The Decision Review System (DRS) will not be available for this season's Ranji Trophy final, which is being played right now between Mumbai and Madhya Pradesh at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru.
Several media houses quoted a BCCI official and another source, who mentioned several reasons for this. Let us check these out one by one.
BCCI official: ‘We believe in our umpires. India’s two best umpires are officiating in this game. It’s time we trusted our umpires.’
There is little doubt regarding the credentials of KN Ananthapadmanabhan and Virender Sharma, both of whom are seasoned professionals who have stood in international cricket as well as in the IPL. That, in itself, bears testimony to their credentials.
However, the same matches – in international cricket as well as in the IPL – do feature the DRS. If BCCI does use the DRS when one or both of Ananthapadmanabhan and Sharma officiate, does it mean that they lose ‘belief’ in them as per their convenience?
The DRS was not introduced to cricket out of mistrust of umpires. Human errors do happen. The purpose of the system is to keep the errors of on-field umpires to a bare minimum. The argument, thus, falls flat on its face.
BCCI official: ‘How does it matter if there’s no DRS in the final?’
As much as it matters if there is no DRS in any cricket, of course. Despite the many domestic tournaments, the Ranji Trophy retains its status as the elite red-ball contest in India. Indian cricket fans – even the ones who had ignored the entire tournament – do tune in to the final. As do national selectors.
Success or failure in the Ranji Trophy final may, thus, alter a cricketer’s career. As it often happens in cricket, an umpiring blooper may affect that.
Umpiring errors, particularly at a wrong moment, may also impact the outcome of the match. Remember, the last time Madhya Pradesh won the Ranji Trophy was seven decades ago: they used to play as Holkar back then. They would sorely want to win this one.
It is not only about the cricketers or teams, either. When Indian umpires often take flak during the IPL, it is often forgotten that they are not used to the scrutiny of the DRS in domestic cricket. Using the DRS only in the final will serve little purpose, but if implemented throughout the knockout stage, the quality of umpiring will almost certainly improve.
It does not have to be at every stage.
BCCI official: ‘If you use it in the final, you will want to introduce it in the league stage of the Ranji Trophy too.’
One can understand not using the DRS in the league stage. With 38 teams, the Ranji Trophy is the largest domestic cricket tournament in the world. Given the nature of the tournament, there can be 19 simultaneous matches. To arrange for nineteen DRS set-ups can be a challenge. However, it can perhaps be implemented in the knockouts.
There is no actual reason for the usage of the DRS in the knockouts implying its usage in league matches as well. In fact, if it is affordable and practical, why should someone not ‘want to introduce’ it in the league stage? Is that not the logical thing to do?
Why not use whatever there is?
BCCI official: ‘The last time, it was used for limited replays to see if there’s an edge or not. You can’t use the ball trajectory – a critical element of DRS.’
‘Limited DRS’ (sans Hawk-Eye) was used in the semi-finals and final of the 2019/20 Ranji Trophy. The television umpire could check for edges but not for leg before. While nowhere close to ideal, it was still a better option than not having DRS at all. Why not use it?
Yes, it is expensive, but…
BCCI official: ‘It’s an expensive exercise to use the DRS. The costs shoot up … The rigging and de-rigging of all the equipment will be extremely costly. Hawk-Eye means extra cameras are needed. Ranji is done with limited equipment.’
The DRS is expensive. There is no doubt about that. To predict the trajectory after hitting, Hawk-Eye first has to track the trajectory while the ball is in flight. For that, it requires six high-speed cameras (three at each end) that capture 340 frames per second.
However, earlier this month, the BCCI sold the rights for the 2023-2027 cycle of the IPL for Rs 44,075 crore, almost thrice the price for the 2018-2022 cycle. That amounts to Rs 119 crore per match, or Rs 49.6 lakh per ball. With sums this absurd, surely the Ranji Trophy knockout matches could have used the DRS?
Logistics, of course, can be a problem. However, Chinnaswamy did host the fifth T20I between India and South Africa at the same venue a day and a half before the final began. That match was covered by the same broadcasters as the Ranji Trophy match.
Surely, there could not have been a lot of ‘rigging and de-rigging of all the equipment’?
To sum up…
The Omicron variant of the coronavirus had led to the BCCI postponing this season’s Ranji Trophy indefinitely. There was a chance of it not being played at all. The decision to eventually host a curtailed, off-season tournament, on either side of the IPL, came almost as an afterthought.
Reports of Indian domestic cricketers not being paid their dues on time had surfaced last year. And the BCCI is not keen on using DRS for any stage of the Ranji Trophy.
The IPL will keep minting money for the BCCI, as will internationals. However, unless the quality of cricket and umpiring in the Ranji Trophy keep improving consistently, the chasm between Test and domestic cricket will keep increasing with every season.
That is never a good thing.