The upcoming Test series between India and England starting November 9 in Rajkot+ has gathered further interest owing to a few factors over the past ten-odd days. But beyond the anticipation of whether India’s spinners can weave further webs around an England team that was embarrassingly bowled out inside one session of a Test in Bangladesh, and if Virat Kohli can lead this team past the longest unbeaten streak at home (20 Tests) and how the BCCI will continue to cope with the constantly pressure from the Justice Lodha Panel for its many deficiencies, there is the pertinent issue of the Decision Review System ( DRS+ ).
Why? Because this will be the first time since 2013 that an Indian cricket team will play with the DRS, and only the second Test series since the technology was trailed in 2008 that India will use the full system (in England in 2011, DRS was used but lbws were not part of it). Anyone who has followed international cricket closely for the past eight years will now acutely well that the game has been played in two halves: with the DRS used across all series expect bilateral involving India.
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The BCCI+ has been long-time objectors of the usage of this technology since it was first implemented in a Test series between India and Sri Lanka in the summer of 2008. Back then, the players appeared wary of the DRS and all doubts and concerns were massively compounded after India’s players misused it during the loss to Sri Lanka, in particular against the wily spin of Muttiah Muralitharan and a rookie Ajantha Mendis. India did get some bad calls, but that they made just a solitary successful review out of 21 attempts compared to Sri Lanka’s 11 out of 27, paints a deeper picture.
Having been in Sri Lanka during this series, I was witness first-hand to both India’s misuse of the DRS as well as the technology’s rawness and some contentious decisions. It wasn’t pretty, but India’s strong resistance was not entirely accurate.
The DRS has not been used in India since the 2011 World Cup, which India won. During it, the skipper MS Dhoni’s views, as well as that of the seniors, did not change even though Sachin Tendulkar was the beneficiary during his plucky 85 against Pakistan in the semi-final.
The upcoming India v England Test series will not, at least for the time being, implement HotSpot, the heat-based technology used to detect edges, or Real-time Snicko or Ultra Edge, which are both sound and video-centric technologies. The BCCI was keen to use HotSpot but since logistical matters did not allow this, we will see the DRS in its aforementioned form.
So what’s changed? And why is the BCCI now warming to the ICC’s intentions to make the DRS a standard for all teams across all series?
One, the long-running trial of the accuracy of DRS’s various technologies, undertaken by scientists at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology and subsequent successful results, appears to have eased the BCCI’s concerns.
Two, Anil Kumble’s+ influence. Accordingly, to the ICC’s general manager of cricket affairs Geoff Allardice, India’s coach was a driving force in convincing the BCCI to use the DRS in the England series. Allardice stressed on Kumble’s presence as chairman of the ICC Cricket Committee which looked at cricket’s rules and regulations across a three-odd year period, during which the game’s governing body focused on getting positive results in terms of testing technologies. Kumble has been a backer of the DRS, according to Allardice, and that helped get the BCCI on board with the ICC’s goal to make the technology consistent across series.Three, Kohli. India’s Test captain has made statements since assuming the leadership from MS Dhoni in early 2015 that he is open to using the DRS. One of his most recent comments on it, spoken during the India v New Zealand Tests last month, was perhaps the most direct Kohli has been on the matter.
“We wouldn’t take [incorrect] decisions too hard because we, in the first place, decided we would not use DRS. For us to then say that the umpires made an error and it is going against us, it is not logical. There is no room for excuses. Once DRS is in place, once DRS is up and running for us as well, then you can sit and think what are the grey areas,” he had saidThis is in stark comparison to Dhoni’s public opposition to the DRS, who like several senior players of the past did not find the ball-tracking system reliable. There remains scepticism within the BCCI, but that India have agreed to trial the DRS across five Tests is a big step forward.
So is the BCCI convinced that the DRS has significantly improved since it first opposed it? Not entirely, but the hope is that the next two months will change that. For cricket’s sake.