see Luke Wright opening the batting. I don’t care that it didn’t pay off this time. What the selectors did was make a brave decision based on form and that is the right way to go. Critically, the emphatic nature of the victory against a strong and passionate Indian team meant the game was done before 5pm… kick off time at Wembley and in France. Luvverly.

In second place, England’s beleagured footballers. Too often we’ve scratched out results against crap opposition. This time, against a very average Israel side, we went at them for 90 minutes, scored three, could have scored six and came away with poitives in every department. Special mention to Gareth Barry who was excellent in the centre of midfield. To Shaun Wright-Phillips who just gets better and better. To Micah Richards who is a mountain in defence and a genuine threat coming forward. And Michael Owen who looked sharp and scored a lovely goal. As for Heskey, well actually, he played well, spent less time on his arse than usual and gave the forward line balance. Oh, and Joe Cole. Great player, end of story. If I was the England coach, who cares who else is fit for Wednesday against Russia, you have to start with the same 11. Anything else is a betrayal of all the work, energy and belief. As for speculation making this the end of Beckham’s international career, well I doubt it. If SWP isn’t fit or doesn’t perform, who else would you play? Serious answers only.

Which leaves England’s rugby players. I saw bits and pieces of this match and it was a turgid affair. The US were all muscle and no style and England tried to be fancy and dropped the ball a lot. Yes, we won 28-10 but scored no bonus points while other sides playing the weaker teams in their groups have run up big scores. In the end, the win was everything, of course, but the manner was very disappointing. All we had to do was stick to a single game plan (probabaly sucking players in to rucks and mauls before using our wing pace to score tries would have done it. It’s simple after all) and we’d have scored 60 points. I just don’t think we gave the US enough respect for being organised and tough tacklers. We tried terribly clever moves which are unnecessary against lesser opposition and screwed them all up, more or less. Must try harder. Or we’ll get a sreous beating by South Africa next weekend.

Roll on Wednesday, the 20-20 World Cup and, sort of, the South African challenge.

• September 9th, 2007 • Posted in Cricket, Football, Rugby • Comments: 3

Further chirping not cheap

India levelled the One Day series yesterday in a magnificent encounter that saw some extraordinary power hitting in a day dominated by the bat. This is the sort of match that cricket haters should be made to watch and then attached to a lie dectector afterwards when asked if they enjoyed it or not. From the second ball of the day which Cook edged to Dhoni, to the third last ball which went to the boundary for victory to India, there was no knowing who would win the match.

From an Indian perspective there was much to be happy about Dinesh Khartik’s replacement, Robin Uthappa, played a superb, if sometimes fortunate innings to close out the game. Zaheer Khan put down further evidence of why he is probably bowler of the tour on either side, and the wonderful Tendulkar and Ganguly set up the victory with an opening stand of 150 scored at almost seven an over.

From the England perspective, the future is surely bright. Luke Wright’s fearless 50 got us back on track. Shah’s maiden ODI century was a joy and Mascarenas’ five consecutive sixes off the last five balls of the innings were breathtaking. But, and there are still big buts. I worry about Kevin Pietersen. He is a great batsman and looked as though he was returning to form with his 50 but he seems to lose concentration and focus at critical moments. For me he was responsible for both Collingwood’s and his own run outs. Bad calls or ignoring calls, neither is pretty. And in the field, he cost us eight runs. Once with a lazy dive early on, which got ganguly going and later, letting a ball through his body at long on. In a close match, this is very costly.

Any of you who’ve read the previous entry know I went on about Indians chirping and abusing English batsmen. Well, tables turned this time. And the lesson today is, pick your target carefully. Chris Broad is a fine young player, a very promising bowler who could well turn into a genuine all-rounder. But yesterday, he chose to have a go at Suarav Ganguly in the midst of the Indian opener flaying the ball to all parts. This is dim. Not only will it cost him some of his match fee but it got Ganguly going, if he wasn’t already. What Broad needed to take into account was that Ganguly has scored over 10,000 (count them) one day runs and is an exceptional batsman. So, after their exchange, Ganguly slapped a few more fours just to show Broad what he can do. Again, tight game, very expensive error if you ask me. So, Chris, when you’re a bit miffed, make sure you pick on the guy on debut, not one of the more experienced of world ODI players.

I’m loving this series. Lords for the decider on Saturday and surely a must watch match. Never mind the football at 5pm. A bad time to change channels, what with the climax of the cricket at around that time. And anyway, we already know what happens in the first half at Wembley. Bright start by England, frustration sets in after 20 mins. 0-0 after 45 mins. Ray Wilkins on as second half substitute to pas the ball square. There you go.

• September 6th, 2007 • Posted in Cricket • Comments: 0