Decision Review System: Review everything or nothing … Just do something please ICC!

The Decision Review System was again in the spotlight yesterday following reviews of dismissals of Steve Smith and Joe Root. Whether you believe either player was out probably depends on the team that you support however two immutable truths came out of what we saw yesterday:

1. The umpires, regardless of the decision made, used the system correctly.

2. Truth number 1 is the best example of why DRS is one of the bricks in the wall that is ruining our game.

I have written before about rules that I believe the fans of the game want to see to changed, the DRS laws are not the only ones. I have also written about the importance of playing the game in accordance with the laws of the game as they stand at any particular time.

That hope for change and respect for the laws of the game have lead me to an interesting position when it comes to the future of DRS: either all decisions must be adjudicated via the DRS technology or none at all.

My rationale for reaching this conclusion is three fold:

1. Cricket is a game, on the field, that is governed by humans. Humans, whether they are behind the stumps and up in the TV booth at television official, make mistakes. it is the very nature of human beings that mistakes are going to be made and technology that, of itself, requires a human interpretation is not going to rid the game of such human error.

2. Is it not incongruous to the ideology of fairness that is a cornerstone of the rules and spirit of the game that only a limited number of dismissals are reviewed. Surely, an even playing field across all dismissals is within the spirit of the game and thus to uphold that spirit all dismissals should use the available technology or none at all.

3. The genesis of DRS was the ever improvement of technology via the television broadcasters (particularly Channel 9) that lead to a reduction, in my view, in the confidence of fans have in officials and an increase in the levels of dissent showed to the decisions of those in the middle. The lack of respect for match officials is a pox on our game, the other sports played around the world and society in general. To me, regaining that respect for decisions requires a consistent application of the laws via the all or nothing approach I advocate.

My personal opinion is that DRS should simply be scrapped and cricket should revert to the decisions resting with the on field umpires. That is what happens at every other level of the game from juniors through to first class cricket so I question why at the top level the players are entitled to any special treatment.

It only became obvious to me during a particularly robust discussion around the dinner table that that position will never happen though. The reason is simple: the television broadcasters led to the need for DRS by the ongoing analysis of the decision of umpires and the creation of doubt. Now they are the biggest critics of the system and spend even more time in analysis of decisions. Why would they want a system that gives them fodder to discuss the game to go away?

I recall watching a block of highlights of test matches from the early 1990s the other day and seeing LBW decisions given that would not have hit another set stumps let alone the stumps in play. The commentators spent no more than the time between balls and the remainder of the over commenting on it and even then the comments had none of the vigour of what we see now. Richie Benaud never used to spend 20 minutes at the tea break questioning one decision.

Until those who broadcast the game get on board with the primacy of decision making of umpires, we are never going to see the end of DRS so, whilst my personal view is that it must go, I suggest we give Channel 9 et all what they want and just refer everything to DRS. Better yet: why don’t we put the commentators in charge of the “red button” and be done with the third umpire all together. I bet the ICC and the home administrators could make a pretty penny out of that!

The Ashes: Charges against Johnson and Stokes dismissed

It has been announced that the charges laid against Mitchell Johnson and Ben Stokes for contravening Section 2.2.4 of the ICC Code of Conduct have been dismissed by match referee Jeff Crowe. No details of the basis of the dismissal have been released albeit one suspects that he determined that the contact between the players was unintentional (section 2.2.4 contains an intent element). Both players are now available for the third test match at Perth.

The Ashes: Johnson and Stokes charged after second test “fracas” … what does the Code say?

Mitchell Johnson and Ben Stokes have been charged with a breach of section 2.2.4 of the ICC’s code of player conduct following a clash of shoulders during the fourth day of the second test.

Section 2.2.4 of the Code provides that inappropriate and deliberate physical contact between players in the course of play during an international cricket match shall constitute a Level 2 offence under the Code. The explanatory notes that go with code provided that players will breach section 2.2.4 if they deliberately walk or run into or shoulder another player.

Section 7.3 deals with possible punishments that may be issued by the match referee, if he finds the player guilty, of an offence under the Code. Assuming it is a first offence for both players (I can not recall Johnson as having been charged before and it is Stokes’ first game), then the possible punishment could be the imposition of a fine of between 50-100% of the applicable match fee and / or update two suspension points.

Section 7.4 explains that a test match shall carry a weighting of 2 suspension points should that penalty be imposed as a result of an infraction.

Section 7.5 deals with the imposition of suspension points and, most helpfully provides in section 7.5.3, that the match referees shall apply the suspension points to the subsequent intentional matches in which the player is most likely to participate in on a chronological basis immediately following the announcement of the decision.

All in all, given the conduct complained of in the charge, it seems to me that there is a real risk that both players could be found guilty and could have a match suspension imposed. There is an appeal process but whether that process could be enlivened in time to allow the players to play in the third test starting on Thursday is questionable. In this regard it should be noted that an appeal from a guilty verdict does not, by virtue of section 8.2 of the Code, stay the decision and the punishment unless the person hearing the appeal grants such a stay.

It will be interesting to see how Jeff Crowe, the match referee, resolves this matter given the spot light that is on player behaviour at the moment. It seems to me that, if guilty, a match suspension would send the right message to the teams that conduct of this type is not on given that they seemed to have missed that message after Michael Clarke was fined in the aftermath of the first test.

Cricket: time to ban the drinks waiters!

I wrote during the Ashes in England earlier this year of some changes I would like to see made to the laws of the game of cricket at the top level of the game. One of the areas in which I was proposing change was in the area of the running onto the field of drinks by 12th, 13th and 14th men.

I was astonished to see live just the number of interruptions to the flow of the game by such “drinks waiters” during the first three days of cricket at the Gabba during the first test match. The accountant in me decided to tally up the number of interruptions during one hour of play, specifically the third hour of play on day 3.

During the hour in question, in which the only wicket to fall was one in the final over of the hour, there were no less than eight incursions onto the field by drinks waiters to provide members of both teams with a drink and, in the case of the batters, a change of gloves. Most astonishingly was the call onto the field by the Australian captain, Michael Clarke, for a change of gloves and a drink exactly four minutes or one over before 1:40pm, being the time an actual drinks break would have taken place.

Now I concede that it was a warm and steamy day in Brisbane on the third day of the test match when I undertook this exercise of counting the number incursions by drinks waiters on the field but in an hour when 14 overs were bowled can it really be justified by either side that greater than half of the breaks between overs in the hour in question were punctuated by a break for a drink? Put differentialy, was it really necessary for the drinks to be on the field every 7.5 minutes during the hour of play?

I understand that the ICC has directed its umpires to stamp out this practice in the interests of speeding up play, however, if Messrs Dar and Dharmasena received that message from their pay masters they obviously decided to ignore it because, aside from the occasion I complain of immediately before drinks when Mr Dar did approach Clarke, ostensibly I assume to speed things along, they did nothing to stop the drinks waiters entering the field of play seemingly at the whim of the players.

Of course, every incursion onto the field creates a delay and every delay means that play has to go into overtime to allow for all of the overs required (90 in a day) to be bowled. I just don’t understand why these constant incursions into the field of play are continued to be allowed. At the top level of the game, cricketers are professional athletes and surely they have the necessary level of fitness to continue in the middle without the need to have a drink every 10 minutes (or more to the point every 7 minutes). Club cricketers the world over are called on every weekend to wait for the full hour between drinks so why do the “professionals” get special treatment?

It is a black mark on the game of cricket and I again maintain that it is time for a change in the laws to be made because that is the only way the practice is going to be stamped out. I concede that there are bigger issues in the game that require amendment to the laws but having seen the delays caused by these ongoing disruptions it is the one that is at the forefront of my mind at present.

Ashes 2013/14 Countdown Day 62: DRS madness!!!

The ICC announced yesterday that their solution to issues surrounding the use of the Decision Review System that came to a ahead in the Northern Hemisphere portion of the Ashes is to implement a trial during the upcoming Southern Hemisphere return series that sees two (2) additional reviews given to each team (assuming that team has exhausted its review allocation) after an innings reaches the 80 mark.

This is nothing more than a bandaid for a broader problem isn’t it? The issues that arose with the DRS in England were not that there weren’t enough reviews but a mix of poor technology, poor umpiring and limited understanding of what the laws actually say about the review process.

What happens in the coming series, for example, when there is a technology failure or when, after 57 overs and two failed reviews there is another “Broadesque” clanger? The same vitriol and negativity about the process would seem the obvious answer.

There is no quick fix for the problems that the Decision Review System has because the system is hamstrung by limitations in technology and, now, negative perception.

Instead of applying a bandaid, it is incumbent on the ICC to stand up and make the only decision really available which is to scrap the whole thing and go back to the onfield umpires being the sole arbiters of whether a batsman is in or out. Either that or institute a system whereby the system is used in real time to review every system.

One final thought: is the premier series of test cricket in the game really the right forum to test a “new” theory of how to fix the DRS? Seems like a recipe only for more disaster to me!

Two Irishmen walk into a cricket ground and play for England: when will the Administrators do something?

Is it just me or did it feel strange to see England play in an international fixture against its neighbour Ireland and be lead by an Irishman who ended up being the man of the match? Further to the point, did it also feel strange to see the lead bowler for the English against the Irish be a young fast bowler born in Londonderry?

I have long joked that playing England in cricket is often like playing the League of Nations given the number of South Africans, principally, who have sworn allegiance to the Crown to play cricket. The events of the other evening though stretch the joke to its breaking point.

I make no criticism of Eoin Morgan, the erstwhile English captain, and Boyd Rankin: simply they have put their respective careers first and have pledged their allegiance to England to play cricket on a global scale. I have no doubt both of them would prefer the opportunity to play a series against Australia or India instead of Ireland’s next opponents in Scotland, Netherlands and Papua New Guinea. Further I have no doubt they would like at some point to at least have the prospect of playing test match cricket.

The travesty of this scenario is borne out of the inability of the administrators of the game to act against such conduct either by disallowing such moves OR by ensuring that teams like Ireland have more cricket against those in the top flight of the game.

I commented about the Australia v Scotland game that that game should not have had international status given the lack of competition given to Australia by the Scots and, then by extension, that until Scotland play more (not less) international cricket against the top flight they are never going to improve.

For Ireland they are not in a dissimilar position. Indeed their position is worse because they have players that they are developing at home who are obviously capable of playing test cricket but are having to move to be able to so play.

The travesty that is the treatment of Irish cricket by the administrators only gets worse when one considers that Ireland has shown that it is more than capable of competing at the top of the game internationally given its previous form at, mainly, World Cups. Consider this statistic: Ireland has played in 38 one day international fixtures against test playing nations and has won 4 of them, lost 29, tied 3 and had 2 no results. The last 3 teams to gain test playing status, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh had had the following records in one day internationals before they played a test match:

Sri Lanka: 6 games, 1 win, 4 losses, 1 no result
Zimbabwe: 20 games, 2 wins, 18 losses
Bangladesh: 41 games, 3 wins, 38 losses

The foregoing raises this question: if that form was good enough for those teams to gain admission into the “top flight” why then are the administrators not seeking to progress Ireland’s admission to test match cricket, if only keep Ireland’s home grown players playing for it?

Perhaps the difference between Ireland and those more recently allowed into the “big show” of cricket is player base and likely crowd numbers and both are reasonable arguments. It do not know they answer to that question save that I can not believe for one moment that Zimbabwean cricket has greater claims to player depth and crowd than Irish cricket.

It is fair to say though that whilst Ireland remains out of test match cricket, cricket in that country will remain the punchline of a bad joke like that in the title to this post and nothing more whilst at the same time its players will continue to pledge their allegiance to the Crown and play for England for the opportunity that brings. That, for mine, is just a crying shame.