Today may turn out to be a very important day in the world of Test cricket. Regular readers will know that I am no fan of the Decision Review System (DRS). While I’m all for sensible use of technology in sport, I cannot abide the way “Umpire’s Call” is designed to work. It’s an abomination.
Until today, I couldn’t see a simple way out. DRS was here to stay, and with it the Umpire’s Call, or so it seemed. A constant threat, with the ability to mar, to scar, what would otherwise have been an enjoyable day’s cricket.
Today all that changed at Dharamsala, during the Fourth (and deciding) Test between India and Australia. It couldn’t have happened in a nicer place.
Australia won the toss and elected to bat. They were bowled out for precisely 300 in 88.3 overs. India faced just one over, ending the day at 0 for 0.
A full day’s play. A decent over rate. A decent run rate. 10 wickets. 300 runs. A fabulous century by one of the finest cricketers plying his trade at present. A glorious debut by a young spinner. An enthralling contest. A splendid time is guaranteed for all. Being for the benefit of all and sundry, not just Mr Kite.
And not a single review. Australia did not review any of the ten wickets they lost. India didn’t have anything to review; I can remember one instance when Bhuvaneswar Kumar thought about it, but decided against it.
There was a dearth of spurious appeals. At least that’s the way it looked to me, watching from thousands of miles away.
The batsmen all walked. Something deep in the spirit of the game, something that’s been eroding of late. [I still cringe at the memory of what Stuart Broad did. Not walking was sin enough. Not walking because the fielding side “had no reviews left”, that called for the cricketing equivalent of bell, book and candle.]
None of the batsmen was given out LBW, in a full day’s cricket, with ten wickets falling. This too on the subcontinent, with a bunch of spinners doing their bit for God and country. Unheard-of.
That’s surely a record in times of DRS, and may have been quite rare even before that.
Bowling negatively, staying well outside the off stump, trying to bore the daylights out of batsmen and spectators, wishing and willing them to lose patience and hang their bat out; slowing the over rate down to abysmal levels; using every trick in the book (and often ones not in the book) to rough up one side of the ball and to shine the other; appealing whimsically, irrelevantly and even irritatingly; running on to the pitch while bowling in the fourth innings; all this and more; there is much that despoils the game, brings it into disrepute.
Today was a welcome break from all that nonsense.
For that, I have to thank the two teams and the officials. Whatever the result, they’ve given us the example of a whole day’s cricket the way it should be played.
And it came with a bonus. How do you avoid the abomination of DRS? Get the batsmen out unambiguously, unequivocally, without the need for an LBW decision.
There’s hope yet for cricket, particularly Test cricket.