Limited DRS in Ranji Trophy - a bitter pill to swallow

Limited DRS in Ranji Trophy - a bitter pill to swallow

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BCCI | Twitter

When the BCCI announced that a limited-DRS would be used in the semi-final and the final stages of the Ranji Trophy, it looked like a celebrated move from the cricketing board. The four sides were content that the number of incorrect decisions would be halved, but in reality, does it?

Technology is supposed to be a life-saver, or in cricketing terms, wicket saver right? Yes, only if used properly. That is where the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s ( BCCI) decision of having a half-cooked, half-baked review system* comes in play. Despite it being highly advertised and backed by the players, they did not pay heed to what it could possibly not do. Hopes sky high, players certain of overturning some of the worst decisions taken on the domestic circuit, with technology hopefully being there to save the day for them. 

While it was scheduled to make its debut in the quarter-final stage of the tournaments, that got delayed to the semi-finals, a week later. And, the first person who was supportive of the move from the BCCI, was Bengal’s skipper Abhimanyu Easwaran.

“It’s a new thing, but I think guys have seen enough cricket on television, so we know a bit of how it works. I think it’s a very good thing to have DRS in domestic cricket as well, especially in knockout games, semi-finals and final, even though there’s not that much technology. You have the technology and that will probably change the game for a team and that can probably be a deciding thing at a crucial point of the game” Easwaran told PTI. 

Everything looks merry at the moment, right? Technology, check; wrong decisions overturned, check; no more howlers, check. Well, there was an asterisk attached to the review system, which no players seemed to be paying any real attention too. A limited-DRS system was going to be employed in the semi-finals, in the biggest stage of a five-day domestic Indian tournament. The asterisk read, no use of hawkeye or ultra edge. And, if you have followed cricket since India started using the DRS, you would know that these two are the vital cogs of the technology. Hawkeye is used when an LBW decision is challenged, with the tracker showing exactly where the ball will head towards. And, ultra edge, as the name suggests will be used to confirm whether there was any contact between bat and ball as the ball made it's way to a fielder.

Feb 29, 2020, history was made when the DRS was taken by the Karnataka skipper Karun Nair in Bengal’s first innings at the Eden Gardens. Abhimanyu Mithun got Bengal’s Abhishek Raman to edge one to the keeper, for an easy take by B Sharath and the Karnataka boys went straight up to the third umpire. The first test, the time had finally come to see if the limited-system could be a real vital-cog in the semi-finals. It straight away passed the test as the decision was overturned as a ‘clear woody sound,’ was heard when the ball went past the bat. However, at the same time, the technology’s downfall was plotted. Even though, it looked clear as daylight to the naked eye, the lack of having the UltraEdge was always going to trigger a familiar downfall to the system. 

Without the deployment of UltraEdge, all that the third umpire can rely on is purely sound. Even if the sound does say, clash with the timing between the ball passing the bat, and bat hitting the pad, the third umpire can hear a ‘tick,’ sound which convinced him to give the decision. Despite the use of UltraEdge, we have seen decisions been given highly in a controversial fashion, and without it, it just makes it worse. Given that last year, the knockout stages of the tournament were marred by an ever-growing list of wrong decisions, the limited use of technology does not offer the right solution.

Moreso, it makes it complicated, with sparingly fewer tools in the hands of the third umpire to stay with the onfield decision or to overturn the decision. Furthermore, in the innings, Anushtup Majumdar was given not out for an extremely close decision by the Karnataka players. However, the impact of the delivery was outside the off-stump, allowing the Bengal batsman to have a sigh of relief.

Technology had arrived, moreso, it started to grow its presence on the game, in a positive note thus far. For the worst was yet to be experienced by the two teams. Karnataka’s veteran pacer Mithun was back for another long spell and was instantly successful trapping the Bengal batsman Nandi in front of the stumps. Up went the umpire’s hand, and so did Nandi’s signalling ‘T,’ for the umpire to go upstairs. It looked extremely tight in real-time. However, when it was slowed down and broken down by multiple replays, it was clear as daylight that it was heading towards Assam.

Such was the decision, the ball seemed to be travelling well and beyond the leg-pole leaving Nandi red-faced and the technology face-palmed. The limited use of technology had its first victim, and Karnataka were the beneficiaries. Immediately, the fraternity gathered all their energy and voiced out heavily that the limited-DRS was flawed, and I don’t particularly disagree with them. It is flawed, it is half-baked and a half-baked cookie is never really called a ‘snack.’ 

To stack up chaos on chaos, Karnataka went up for a review against Sudip Chatterjee after they thought they caught him right in front of the stumps. The on-field umpire, however, felt that the ball was hitting him high on the knee roll and would go above the stumps. So, in reality, if Karnataka felt that the decision was against them, they had the option of going for a review, which will get to the right decision. However, that is where the lack of technology has a telling effect, ‘the umpire.’ He gave it not-out on-field and just because he felt that it was going above the stump, the tourists were denied the opportunity to go for a review.

And, further, it just fueled the Karnataka players, who were left fuming after another decision that did not go their way. They were denied for the third time in a row, and the limited-DRS was caught up in the crossroads. To top it up, Majumdar was given another life because they did not have UltraEdge to make the right decision. Imagine having a car without having wheels on it, or imagine a bottle without water. That was what the limited-DRS was to the review system, without two of its vital cogs.

It got worse for the away side, in the second innings, chasing a mammoth target, they were dealt with an immediate blow - with a walking KL Rahul. Rahul, stopped, check with his partner Samarth, who nodded the right-hander’s request of going upstairs while Ishan Porel was busy celebrating. Well, again, DRS had its say, or I must say limited-DRS had its say, denying Rahul of a review - all because he did not offer a shot to the Bengal pacer. That left Karnataka in tatters and the review system in pieces. For BCCI, having a half-baked DRS in the Ranji Trophy semi-final encounter had the players and the fans agitated. In the end, the players walked off at the Eden Gardens with a ‘bitter after-taste.’ If not for the half-baked system, we could have seen a cracker of a contest in play between the bat and the ball. Thanks to the half-baked one, we see one between the team and the umpire- all for a ‘review.’ 

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