Friday, 26 July 2013

On Cricket - Hawk-Eye is cockeyed, says Bishan Singh Bedi

Former Indian captain Bishan Singh Bedi, one of the finest left-arm spinners the world has seen, shared his views on contentious issues surrounding the game in an exclusive chat with TOI 26 July 2013. Excerpts...

The first two Ashes Tests have put a big question mark over the reliability of the Decision Review System. Are you for doing away with DRS?

Look, the whole idea behind allowing players to review umpiring decisions was to eliminate human errors with the help of technology. Nothing is wrong with that. The problem lies with the technology itself. I have never been a big fan of the Hawk-Eye and now it seems the Hot Spot too has gone cold. I completely endorse Ian Chappell's view that DRS should be taken out of the players' hands and handed over to the on-field umpires, who should be able to get technology-based inputs from the third umpire.

Also Read

Cricket and DRS - The Best is not the Enemy of the Good


But, as you said, the technology is still not foolproof...

It is not. There are inherent flaws in Hawk-Eye that in my opinion makes it cockeyed. What I particularly don't like about this technology is its standard approach to deviations. All bowlers know that very often balls deviate - more or less - without any particular reason. It may also depend on whether the bowler is bowling into the wind or against it. So these decisions are best left to on-field umpires, for they are in the best position to adjudicate.

Do you agree with the basic premise for a decision review in case of LBW appeals - that the ball should have pitched in line with the stumps?

The key to an LBW decision, in my opinion, should be not where the ball pitches but whether it would go on to hit the stumps if the batsman's did not come in the way. Let me point out that Mike Gatting would have been declared not out (on an LBW appeal) had Shane Warne's much-hyped 'Ball of the (last) Century' struck him on his back foot instead of sneaking in between his legs to hit the stumps! After all, Warne's big leg-break had pitched way outside the batsman's leg stump!

So how does one factor in the deviation?

It is a tough one. That is why I maintain that umpires should be very skeptical while ruling in bowlers' favour on front-foot LBW appeals. Look, the depth of the crease is four feet, and assuming that an average six-foot batsman would cover another four feet while playing forward means the ball would strike the pad some 8-9 feet from the stumps. The challenge before an umpire is that he not only has to read the line correctly but also factor in the trajectory of the delivery and possible deviations before deciding whether the ball would have gone on to hit the stumps.

So you are not in favour of umpires giving LBW decisions when batsmen are playing well forward?

Umpires should be more than 100% sure before upholding such appeals. All batsmen are not six-footers, so the umpires have to use their discretion.

Isn't it a pity that during your playing days batsmen got away by simply padding up?

Not only me, all four of us (Prasanna, Venkataraghavan and Chandrasekhar included) too missed out on a bagful of wickets because of this. Each one of us would have ended up with at least 200 more victims had umpires in our era given batsmen out when struck on the front pad.

Don't you think that umpires are under too much pressure because of DRS?

The umpire's job is an unenviable one. It is up to the governing body to make life easier for them. The players are not making it easier by appealing for everything. Umpires are human and are bound to succumb to pressures.

Why blame the players for this? They are, after all, playing within the rules...

The history of the game tells us that new rules had to be introduced because players pushed the parameters too far. 'Bodyline' bowling was possible because there was no restriction on the number of fielders on the leg side at that time. Fast bowlers used bouncers, a legitimate weapon in their armoury, to intimidate batsmen rather than trying to get them out. Ball-tampering became an issue. Match referees had to be introduced to make sure that there was no hanky-panky at the toss and to curb sledging. 

There seems to be a dearth of umpiring talent in the world...

You know why the English umpires used to be the best in our time? It was because they were mostly first-class cricketers for whom umpiring was a logical career option.

Is that the reason why it is not fair to compare players from different eras?

Just look at the bare facts. Together the four of us played 231 Tests, picked up 853 wickets but only 12.5 per cent of them (107) were LBW dismissals. Of my 266 Test wickets, only 16 came from LBWs (Prasanna 189/25, Venkataraghavan 156/24, Chandrasekhar 242/42). Muralitharan alone has 150 LBW victims, Shane Warne 138, Kumble 156, Vettori 74, Harbhajan 68 and Swann 68.

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