When You’re Hot, You’re Hot

So many things are hot and cold in the South Africa versus Australia test series, about to be decided in South Africa’s favour.   All kinds of things could be said about players and selectors but I want to have a closer look at DRS.

I could say that the South African batsmen are hot, the Australian bowlers are not.

Or Hashim Amla is hot, Ricky Ponting is not.

Michael Clarke is hot, Ricky Ponting is not.

I’m talking purely about batting here.

The Australian selectors are not hot.  Don’t get me started on that one.  I once had a manager who told me that I could forecast failure as much as I liked before the event and in the event of failure, I could say, “I told you so” as much as I liked.  However, without the forecast, the rules changed.  If nothing was said beforehand, I was to remain silent in the event of failure.

I was going to write something on Thursday night before the Test started, lambasting the selectors and saying that I was putting $50 on the Saffers.  For various reasons, I didn’t do either of those things and just after lunch on Friday I was glad.  Less than two days later, it was a different story.  Let me just say that I am with DK Lillee on this one – the selectors were idiots in the this instance.

Back to the promised topic, I watched Warner’s dismissal in Australia’s first innings.  For those of you who missed it, he had a waft outside off stump and the South African’s appealed.  There did sound like there was a knick.  The appeal was spontaneous and genuine and the umpire’s decision immediate.  Warner went for a referral but it took him a long time to decide.  Why?

After the obligatory dozens of viewings, the “evidence” didn’t seem to support that Warner hit the ball.  There was no visible contact with the ball, nor deviation.  Hot spot showed nothing from the front.  From the side it showed some weird flash about six inches long.  Should that have been ignored?  As usual, Warner was playing a long way from his body and his bat was nowhere near the ground (i.e. he didn’t hit the ground or his pad or anything else).  What else could the noise have been?  I was happy enough that the decision stood – commonsense said he hit it.

I think Warner referred the decision because batsmen have worked out that hot spot does not show the faintest edges.  Why else would he have taken so long to decide to refer?  If you know you didn’t hit it, you refer it without hesitation, right?   He was evaluating if he hit it hard enough to show on hotspot.

In the first Test there were several confident appeals for faint edges.  Some of them were given out, some not.  I would say that most of them were out.  All were referred and none showed on hot spot.  Smith had one against him overturned.  He later had a similar decision against him, hot spot didn’t show but he was still confirmed out.  I can’t follow the logic. It certainly doesn’t seem scientific.

Given the detraction that DRS is, I wonder is it worth it.  The delays while decisions are made are awful.  So is the process of a team gaining a breakthrough, or claiming a prize scalp, only to have it wrenched back from their grasp.  I guess it is good to see howlers overturned but the general consensus is that even they even out over time. 

On the last day in Adelaide, with Australia desperate for a breakthrough, du Plessis was twice given a reprieve, both times for lbw. The first was when he didn’t offer a shot.  DRS showed the ball striking the stumps but pitching a shade outside leg stump (by that I mean that slightly more than half the ball pitched outside leg stump).  Within the letter of the law, it had to be not out.  But I wonder what would have happened if the umpire had said, “It’s out anyway.  If the batsman is not prepared to play a ball like that with his bat, he can leave.”  I think there are times in the past when umpires have perhaps not worried so much about the doubt when a batsman pads up and I’m all for that.  More and more, the umpire’s discretionary powers are being removed.  For contrast and for the record, the second du Plessis lbw was overturned and it was a bad mistake from Billy Bowden to give it in the first place.

To illustrate my point about decisions evening out, I refer to the 1st Test of Australia’s last visit to India.  In what became the final over of the match, with India nine and needing a handful of runs to win, Billy Bowden denied Mitchell Johnson an lbw, because of an inside edge onto the pad (we know this because overthrows resulted and no leg byes were signalled).  The ball didn’t hit the bat and if there was DRS, Australia would have won.  Or would they have won? Looking at the first over of the very same innings, Gambhir was given out lbw when he had hit the ball and it pitched outside leg stump.  Had DRS been in place Gambhir would have had his decision overturned and the whole course of history could have been altered.  Maybe India would have won by five wickets.  Who knows?

I’m with India on this one.  The game is better without DRS.  just another reason why I’m looking forward to the Test series in India.

2 thoughts on “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot

  1. Ajebec, thank you for a long and considered response. When I said that over-turning decisions was a detraction, I didn’t explain but I was meaning from a player and spectator position. You want to celebrate the finger going up but you can’t fully (unless the DRSs are used for the innings). Obviously, there is some good in obvious injustices being righted.

    I agree that DRS can reduce animosity. But I think it is a shame that the days are gone when people had the character to accept the umpire’s decision, even when it was wrong. I think a great deal of someone who walks off, having been given out wrongly and not giving a hint that it is so.

    But we live in a complex world and with so much racial tension and other socio economical tension, perhaps expecting good sportsmanship is unrealistic. I recall in the last day of the “Monkeygate” Sydney test that India got some terrible decisions on the final day. Perhaps DRS would have eased some of the tension on that day (assuming those decisions were righted).

    I agree with you that the umpires are pretty good and this has been verified by DRS. I also agree that umpires might vary their decision making process depending on the situation with DRS remaining. I don’t think that is good – I would rather they completely impartially decide on the evidence before them. I wondered with Watson’s lbw in the first innings whether what you described came into play – you could never see a more plumb lbw but it was not given. Perhaps the umpire had doubts about Perth bounce but he could have been almost sure that the fielding team would refer and correct his mistake. To extend what you are saying, why put the onus on the players to refer? As you say, cricket is a game that has plenty of time. Why not refer every decision, or allow the umpire to call for assistance when needed. The way it is now, DRS is becoming part of tactics, especially if players identify loopholes and weaknesses. Why not keep it purely for allowing the umpires to make the decision, dare I say it, like bloody Rugby.

    I totally agree with your comments about Snicko. It should be used. In the example I sighted with Warner, I was suggesting that the decision was on audio evidence. If that is the case it was simply the sound as heard from the stump mic. Surely Snicko would have been better.

    I also agree that India are being provocative with their refusal to allow DRS. They should work with the rest of the international cricketing community. I was being privative myself in supporting them, although I am finding DRS a bit tedious.

  2. i have to say that, in general, i’m a fan of the drs in cricket. mostly because, of all sports, it is the one that actually moves slowly enough for it to be a reasonable interruption. i don’t agree with you that it’s bad to see a team grab a prize scalp and then have it taken away.

    there are definite flaws with the system. i’m not sure what the reasoning behind not allowing ‘snicko’ to be used are, but as someone that works with audio signals and wavefrom images of sound everyday, i find it odd that cricket officials consider it to be a grey area. it really isn’t. there are clear differences between the sound of a thud of bat on pad and the click of bat on ball etc etc and, especially when used in conjunction with the images of what’s happening, are generally pretty conclusive. i’d argue it’s more conclusive than hotspot but, at the very least, a combination of hotspot and snicko would make the vast majority of decisions clear, something which these tests have shown hotspot is not quite able to achieve on its own.

    on a slightly different note, an interesting thing that dawned on me this week was how the drs actually works for the umpires if they use it judiciously. while both teams have an appeal left, the umpire is safe to make a decision either way if he’s uncertain, knowing that an referral can save him. but, say the bowling team have used their 2 appeals up, they make an appeal and the umpire is not certain. if he gives not out, he may be left to rue a mistaken decision. however, if he gives it out, the onus goes to the batting team to refer. the inverse also works. so, the umpire can actually juggle his decisions if he’s uncertain, depending on who has appeals left.

    i reckon the majority of umpires are happy for the referrals to show them wrong on very close decisions. i don’t think anyone can say that the international umpires we’re seeing are consistently poor – most referrals are showing that they are either correct or understandably incorrect on a very close call. the number of howlers that have to be overturned are actually quite low. i think the system supports the umpires and i think it works well enough in test cricket to be used and developed.

    yes, maybe in the long run, the indian stance results in decisions which even but, in the process you have animosity created by players who don’t leave when they know they’ve edged it and such events. and besides, drs also evens out in the long run, but the number of wrong decisions is minimal, leaving no room for personal animosity. the indian stance is just deliberately provocative.

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