The BCCI is the last line of defense that the game of cricket has to protect it from being saddled with a very bad technology solution to the problem of improving umpiring decisions. The reasons for BCCI's opposition to the use of Umpires Decision Review System (UDRS) probably do not form a coherent whole - they range from contractual problems with TV Broadcasters, to the discomfort of a few players (mainly Tendulkar) with the idea of players having to ask for a review. But nevertheless they reveal a discomfort that ought to be taken seriously in my view. Everytime there is a situation where an Umpiring decision is seen to be mistaken in a series where UDRS is not in use (Mohali being the obvious case in point), it is automatically seen as a case which make the necessity of the UDRS blindingly obvious.
This isn't the case in my view. The UDRS is a technology of adjudication. It comprises not just of Hawkeye or HotSpot or Snickometer - each of which has been shown to be fallible (and not foolproof), but of the Umpires on the field, the Umpire the Pavilion, the fielding captain, the batsmen and the protocols of communication between them. If we go by the basic definition of a technology - it is the knowledge of using or applying a tool or technique to a given problem, and not by the common usage of the term, in which "technology" refers to only the non-human parts of the apparatus, it is inescapable that the human and non-human parts of this apparatus constitute each other in addition to constituting the system as a whole. So the video replay, or the hawkeye or hotspot or snickometer simulations are as good as the communication protocol regime in which they are used. The extent of their fallibility depends on this.
Is Hawkeye essential for the LBW decision? Are we making more accurate LBW decisions thanks to a simulation which has it's problems - both computational and representational? The answer to this question is a complicated one, and in my view, it is that if we want to believe that we are making more accurate decisions, then yes, we are. But there is nothing inherently more accurate about Hawkeye based LBW decisions. The 'accuracy' LBW decision has a history. The instrumental definition of the LBW law which lists a finite checklist of criteria does not totally define the LBW law, because it's implementation has been dependent on the tradition of umpiring on view in a given game. The great English Umpire Harold 'Dickie' Bird, for example was a renowned "not-outer", especially towards the end of his career. He was not wrong, he just interpreted the benefit-of-doubt more generously in favor of the batsman. The great present-day Umpire, Simon Taufel of Australia, is decidedly more generous to bowlers. In general, Umpires have become far more likely to give LBWs on the front foot. This has changed batting techniques, especially against spin bowling.
The UDRS-supported LBW decision will not therefore be more accurate than the old decisions, it will merely shift the location of the conjecture involved in the decision. But in what direction will this shift take place? This is where the most problematic aspect of the UDRS comes to surface in my view.
Lets consider a situation and apply the UDRS to it. It's the 4th morning of a Test Match. The not out batsmen at the start of play in the third innings are the number 4 batsman, and a nightwatchman. The score is 55/3. At the stroke of the first drinks break, the nightwatchman pads up to an offbreak that hits him marginally outside off stump, on the knee roll. He's forward, but not fully so, the way tailenders tend to be when they're uncertain of the length. The ball has been turning sharply out of the rough for the first 50 minutes of the morning session up to this delivery. The Umpire gives the nightwatchman out. The nightwatchman is 6ft tall, and both he and the nonstriker feel that the Umpire's decision was a bold one. But, the batting side have already used up one review, and are wondering whether it is worth using up another. They decide not to. The Hawkeye simulation shows the ball to be just missing the outer corner of leg stump by a whisker. But, since there was no review, the Umpire's original conjecture about the trajectory of the ball stands.
So what was the LBW based on in this instance? At least 4 distinct bits of judgment - the Umpire's judgment, the non-striker's judgment, the batting team's judgment of the match situation, hawkeye's judgment of the flight of the ball. The original decision was marginal, and even though Hawkeye showed the ball to be missing leg-stump by the slimmest possible margin, it's hard to be certain that the Umpire was in fact wrong. Would the decision have been overturned on review? Yes, since the ball was shown to be missing. If you opted for a more lenient margin of error, then probably No, because then the on-field call would have stood.
The UDRS in this instance would add nothing to quality of the umpire's decision, despite introduce multiple additional judgments to the process. The economy of the review has it's own by-products - the most disturbing of these being the tactical use of the review by teams. The tactical use of the review also brings home the issue of marginal decisions being overturned, for no reason other than the fact that a side decided to ask for a review. The UDRS defines the marginal decision very narrowly in actual fact - in the case of the LBW, this is limited to the margin of error in Hawkeye. It also complicates the marginal decision by removing it from being the sole prerogative of the Umpire, to making players complicit in it. There is no place for this complication in the rhetoric of accuracy which is used to market the UDRS (see Ricky Ponting and Virender Sehwag's comments in favor of UDRS at Mohali)
The UDRS is a technology of adjudication, but evidence shows that it is a deeply problematic technology of adjudication. What new information do the players bring to the situation? Limiting the reviews to two is a pyrrhic solution to a problem of UDRS's own making - the fear that teams might bring the game to a grinding halt by questioning everything that goes against them. If it is really a matter of teams using it well, then is it also not introducing a new element to the contest? Does cricket want cricketers to now also be experts at questioning the umpire's decision? If it is put this way, I think most players would be horrified, even after some reflection. It is never put this way.
As a technology then, UDRS's problem is that it has too many moving parts, too many competing interests. What might a simpler system look like? One of the most underestimated aspects of the UDRS is the communication protocols it sets up. Players can initiate a review, even though they don't always have good information. The third umpire, the one entity in the entire apparatus who is information-rich - on three important counts - he's an expert as an umpire, he has video equipment at his disposal, and he has the expertise to interpret what he sees intelligently and come to a conclusion, is not allowed to initiate anything. The on-field umpire is not allowed to initiate an inquiry under UDRS, but is allowed to do so under other circumstances.
A simpler situation might involve on the On-field Umpires and the Third Umpire. Both would have the ability to initiate communication about a decision (either out or not-out). The Third Umpire is best placed to determine whether an on-field decision was marginal (in which case he will not interfere) or reasonably certainly disputable (in which case he will). There are fewer moving parts here, and no conflicts of interest on account of the match situation. A possible protocol would run as follows.
1. The fielding side makes an appeal.
2. The umpire on the field, as usual, makes judgment as to the merit of the appeal. If he's sure, he gives it Out or Not Out.
3. The TV Umpire is simultaneously looking at it, trying to determine whether one of the following three applies: (a) the umpire is clearly right, (b) the decision is marginal or (c) the umpire is clearly wrong.
4. If it is (c), the TV Umpire can point this out to the on-field umpire, who can reverse his decision. If it is (a) or (b), he does nothing.
5. If the Umpire on the field is unsure, for example about an inside edge - it looks like a good LBW shout, but for this doubt, he could make a provisional decision, and then consult the TV Umpire to either consult or reverse his decision.
This is a better way to separate the marginal decisions from the obvious errors. This separation is a crucial (even central) problem that has to be addressed in any technology of adjudication, and the UDRS only addresses it in a very cumbersome, roundabout way by setting up an economy of reviews.
There's no necessity for these decisions to be communicated through the big screens - wireless communications are sufficiently advanced for the umpires to communicate directly in a very reliable way. This way, broadcasters will not be able to waste time building up suspense through gratuitous graphics which end with "Out" or "Not Out". It will also withdraw the batsman right to appeal, and limit the fielding side to asking the question only once. It will eliminate the tactical economy of the review system.
The UDRS is facing resistance not just for contractual reasons (Existing contracts between broadcasters and individual host boards will have to be revised to accomodate UDRS), but also because it is unnecessarily complicated technological solution to the problem. The ICC would still have to mandate what software technology should be available to the Umpires. This is a separate problem, one that UDRS does not address. The UDRS is not going to produce more accurate umpiring decisions. It may correct some obvious errors within it's limitations (2 reviews etc.), but it will also radically reconstruct the way decisions are made on the cricket field, and radically relocate authority.
It is time for the ICC to take the resistance to the UDRS seriously, and not merely condemn it as contractual intransigence or technophobia. There are simpler solutions available. The BCCI, possibly unintentionally, is doing the game a great service by resisting UDRS. Now it needs to take the next step and constructively propose something simpler.