India vs England: BCCI's ill-timed acceptance of DRS, lack of due process may hurt team in Tests
England have an advantage, having years of experience using the review system. They rarely waste reviews. They know when to go for a referral and it's a crucial part of the skipper's job.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India's (BCCI) contempt for process is monumental. In fact, its disregard for process is in itself a process!
The board has decided to embrace the Decision Review System (DRS) for the Test series against England at home, although on an experimental basis. It's only the latest in a long saga of the BCCI springing surprises at the drop of a hat.
Many of these decisions are taken with scant due process and they often land the top brass in more than a spot of bother. The decision to allow N Srinivasan to own a franchise in the Indian Premier League (IPL) was taken by the top brass in contravention of rules. So too was taking the IPL to South Africa in 2009, and getting embroiled in a tangle with the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).
More recently, another top brass of the BCCI waived penalty and dues running to millions of dollars owed to the board by the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) for its team abandoning a tour of India. That such a huge decision was taken without getting approval from the working committee was yet another surprise. It won't be surprising if the Lodha Committee's super audit goes through this.
The latest surprise is, of course, embracing DRS for a series as important as the one against England starting next month. Barring multi-nation events like the World Cup, Champions Trophy and the World T20, the BCCI has consistently refused to endorse DRS after their disastrous experience with it in the Test series in Sri Lanka in 2008.
Of course, the Board had agreed to DRS during the series against England in 2011 as well, but it was their shocking 2-1 loss to Sri Lanka in 2008 that proved to the board how clueless the Indian team was about the system, thereby hardening its stance against it. No amount of persuasion could alter that stand.
However, now that those managing the system have claimed that they have improved its efficiency by 4 to 5 percent, it seems good enough for the BCCI.
But it's not the efficiency of the system (or lack of it) that is the issue; it is the BCCI's complete disdain for process that continues to be cause for worry.
For example, take the issue of pink ball Tests. At one stage, the board was very enthusiastic about embracing it in a bid to push for day-night Tests. There was even talk of introducing it in the Test against New Zealand.
Luckily, it decided to experiment with a pink ball in home conditions first, using the Duleep Trophy as trial to give players a chance to get used to pink ball and day-and-night conditions. The results, however, were not very encouraging. In dry conditions, the ball swung prodigiously. And when the outfield was wet and the ball could not be kept dry, the bowlers suffered excessively.
One pink ball tournament was enough to persuade the BCCI to stick with the tried and tested red ball in Tests. Likewise, the DRS should also be tested for a considerable period of time in domestic matches, not only to get the players used to the system, but also to understand how to work it to the advantage of the team. In 2008, for instance, there were comical instances when Indian batsmen asked for reviews even when they were plumb out, while bowlers asked for reviews despite pitching it wide outside the leg stump!
In contrast, England have an advantage, having years of experience using the review system. They rarely waste reviews. They know when to go for a referral and this is seen as a crucial part of the skipper's job.
In the current Indian team, Rohit Sharma, Gautam Gambhir and Ishant Sharma were part of the 2008 team and they know how disastrous it would be if they kept pushing for ridiculous reviews. The team would soon run out of referrals if they waste them.
While the DRS is all about helping umpires arrive at the right decision, teams understand they must be smart in utilising it. If the team uses it for frivolous reasons, it would make a mockery of the board's decision to embrace it.
This apart, the timing of BCCI's acceptance of DRS is also a bit of a puzzle. Coming so close after the ICC meet in South Africa earlier this month, it is possible that it did not want to get caught in a pincer move. With the Lodha Committee breathing down its neck, it might have decided against opening up an avoidable battle on another front. The best immediate course would be to make peace with the ICC, even if temporarily, and not have the DRS thrust down its throat in the near future.
After all, without Indian support and the money that springs out of sponsorship deals from India, the ICC would never be in a position to universally impose DRS. The unease though is with the timing of BCCI's abrupt surrender. There is more to this. Without doubt.
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