David Leggat on sport
David Leggat is a Herald sport writer

David Leggat: DRS chancers means all the authority should go back to umpires

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It might have slipped your attention but cricket's oldest and most lustrous series is in full cry.

But instead of the Ashes dominating the cricket headlines for, er, cricketing reasons, they've been overtaken by the right old kerfuffle over the Decision Review System. Again.

The sound and fury of disgruntled players, which has accompanied a series of clangers by the very process introduced precisely to remove them, climbed an octave or two with Australian media allegations that England's batsmen were using silicone strips on the edges of their bats to help mask edges from the Hot Spot review process.

Batsmen have long pondered ways to give themselves an edge over technology. Vaseline was tried for a while. Cricket has its share of chancers, players always looking to crib an advantage by means fair and not so fair.

There is no specific law against the tape, but it does rub against the spirit of the game. What spirit, you could argue? Used in that sense, it has been draining out of the old game for some time.

By the end of this series it is likely to have been one of the two most important in the use of, and progress in, the DRS system.

The other was between Sri Lanka-India rubber in 2008. It was the first time India used it, and they made such a dog's breakfast of their referrals that they vowed never again in bilateral series.

Anyway, in all this there's one salient point.

For all the huff and puff, cricket is better off with a DRS than without. There is talk of a two-thirds improvement in the number of dud umpiring decisions since it was introduced.

And we now know what many suspected. Hot Spot is not infallible.

When the ball brushes a bat it leaves a white smudge on the screen; but if there's no smudge it doesn't automatically mean there hasn't been contact.

Options for the ICC?

They could remove Hot Spot as unreliable, thus rendering silicone or other masking agents of limited value to the batsmen, or rule the substance illegal.

If it's outlawed it's not hard to conjure the image of an official at the gate checking the state of the batsmen's willow and peeling off any offending matter.

Here's three possibilities of varying merits:

Go back to the old days and leave it all to the umpires. Put them back in knee length white coats and dark trilbys while you're at it; retain the status quo in the full expectation that the problem won't go away and umpires will keep feeling put upon; or take control for the referrals out of the players' hands altogether.

They, after all, have had their chance to use the system judiciously and for its express purpose - eradicate the really bad calls, but leave the iffy decisions in the umpires hands - and instead have sought to try it on, often on a whim. Chancers, if you will.

So let the umpires have the power to check with their third officials whenever they're uneasy about a decision.

Give the authority back to umpires. It would be a modern twist on the way the game was always intended. Now there's a thought.

- NZ Herald

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