To look or not to look? DRS or Dressingroom Review System

What is the core controversy

Second Innings of the Bangalore Test, Australia chasing a seemingly paltry total of 188 to win their second test, after beating India comprehensively by 333 runs in the first Test. It was never easy to score runs in the fourth innings in Chinnaswamy stadium as in the Ranji trophy matches and local matches – the highest score ever in this domestic season was 120! Kohli and his co. had taken 2 wickets and were desperate for the third. India had 2 DRS appeals left, while Australia had already wasted one on their opener David Warner.

Then came Umesh Yadav, with a ball staying low and hit the Australian captain Steven Smith plumb on the pads, umpire Nigel llong raised his finger and the Aussie captain had the choice to take the last DRS – a decision had to be made in the next 15 seconds (according to the rules).

According to Statute 3.2 of ICC code of conduct, a batsman taking the DRS can consult with his non striking batsman and fielding team can take the opinion of anyone on the field. No external contact is allowed to influence their decision.

The Rule 3.2 (c) in the Appendix 2 of the ICC Rules and Regulations goes like this:

The captain may consult with the bowler and other fielders or the two batsmen may consult with each other prior to deciding whether to request a Player review. However in order to meet the requirement of (b) above, such consultation will need to occur almost instantly and very brief. Under no circumstances is any player permitted to query an umpire about any aspect of a decision before deciding on whether or not to take a player review. If the umpires believe that the captain or batsman has received direct or indirect output emanating other than from the players on the field, then they may at their discretion decline the request for a player review. In particular signals from the dressing room must not be given. Here (b) is related to the 15 seconds given for accepting a request for review.

Steven Smith in this case walked towards the non-striker Handscombe to discuss whether to review it or not and he pointed towards the dressing room (later he admitted in social media, twitter to be accurate that he had asked Smith to look towards dressing room and consult). Then they both started looking towards their dressing room to get some indication from the teammates whether to review it or not as there was only one review left and taking it or not taking it might affect the game very much as things were getting tighter.

Virat looks on as Steven Smith glances at the dressing room before taking the decision

Virat looks on as Steven Smith glances at the dressing room before taking the decision

Virat Kohli saw this one (Smith waiting for signals from dressing room), and was coming in livid. Nigel Llong too saw this and asked Steve Smith to walk off the field if his partner was not sure while Cheteshwar Pujara was calmly blocking their view to the dressing room.

Most widely played out incident. As Virat Kohli said in the post match press conference that this is not for the first time, this is the 3rd time Kohli noticed them doing this, breaking ICC code of conduct, only difference in case of Smith was that camera clearly captured this incident. And this was lapped up by media!

It is said that since Steven Smith was prevented from taking help from the dressing room by the umpires, his offence was taken care of. But they need to review if he had done that earlier in the series. This should fall under Sharp practice – where the player takes an unfair advantage during the game or Miscellaneous – deemed contrary to the spirit of cricket. Based on this, he can be charged. Kohli’s comments if seen as “serious public criticism” of Australia, would qualify as a level 2 offence under the ICC code of conduct. However, he stopped short of calling him a ‘cheat’ which was sensible.

What is the spirit of cricket? A term often used with the likes of Rahul Dravid, Jacques Kallis and other greats of cricket. As a matter of fact, Australians, Indians, Pakistanis – each team has their own interpretation of the term. In fact, Dhoni interpretation will quite possibly be orthogonal to Ganguly’s interpretation. Australians, in true Aussie spirit play to win, rules are there to be broken. Indians on the other hand like to stick by the book and rarely take chances to break the spirit. Now whose spirit is the spirit of cricket?

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What are the other two instances during this match? Match referee Chris Broad said that he was unable to extract evidence for the other two instances that Kohli had accused of in the press conference. What has transpired, has transpired – does it add any value or meaning to the sport to validate these incidents in hindsight only to fine the player a paltry sum and become the central talking point of the series?

Kohli said that this happened in the same test match but Australia had two unsuccessful reviews when they batted and the cameras not focussing much on the direction in which the players look might not find conclusive evidence.

But it is interesting that the ICC in its statement has said that it would be very difficult for India to prove the level 2 offence. Anyways since CA and BCCI has decided not to take it further, the complaint has been withdrawn by the BCCI and the matter ends then and there.

Regarding the statement by the ICC that no action would be taken, it was interestingly made before 48 hours- the time required to lay charges after the match ends. The BCCI did lodge an official complaint after the statement, pressing Level 2 charges but it was later withdrawn. Apparently with a view to bring the focus back to the game. The BCCI decided to withdraw the complaint against the Australian skipper Steve Smith and Peter Handscomb on Thursday, March 9th

Cricket Australia (CA) chief executive James Sutherland on Thursday met Rahul Johri at the BCCI headquarters in Mumbai to resolve the issue. It was decided that the two captains would meet in Ranchi to solve the crisis.

Sutherland said, “We are halfway through what has been a riveting series and there is still much to look forward to. In discussing the relevant issues in depth,we have agreed that it is in the best interests of the game to put these differences aside and clear the way for the focus to be on the cricket, and remaining matches of the series”

Cricket Australia has supported their captain who said it was a ‘brain fade’ at the moment.

During the critical situation, it will be difficult to keep every rules in mind, as you will only think about taking team to home, that too as a captain. So when he was adjudged LBW when team needed him the most, it might be his automatic reaction of asking for DRS review to the dressing room.

Still then, rules are rules, excuses won’t be given. That is what game is. Every player should not think only about winning, but also keeping rules in mind, him more importantly being the captain.

Does the DRS regulation even make sense? Is it really unfair to take help from the dressing room if you only have a measly 15 seconds to take the decision? Other sports such as football and baseball which have over the years minimized rules to increase the mental strategy element in sports. The coach/manager are often on the field giving micro-suggestions to players and to add complexity and strategy, that we call sport. And often, when more persons get involved in decision making the outcome becomes all the more harder to predict. Unpredictability is central element which makes a sport exciting to follow. Closing the circle – was Steven Smith really breaching the spirit of cricket?

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