While the BCCI’s outright dismissal of cricket’s Decision Review System (DRS) is incredibly frustrating, you must appreciate that when watching a Test featuring India you know where you stand.
If the umpire gives it out, it’s out.
When he doesn’t raise his finger, the batsman stays at the crease.
It seems archaic and at times a hindrance to the development of a sport in desperate need of engaging new fans.
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Yet, as a spectator you are constantly aware of the parameters that the game is being played within.
The same cannot be said for those Test matches that don’t feature India, but do DRS.
Due to the cost of hotspot and snicko to broadcasters, their presence at Test matches depends on where the series takes place and how commercially viable they are.
Hotspot, in particular, costs a huge amount of money and requires a host of dedicated cameras to deliver the service.
This year’s Ashes series was subjected to all of cricket’s technological advance aimed at eradicating umpire errors and bringing a new dimension to television audiences around the world.
Compare that gadgetry to what is on offer during the Test series between Pakistan and England in the UAE and the fault lines are clear.
A now basic package of slow motion replays, zoomed in camera lenses and hawkeye are the only offerings available to the third umpire.
— Shahzad Tirmizi Syed (@shahzadtirmizi) October 13, 2015
In the grand scheme of things, all of those – bar hawkeye – bear little impact on shaping a decision or convincing a third umpire to overturn one.
And hawkeye hasn’t had its most perfect Test, a dubious decision going in England’s favour when Alastair Cook looked to be lbw with England 177-1 on day three and the captain on 101.
Cook, who went on to score 263 in England’s first innings, was struck on the inside of his front pad while sweeping Zulfiqar Babar and given not out on the field.
Pakistan reviewed and on impact Cook looked to be struggling, only for hawkeye to detect a remarkable amount of spin and presume the ball to be missing leg stump.
It has been the supporting cast not on display that has proved most baffling, however.
In hotspot and snicko, there are two pieces of technology that pretty clearly show impact and its nature when there are questionable decisions over whether a batsman has hit it.
Without it, you are left with a third umpire watching the same action as his on-field colleagues, just slowed down and slightly more magnified.
— Sky Sports Cricket (@SkyCricket) October 15, 2015
On the final day in Abu Dhabi, the third umpire’s inability to categorically uphold or overturn a decision based on the tools at his disposal was in evidence once again in this match.
Adil Rashid convinced Cook that he had induced the edge of Mohammad Hafeez and claimed his first Test wicket and the decision headed upstairs.
On first glance, the ball did indeed look to deviate sharply as the frame reached the moment Hafeez’s bat passed the ball, the seam also looking to change direction.
Despite numerous looks at the same image, TV umpire Sundaram Ravi ruled there was not enough evidence for him to overrule Paul Reiffel’s decision.
Without snicko and hotspot, it was a fair assessment. The evidence against was not conclusive enough.
However, in Pakistan’s first innings, Ravi was more than happy to go against his colleague’s call, adjudging Misbah-ul-Haq to have edged behind.
There was little, if any, sign of bat being involved but Ravi came to the conclusion that the Pakistan captain should be on his way.
It may be my ageing eyes but that review for caught behind looks like it deflected off the bat??! #PAKvENG
— Paul Collingwood (@Colly622) October 17, 2015
With no clear evidence of any contact with Misbah’s edge, the decision was surprising in that it didn’t by any means show that the umpire had got it wrong in the middle.
Further confusion was cast shortly before tea as Misbah was given out on the field for what looked like an lbw appeal which the Pakistan batsman reviewed.
On review, the TV umpire looked to see if the batsman had hit it before looking at hawkeye which came to the decision that it was the umpire’s call, the ball adjudged to be clipping the bails by the smallest of margins.
The decision was then overturned and Misbah survived as it transpired the original decision was that Misbah had been caught.
Had Misah been given out lbw he would have felt hard done by, and the fact we were even shown hawkeye on the screen was baffling.
Why show a potential lbw decision if that is not the reason for the review?
Again, late in the day Pakistan reviewed Asad Shafiq’s dismissal after being given out caught behind but TV reruns offered nothing in terms of convincing Ravi to reverse the decision.
ICC plans to reassess DRS at the end of this year ahead of a reshuffle at the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy are long overdue.
What they must get clear is that the same rules and regulations apply wherever in the world the game is being played.
And while getting the BCCI on board is a major issue, they must ensure that the technology is supported by the game’s boards and that everyone is willing to play ball.
There have been trials and we have seen errors.
Now is the time the ICC fully supported, financed and rolled out a finished product that serves the game, its players and supporters.
And if they are to persevere with technology they must ensure that hotspot and snicko are firmly at the forefront, alongside a hawkeye system we can all trust.
Here’s a statistic that should give everyone a better appreciation of Zaheer Khan and his place in Indian cricket.
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Ever since India made their debut against England in 1932, they have played 491 Test matches. In that period, only 19 bowlers have taken more than 100 wickets. Only six of them have been fast bowlers, and only two have gone past the 300-wicket mark – Kapil Dev (431) and Zaheer (311).
His haul in 92 Test matches makes him the fourth best bowler of all time in India after Anil Kumble (619), Dev and Harbhajan Singh (417).
India is no country for fast bowlers. It is one job that should come with hardship allowance. Bowling on dead tracks is back-breaking, and that is ultimately the reason that has forced him to call time on his career this week. Various niggles picked up during his career left him with no other choice.
There was a time when the profession was so pointless that Sunil Gavaskar, one of the greatest opening batsmen of all time, would open the bowling as well. His job was to bowl a couple of overs of nothing in an effort to see off a bit of shine from the ball, before it was handed over to one of India’s famous spin quartet.
But Zaheer was different – his skills were extraordinary. He could move the ball both ways with the new ball, and then reverse swing the old ball appreciably. And he was wily – always keeping the batsmen guessing.
And, at least in contemporary cricket, there was no better bowler to left-handed batsmen. Just take a look at some of his bunnies: Graeme Smith, dismissed 14 times in 27 innings; Kumar Sangakkara (11), Matthew Hayden (10) and Andrew Strauss (seven times in seven matches). It’s an impressive hit-list.
Congrats on a fantastic career @ImZaheer enjoyed our battles,even if you won most of them:)all the best for your future.you made India proud
— Graeme Smith (@GraemeSmith49) October 15, 2015
Zaheer’s example is a sad reflection of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and how it works. One of the recurrent injuries for the Mumbai fast bowler involved his hamstrings, and modern day physios insist that it is one area of an athlete’s body that can be successfully managed. With all the money at their disposal, they really should have taken better care of their premier bowler.
It was the hamstring (again) that ruled him out on the opening day of the opening Test match against England during the 2011 tour, and that completely took the sting out of India’s challenge. Zaheer had already taken 2-18 in 13 overs, when he limped off the field, while India’s chances plummeted and they lost the series 4-0.
My favourite Zaheer anecdote is the one involving England and the jelly beans controversy during the 2007 tour.
While batting in the first innings of the second Test at Nottingham, some England players (Zaheer blamed Kevin Pietersen) threw jelly beans at the wicket to annoy the batsman, and it did the trick.
But the ploy backfired on England when a fired up Zaheer bowled sensationally in the second innings, his 5-75 paved the way for India’s Test and series win.
Zaheer’s significance for India was not just restricted to on the pitch, but also in how he mentored the up-and-coming fast bowlers towards the end of his career.
It really would be prudent if the BCCI rope him right now to help the future generation of Indian fast bowlers on an official basis.
Batsman Joe Root believes England still have a slim chance of winning the first Test in Abu Dhabi heading into day five and the 24-year-old praised captain Alastair Cook's marathon session at the crease.
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