Is this what DRS was created for?

Is a Decision Review System true to its name if the decision it is reviewing can sway the final outcome?

If we needed any proof that the limitations of the DRS begin and end with any human interaction with it, we saw it in the adjudication of two lbw appeals on the Second Day of the Second Test between Pakistan and Australia. Its purpose now, after years of tinkering by the law makers, seems to be to more focused on upholding on-field decisions rather than make them more consistent and accurate.

Umpire Sundaram Ravi was the man in the middle for both decisions and it is his wildly differing adjudication of the LBW law that has prompted the consternation. Called upon in the middle of Australia’s calamitous First Innings collapse to answer an appeal from Bilal Asif, Ravi surprised many by giving Tim Paine out despite the delivery appearing to be missing leg stump on first viewing. A shocked Paine sent the decision for review where ball tracking showed that, if that correct amount of varnish was on the ball and the wickets, Asif’s deliver might have grazed leg stump.  With his eagle eyes and trigger finger vindicated by technology, Ravi reaffirmed his original decision and Paine was left to trudge off with his team in one hell of a mess.

Rather than be emboldened by his brush with technology, ‘Trigger Happy Ravi’ found doubt where others wouldn’t when confronted with a Jon Holland appeal later in the day. The Australian’s were confident they had their man when Holland managed to deceive Azhar Ali with one that straightened and kept low but they could not convince Ravi who kept his trigger finger firmly holstered despite their pleas. Paine wasted little time in having the decision referred but was left confused when the not out decision was upheld despite ball tracking indicating that the ball would smash into middle and off stump half way up.

Now this is where we get to the conundrum of the matter.

Ali remained not out because when a batsman is three metres from the stumps the impact part of the review remains umpires call because the ICC remains doubtful of the accuracy of the ball tracking technology. Not doubtful enough that he would have received a reprieve had he called for a review if ole Trigger Happy given him out though. No, in that circumstance, like Paine’s, ball tracking would need to show the ball missing the stumps all together. All of which means that in both circumstances, Ravi’s decision would be vindicated by the technology regardless of which one he made. Ridiculous.

No matter which way you cut it, the system is broken if a ball glancing leg is out and one hitting middle and off is not. This farce of ‘benefit of the doubt’ goes to the umpire cannot be allowed to continue. While we are unlikely to eradicate completely the inconsistency of living, breathing umpires there is no reason that their errors be compounded through the handcuffing of the technology implemented to assist. Its time we let the system do what it was brought in to do and forget about what the umpire originally decided. The outcome of the review of a decision should not be dependent on the original decision.

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