INdia has a fascinating history with the Decision Review System. It was involved in its conception, was one of the first two countries to put it to trial, and then became the only nation to refuse to use it in bilateral engagements. The DRS was a result of the Sydney Test of 2008, in which consistently poor umpiring created a fractious atmosphere, leading to some of the ugliest scenes cricket has seen. The administrators realised that the umpire, the person with the greatest responsibility on the field, was the least empowered. Television had begun to provide access to information the umpire would have benefited from, but did not; yet he was judged on it. India and Sri Lanka were the first to audition it in a three-Test series in 2008. But it was this very experience that shaped much of India’s opposition: the argument was that the technology wasn’t faultless and it allowed room for unskilled human intervention. While the rest of world cricket embraced the DRS, with a vast majority of players and virtually every umpire taking the view that it improved the game beyond measure, India held out for perfection. This it was able to do because of the influence it wielded in the sport’s administration. But a change in the power equation at the top and the generational turnover of cricketers saw the position soften.
The agreement to trial the DRS during the series against England was viewed by many as a welcome end to intransigence. But to make so sweeping an assessment is to be dismissive of India’s reservations. Two significant developments altered matters. The technology grew more sophisticated: the frame rates of the cameras improved manifold, from 75 frames a second in 2011 to 340 now, providing more data for the path of the ball to be predicted; a sound-based edge detection system, allied to slow-motion cameras, helped establish the first point of impact on the pad, greatly reducing human intervention. These were direct answers to India’s questions. The clincher was an independent audit of the system by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It helped to a great extent that Anil Kumble was involved in a lot of this. He was India’s captain in Australia and Sri Lanka in 2008, the head of the ICC’s cricket committee when the process of evaluating the DRS began, and later the national coach. An intelligent, open-minded man with a degree in engineering, Kumble’s voice carried great weight. It remains to be seen if India continues to use the system after the England series. But the signals are that it has accepted it. There is no doubt that the DRS needs even more refinement and greater standardisation. But with India now on board, the chances are better of the evolution of an even more robust system that protects cricket from umpiring errors.