CLOSE ONE: West Indies batsman Marlon Samuels evades a bouncer during the fourth ODI against Pakistan in St Vincent last Sunday. –Photo courtesy WICB MEDIA

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Windies’ woes more than just the DRS

By BY TONY COZIER

THERE were certain images from the Beausejour Stadium during the final ODIs against Pakistan last week that hinted at a West Indies team even more troubled than the upshot of five months non-stop cricket and the final 3-1 scoreline indicate.

There were open grouses from captain Dwayne Bravo about the Duckworth-Lewis mathematical adjustment in the fourth match, and from Bravo and coach Ottis Gibson about adverse umpiring decisions, made on and off the field, in the final match.

Two out of form power-hitters, previously seen as essential to the batting in the shorter formats, were both dropped, Chris Gayle to No.5 in the order and Kieron Pollard to the subs’ bench.

Another key player, Marlon Samuels, was the leading scorer in the five matches with 243 runs and the only hundred; yet, among the established batsmen, his strike rate of 55.45 was only higher than the 52.8 of No.3, Darren Bravo. Gayle, feared assassin of bowling the world over, could manage just 58.09 and a topscore of 30.   

In the final match, slack boundary fielding by Sunil Narine and Samuels prompted livid reaction from spectators and from some teammates; Narine’s response was a hand-waving, get-lost gesture.

Even before play, Ian Bishop commented on television that he detected a lack of cohesion within the team. The massive fast bowler of a quarter-century back went through similar instances during his career. He has, as they say, been there, done that. He can read the signs.

And the signs were there were for all to see.

It was not that the misgivings over Duckworth-Lewis or the umpiring were misplaced.

As usual, the former favoured the team batting second. They were, to be sure, blatant errors on both decisions given and reviewed by the TV umpire. The majority hurt the West Indies more.

Yet to openly complain about them was futile and self-defeating. Instead, captain and coach were focusing on issues over which they had no control rather than those over which they did—such as batting, bowling, fielding and strategy.

The close up of Bravo’s reaction when third umpire Peter Nero showed him the piece of paper with the D-L calculation in the rain-interrupted fourth match was that of someone in the dock just handed a life sentence by the foreman of the jury; it was a change from the usual positive, smiling persona of an enthusiastic cricketer. It all but said that defeat was inevitable.

Pakistan, requiring 262 off 49 overs, were 68 for two off 17 overs at the time. On resumption, it was transformed into 189 off 31 overall, another 121 from the remaining 14.

The run rate was a stiff 8.64 but, with eight wickets intact, Pakistan’s unruffled captain Misbah-ul-Haq described it afterwards as a straight Twenty20 contest. Bravo’s concern at the shift was that his “main bowlers” (Kemar Roach and Sunil Narine) were now limited to seven overs rather than the full ten; they had already bowled five each.

Yet Darren Sammy, the most economical at Bravo’s disposal, had only three and wasn’t called on again as Misbah and Umar Akmal punished some woeful bowling on their victory charge.

Gibson’s fury at TV umpire Steve Davis’ rejection of the review on Paul Reiffel’s not out decision for a leg-side deflection off Misbah was understandable; the Pakistani captain, 49 at the time on the way to his Man of the Match 63, was the key wicket throughout the series.

Repeated replays indicated a deflection off the glove but Reiffel and Davis didn’t see it that way so Misbah remained.

Even after the post-match presentation, Gibson was seen on the outfield in animated conversation with match referee David Boon. His body language left no doubt as to the point he was stressing. He might also have mentioned the reviewed caught-keeper verdict that didn’t favour Darren Bravo earlier in the day.

No matter how vehemently the two put across their indignation, the offending decisions would not, could not, be changed. The place for airing such grievances is the International Cricket Council (ICC) itself.

Surely, the need for the DRS itself to be reviewed has become increasingly clear. If a low-key, bilateral series between the West Indies and Pakistan attracted little attention, the host of controversies in the first two Tests of the current, high-profile Ashes series certainly has.

They have highlighted its fallibility—or, to be more accurate, that of third umpires pressed into adjudicating on thin edges, gloved deflections and close catches on the unsatisfactory evidence of two-dimensional TV frames. India, which refuses to use it, claims the recent instances justify its stance.

The DRS was introduced because the technology was available to, as ICC’s chief executive officer, David Richardson, put it “eliminate obvious mistakes as its first priority”. That has not changed; what we have seen is often not so much elimination but confirmation and sometimes creation of such mistakes.

According to the ICC guidelines, if the TV official cannot decide on a review “with a high degree of confidence”, he should report to the man in the middle that the evidence is inconclusive. As such, the original judgment should stand.

The problems its interpretation causes have been there from the start.

On the third day of England’s Test at Kensington Oval four years ago, the Australian, Daryl Harper, seemed so confused by the assembled mass of technology on the TV screen in front of him that he had a hat-trick of questionable lbw decisions in the space of a couple of hours.

In Adelaide the following year, the Pakistani, Asad Rauf, filling TV duties, ruled Shivnarine Chanderpaul not out in on one reviewed decision for a catch at the wicket and out on a similar review not long after. Australian captain Ricky Ponting was incensed by the first call, Chanderpaul by the second.

Richardson initially predicted beneficial spinoffs for the DRS.

“Initially when we spoke we thought a possible indirect benefit might be that batsmen, when they do edge a ball, won’t hang around and will walk anyway because they will be inevitably given out in the long run and they might be shown up as, not cheats, but certainly not playing within the spirit,” he said back in 2009. “We’ve found in the trials that the vociferous appealing, and appealing when you know it’s not out, just to try to convince the umpire, has seemed to go out of the game”.

Really?

Batsmen still aren’t walking and bowlers and fielders are still appealing vociferously, even before deciding against using the DRS. And, for all the technology, obvious mistakes still prevail.

The ICC needs to act to get the system back to what was initially envisaged, whatever that would take. 

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