Saturday, February 02, 2013

If Only ICC worked on DRS the way it works on DRS.....

Two reports in January 2013 by Nagraj Gollapudi of Cricinfo revealed that the ICC's Chief Executives Committee (CEC) had recommended a change in the way the choice to use DRS would be made in bilateral series, and that this recommendation was shot down because the BCCI threatened to withdraw from any series in which DRS was used. The two stories, taken together suggested that it was a matter of fact that 9 out of 10 Chief Executives of full member nations (there are 10 such individuals) had supported the recommendation to give the host nation the sole authority to decide whether or not DRS would be used. When it got to the level of the heads of the Boards (who constitute the final and highest decision making committee of ICC), the head of the ECB supported the recommendation, while BCCI opposed it. The other eight boards were silent. The ICC's official media release about the ICC Board meeting was entirely silent on any discussions of DRS in the said meeting.



I asked the ICC's Colin Gibson about the second claim reported by Cricinfo. Cricinfo's report was couched in various less than direct terms. Several things were "understood" to have occured, but were not attributed to a specific source. I wanted to find out what was going on. Gibson replied that "on their own admission, the Cricinfo article was based on speculation and not fact. Much of that speculation, if not all of it, was incorrect." This was a direct and clear rebuttal, if not an unequivocal one.

I then asked Nagraj Gollapudi and couple of other people at Cricinfo about this, since Gibson claimed that they had speculated, and speculated wrongly. Based on what Nagraj said (he was understandably keen to protect his sources), a lot of Cricinfo's reporting was based on discussions that took place "outside of meetings", which the ICC's media manager would not be privy to.

Gibson did confirm that the CEC recommended a change to the way the choice for DRS would be made in their December 4, 2012 at Dubai and that The ICC Board did not take up this recommendation for a vote in its most recent meeting. Given that, according to Cricinfo's reports, the BCCI may have informally threatened to withdraw from away series if the host team was given the right to decided whether or not DRS would be used, it is not difficult to agree with Cricinfo's substantive point - that the reason why the ICC's Board did not even schedule a vote on the CEC's proposal, let alone vote on it or even record what was said in the meeting on the subject was that the BCCI had made it clear that it was a non-starter as far as it was concerned.

I disagree with the contention that usually follows this idea - that the BCCI is too powerful, or that it runs the ICC. The ICC has voted on things without the BCCI's support in the past. The BCCI, as that report reveals, voted against the creation of an international T20 world cup. It was the only Board that did so. The T20 world cup went ahead, and ironically, India won the first edition of the tournament.

An accurate reading of the current situation, one that is derived from an understanding of the ICC's Board as a venue where interests are negotiated (this, I think, is a good thing), is that 8 of the 9 Boards whose Chief Executives supported the change to use of DRS did not think it was important enough for them to take a stand on. 8 of the 9 Boards felt that other things (such as, for example, BCCI's views on the matter) were more important.

This, believe it or not, is perfectly legitimate, reasonable and appropriate in a political body which votes on things like the ICC's Board. It is far from clear the DRS in its present form is an improvement. As N Srinivasan has argued publicly "I'm not against technology but one should be cautious and we should be clear what it is that we are trying to achieve. If you say my correct decision percentage has gone up from 94 to 95.6, is that all you are looking to achieve?" The ICC is necessary precisely because the interests of different cricket boards are different, and often at odds with each other. The ICC cannot and will never become corporatized (with its PR arms telling us what the "facts" are) precisely because these interests are disparate.

DRS itself is not, by design, a system which produces the correct decision. If it was it would not (a) limit the number of unsuccessful reviews, (b) depend on the players to report umpiring errors, and furthermore require them to do so without giving them the opportunity to review any evidence. Umpiring itself, as Simon Taufel has argued, is about making decisions in line with the expectations of the players.

Are some things so obvious that there should be corporate agreement within the ICC? Yes of course. Corruption, the laws of cricket and the basic playing conditions are some of these things in my view. But there are also things which must be (and will be) negotiated. The Decision Review System is chief among these.

The problem here is that it is not the DRS itself which is being negotiated. That process is almost entirely opaque, and the interests that drive it - those of the broadcasters, the umpires, the ICC's interest in preserving the image of the game by controlling player behavior, cricketing concerns like the balance between bat and ball - are not clearly seen by observers like you and me. This is, in my view, the basic problem with the ICC's implementation of DRS. It is also the basic reason as to why the DRS has remained immune to the many problems (obvious and otherwise) that come to light in series where DRS is in use as well as series in which DRS is not in use.

If the ICC was involved in negotiations about DRS, they would ask better questions about it, and not limit themselves to simplistic points like "the players are confused", or "the ball-tracking is not believable". Maybe the lower committees (like the Cricket Committee), should take a lesson from the ICC's board and become more adversarial and argumentative. If they did that, I can't see how they would unanimously support DRS despite the fact that a study they commissioned was yet to report (and as of today, has not yet reported) its findings.

If only the ICC would deal with DRS the way its Board deals with DRS!

2 comments:

  1. Maybe there is a case of using DRS just for removing the howlers. The technologies such as hotspot and hawkeye as of now isn't really consistent enough. Probably we can use DRS without hotspot and hawkeye. Just use trial and tested methods. I doubt anyone is concerned when the 50-50 decisions go either way, only the howlers remain an issue which in most cases can be solved by using replays (without hotspot or hawkeye). Please do have a look at my view on the DRS at http://rohit-cricket.blogspot.com/2012/09/udrs-umpire-decision-review-system-yes.html#axzz2Kifm3aNI

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