Player Review System a farce

There has been much written about the death of various forms of cricket in the wake of the rise of the T-20 game. However, in my view, test cricket is alive and well. The current series between Australia and South Africa illustrates this perfectly. We have witnessed some fantastic cricket and with the series evenly poised after two tests, I wonder why they aren’t playing a five test series, but I digress. The biggest challenge to test cricket is not the boredom of a five day game or the lack of excitement provided by the players. No, it is the farcical Decision Review System (DRS) that the ICC has placed into the game that not only confuses most, but seems to get us all no closer to the reason for its existence in the first place – the right decision.

Cricket has been played for a long time and it seemed perfectly fine for over a hundred years to take the good with the bad in terms of umpiring decisions. Like everything, it seems, in our modern world we want to stamp out the notion of “not fair”. So we have been given the review system. At this point can I be clear I have no problem with the Umpire Review System, where the umpire checks his own decision, such as a run out, stumping or grounded catch. It is the Player Review System that is the farce. Like most things in sport, give individuals an opportunity to exploit rules for the gain of their team and they will do it. This system has now become a tactic at times and an annoyance at others.

Those in support of the DRS argue it was put in place to prevent the “howler”. (You know the one where the batsman smashes it into his pad and is still given out LBW). That is just a defence mechanism for a flawed system with no clear intent. As it stands the on field umpires may as well be hat stands – so little influence do they now have on the proceedings. The defining images for me of the current series are the sprays the on field umpires are copping from the players after a review is turned down. How comical given the on field umpire hasn’t made the decision and neither he nor the players has been privy to the technological evidence the third umpire has used. Yet it creates tension, anger and confusion among all.

Now you will have to bear with me on this because it gets a little heavy but the only way to fully highlight how ridiculous this system is would be to analyse how it works for LBW decisions. We all know that for a player to be given out LBW the ball must first hit the pad/leg/shoulder (if you are Sachin Tendulkur) in line with the stumps and be going on to hit the stumps, if the player is playing a shot. If the player doesn’t offer a shot, he can also be given out LBW if the ball hits him outside the line of off stump and it is going on the hit the stumps. However the ball cannot pitch outside leg stump and the player be given out LBW, ever. Pretty simple really.

So in terms of LBW there are three points to rule on: where the ball pitches, whether it hits the player in line with the stumps, and whether it will continue on and hit the stumps. Under a review you would think it would be very easy to rule on these three things and come up with a decision, whether or not the player was out. Wrong. There are conditions attached to the final ruling under DRS for LBW and that is where the problem lies.

Let’s look at point of impact for example. ICC laws state the following:


“If a ‘not out’ decision is being reviewed, in order to report that the point of impact is between wicket and wicket (i.e. in line with the stumps), the evidence provided by technology should show that the centre of the ball at the moment of interception is in line within an area demarcated by a line drawn down the middle of the outer stumps.


If an ‘out’ decision is being reviewed, in order to report that the point of impact is not between wicket and wicket (i.e. outside the line of the stumps), the evidence provided by technology should show that no part of the ball at the moment of interception is between wicket and wicket. “


Ah sorry what’s that? The interpretation of the decision depends on whether it was originally given out or not. Why? It is either out or not out. When you read this you start to see why players get confused and angry. Success can depend upon whether it was given out and who actually challenged and that is not right. All that should matter is making the correct decision. If you think that was bad read on….


Again looking to the ICC laws, let’s analyse whether the ball was hitting the stumps:
“If a ‘not out’ decision is being reviewed, in order to report that the ball is hitting the stumps, the evidence provided by technology should show that the centre of the ball would have hit the stumps within an area demarcated by a line drawn below the lower edge of the bails and down the middle of the outer stumps.

However, where the evidence shows that the ball would have hit the stumps within the demarcated area as set out above but that:

  • The point of impact is 300cm or more from the stumps; or


  • The point of impact is more than 250cm but less than 300cm from the stumps and the distance between point of pitching and point of impact is less than 40cm, the original decision will stand (i.e. not out).

If an ‘out’ decision is being reviewed, in order to report that the ball is missing the stumps, the evidence of the technology should show that no part of the ball would have made contact with any part of the stumps or bails. “


I need to sit down because my head is spinning. Could you make something any more confusing? You know what I will settle for here – are the bails going to fall off? Done.

My final beef is that teams get a certain number of challenges per innings and these can erode, depending if they are successful or not. If the system is based on fairness for all, then I think it should work like this:

  1. Players      appeal or dismissal occurs
  2. The      umpire refers to the third umpire after making his decision
  3. Third      umpire checks for a no ball
  4. Third      umpire rules on the decision
  5. Umpire      conveys it
  6. If      the evidence is inconclusive then it is not out. Batsmen always get      benefit of doubt. There will be no “umpires call” in cricket like in NRL,      despite original decision
  7. Player      either walks off the field given out or stays and keeps batting.

Easy. No challenges or reviews. This can be the system for every form of dismissal (there are 10 by the way). Now when the third umpire is reviewing the decision, he simply looks at the evidence and decides whether it was out or not. Forget all the complicated clauses. Just decide in line with the rules of the game. For an LBW if any part of the ball hit in line with the stumps or will touch the bail, then that’s out. Bat dominates ball unless there is something in the pitch these days anyway, so let’s not make it even harder to get a batsman out. Let technology rule automatically on every decision and we should get the right decision every time. Players will be made fully aware that reviews may be inconclusive, but they will accept this if the right decision is made.


  1. Tony Roberts says

    Having had the chance to simultaneously view England’s Tests in India (where they operate not by the DRS, but the SPS – Sachin Protection System, with farcical results it seems to me), my first inclination was to object to what I presumed to be your opposition to DRS technology.

    But on reading your piece, I see that you do not actually object to the use of technology, rather to the ICC’s predictable and absurd over-complication of its system plus players’ tiresome attempts to try things on with it.

    You’re dead right: umpires only, and out is out. A bail trimmer is just as valid as a stump up-rooter when LB is being considered. (Having said that, I once had the outside of my off stump clipped by a ball without it removing the bails. I was on 0 at the time, and went on to get 30 or so… Still, unlikely that the Tweed District CA will ever be subject to DRS technology.)

  2. Who would have thought that Adrian Anderson had the spare time to consult to the ICC on their DRS?!?!?!?!

    I too, despise the players having any say in decision reviews. Graeme Smith’s petulant response to a clear DRS decsion on his caught behind dismissal in Adelaide was enough for me to blow my fuse. How dare he shake his head and do Muttley The Dog impersonations after being told for the second time to go back to the sheds.

    I’ve begrudgingly accepted the use of the technology by the umpires – being a cricketer from the 70s onwards I have an “Angry from Mayfair” reflex approach of “in my day…..”, but can see the sense in using the technology to assist the Hat Stands (love that line!), I mean, Umpires.

  3. Pamela Sherpa says

    Good article Rob. The use of technology is warping the way the game is played.

  4. I’ve got to be the contrarian here. I like the DRS, and I think it has significantly improved cricket.

    Let’s go back to the 80’s. One simple rule applied: umpiring decisions always go the home team’s way. We all whinged about umpiring in India & Pakistan but we were no better. There’s a DVD on “great battles between Aust & NZ” from the era, and it is embarrassing – a succession of “highlights” in which NZ batsmen get hit on the pads in front of first slip and are given out. It makes the underarm incident look like one of the fairer moments of trans-Tasman contests.

    Then we go the early 2000’s and the advent of neutral umpires. A significant step forward (that lots of cricket fans and officiandos opposed and still moan about), but still a fair way short. Damian Martyn was given out bat-before-wicket 3 times during the 2005 Ashes.

    The advent of the DRS was long overdue. Matches, series and individuals’ careers have been wrongly decided throughout history, and we all copped that for way too long.

    I take Rob’s point that the system has (like everything in cricket) been made unnecessarily complicated (a la Duckworth-Lewis). But for those who are just straight out anti-technology, lets not pine for the days when it was “better” – because it wasn’t.

  5. Tony Roberts says

    Further to my comments yesterday on how the intransigence of the Indian board has opened up a can of worms, read Mike Selvey’s Guardian article and comment linked below:. Apparently, Aleem Dar – about the best cricket umpire of all – has been having a shocker in India, by virtue of being pitched back into an DIY environment while retaining a Virtual Reality mindset.

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