England takes a one-nil lead in the 2013 Ashes with a great win in a fantastic Test match. While Australia may count themselves unlucky in some ways, I am in wonderment that they ever got so close. They seemed to be playing catch up for most of the Test and at one stage they seemed dead and buried. And yet, they provided a genuine scare. They must take some positives out of the match, bitter pill that losing must have been. And then there was the Broad incident.
It seemed fitting that the match was finally decided on a DRS decision. Fortunately there wasn’t too much controversy about that. However, there had been controversy over several of the third umpires decisions (Starc to Trott, the Agar stumping (which wasn’t really DRS) and several “umpire’s call” lbws) but it was the non-DRS that had Henny Penny (and Warnie) observing that the sky is falling. As is often the case, Henny Penny forgot to look at her barometer and the situation was somewhat exaggerated.
At a critical time on day three, with England pressing for a commanding lead, Broad edged Agar to first slip and was inexplicably given not out. The decision to give Broad not out was spectacularly poor and it did highlight some shortcomings in DRS but I really don’t see what the fuss is about. Well, I do – the fuss is because it is a very emotional subject for many people. But if we can stay a little objective perhaps some changes can be made. To label Broad as a cheat is preposterous. Several batsmen in that match did not walk when they edged the ball, including the final one dismissed in the match: Brad Haddin. None of them were cheats.
There are a few issues here and I will explore those, using quotes which I have lifted from a single Cricinfo article http://www.espncricinfo.com/the-ashes-2013/content/story/650817.html
One of the factors that got people worked up was that Broad didn’t just nick the ball – he fairly smashed it. Aleem Dar’s decision was a shocker. I don’t really understand it. The appeal was unanimous and without hesitation, the ball deflected so much that in the short distance from the bat to Haddin’s gloves, it deviated enough to almost miss the ‘keeper’s gloves altogether. And if Dar was watching, he would have noticed that Broad gave the game way – he walked three paces before having a final glance Dar to confirm his fate. One of Australia’s local TV news reports labelled the error as the worst umpiring mistake in Ashes history. And the hyperbola went on. It’s unhelpful. For more unhelpfulness, I quote Shane Warne on Twitter (courtesy of Cricinfo – I wouldn’t personally touch Twitter):
He [Dar] always gets the crucial decisions wrong & always has, that’s why he’s not a great umpire! We all make mistakes & it’s a very tough job being an umpire, but when Dar continually makes crucial mistakes why does he keep getting a gig?”
Warnie, you say it best, when you say nothing at all.
We could also suggest that if Australia had not used both of its referrals already, that it could have referred Broad and he would have been out faster than you could say Indiana Jones. I doubt the third umpire would even have needed to see a replay. Australia’s second unsuccessful review for lbw really was frivolous. Glenn McGrath supports this view:
“DRS was brought in to correct obviously wrong decisions and that is how captains should use it. Alastair Cook does just that, he is very sparing with it, and hopefully Michael Clarke does the same after this…”
While I agree with McGrath that judicious use of referrals is necessary, the implication is that use of referrals enters into the tactical realm of cricket. Clearly, the captain who was smartest in the this Test got the most out of the DRS system. But isn’t the intention to eliminate as many umpiring errors as possible, especially matching impacting clangers such as the Broad decision? This delivery of justice should not be dependent on the nous of captains.
I think Michael Vaughan said it well in suggesting that the triggers for invoking DRS should be reviewed.
“The review system was brought in to get rid of the howler, I don’t see why umpire Dar couldn’t have had someone is his ear saying you’ve got that one wrong let’s just overturn that quickly. This has been a terrific game but I think a lot will be talked about that incident, which is sad.”
The notion that DRS should be available for every appeal is a good one. How it is implemented is tricky. Initiating DRS is currently the responsibility of the players. Naturally, there are restrictions in place or they would refer everything and waste a lot of time. Let’s face it, a batsman never thinks he is out (Watson refers every lbw given against him – one of the reasons he wants to open is to ensure that there are DRS opportunities left) and bowlers always think the batsman is out (which is why Clarke needs not to listen to his bowlers in these matters). If the matter rests solely with the umpires, how does that work in a timely manner? How would the third umpire interject without disturbing the natural dynamics of the game (which are enough disturbed already)? Will the bowler be running in to bowl the next ball before the 3rd umpire gets on the wire? Should every decision be referred, in which case, why have standing umpires?
I don’t know the answer to those questions but something needs to be done. The Broad/Bell partnership realised just under 60 more runs. The final margin was just 14 runs. While it can’t be categorically stated that it cost Australia the game, it is clear that there was a significant impact. DRS should be regarded as a work in progress and the ICC should take moves to improve it so that incidents such as the Broad non-catch do not detract from the game itself.