DRS crucial to how spin is now played
With a dry, cracked pitch offering expansive turn for Bangladesh’s spinners, most commentators were in agreement that England’s opening day in Chittagong was a perfect dry run for the five Tests that lay ahead of them in India next month.
Except in one major regard – India have still not agreed to use the Decision Review System (DRS) which proved so crucial to England posting a competitive score yesterday.
DRS has its critics but it ensured justice was served in Chittagong with Moeen Ali the major beneficiary after he survived five lbw decisions against him, three of them overturned by his own reviews. Had it not been present, England, who reached 258-7 by the close, would probably have struggled to make 150 given the gung-ho nature of at least one of the umpires.
Two of those reprieves came in the first over after lunch, bowled by wily left-arm spinner, Shakib Al Hasan. Umpire Kumar Dharmasena twice raised his finger for lbw appeals against Moeen, but given that he used to bowl spin himself, both looked speculative given the very precise geometry required with Shakib bowling over the wicket.
Moeen, who made a fine 68 from 170 balls, had already managed to overturn another “out decision” from Dharmasena in the over before lunch while the other two he survived were “not out” lbw decisions which Bangladesh reviewed, unsuccessfully.
Ironically, had Mushfiqur Rahim, Bangladesh’s wicketkeeper/captain reviewed a missed sweep Moeen made against teenage off-spinner, Mehedi Hasan, when the batsman had made just one, success would have been theirs.
Many described Moeen’s innings as lucky but that oversight by Bangladesh was the only luck he enjoyed. On the other occasions he was given out his judgment was found to have been better than the umpire’s, and that has nothing to do with good fortune.
India’s objection to DRS has been unstinting since they became the first to use it in 2008. Apart from that early experience not being a good one, their main problem with it, at least officially, is the system’s inaccuracy and the lack of standardisation in setting it up at each new venue, especially the Hawkeye element.
Talk to India’s journalists, though, and they reckon the antipathy stemmed from Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni, India’s Test captain until recently, not trusting the system. Indeed, Dhoni once referred to it as the Umpire Decision Justification System, his claim being that some umpires found it easier to give marginal lbws not out (given that umpire’s call is such a powerful element within the protocol) because the fielding side still had the option of a review if they felt aggrieved.
In other words its presence gave them the easy option of not making tough decisions.
Virat Kohli, India’s latest Test captain, claims to be more open minded to using DRS though it remains to be seen whether he brooks as much power with the Indian cricket board as Tendulkar and Dhoni. His attitude has at least encouraged the International Cricket Council (ICC) to hold a presentation in India over the next fortnight, in the hope that it might encourage them to take up DRS. Nothing is certain but England will be hoping.
In a bid to overcome India’s scepticism, ICC asked the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to check and, if necessary, improve, the accuracy of the system. That has been done, though whether India will be persuaded will rest as much on the egos involved as the improved veracity.
One thing DRS has certainly done is to
India’s objection to DRS has been unstinting since they became the first to use it in 2008, their main problem being with its accuracy
change the way batsmen play spin. Prior to its introduction, many batsmen would simply thrust their front pad at the ball on a turning pitch, keeping the bat hidden behind it. Few were ever given out lbw though that suddenly changed with DRS. To combat those rising incidences of lbw, batsmen now play at the ball with bat first and not pad, the change accounting for the return of leg-slip, a position well deployed so far in Chittagong.
With spinners both ends and the ball fizzing, umpires are under pressure to make a lot of decisions, far more than on a placid shirtfront where ball rarely beats bat. In those situations DRS is invaluable in ensuring justice is served, whether for bowler or batsman. On balance you feel India, with their phalanx of fine spinners, would benefit from DRS, especially at home.
If that is a challenge to come for England, their immediate concerns were coping with Bangladesh’s spinners and the 18-year old debutant, Mehedi, in particular.
When the ball is turning as sharply as he and Shakib made it do, it is fascinating to see how different players cope, not just with the inner churn you get when the ball is fizzing and spitting and there are men round the bat, but with the technical aspects of making runs in such a trying situation.
Joe Root looked the calmest and most assured. His method of playing right back or right forward, while taking the occasional risk, put pressure on the bowlers, making it an even contest. Jonny Bairstow adopted a similar game plan but enjoyed a slice of luck when he was dropped at slip off left-arm spinner Taijul Islam.
Both looked set for big scores when undone by straight on skidders from Mehedi, the jury out whether it was deliberate or just natural variation off the pitch.
The most fascinating innings was Moeen’s, in particular the mental battle with curbing his own attacking instincts. It is generally reckoned that a batsman’s first 20 balls are the most crucial on turning pitches in Asia, but Moeen extended that to his first 100.
At that point he’d made just 24 runs, none of which had been scored on the off-side, emphasising the gritty nature of his approach.
Fans of white-ball biff, bang, pow will find such denial dull, but it showed an ascetic’s discipline. He was not entirely a slave to abstinence from his attacking instincts and when he adjudged the bowling to be tiring, he scored his next 26 runs off just 29 balls.
Indeed it needed a beauty from Mehedi, and a fine catch from Mushfiqur behind the stumps, to remove him. But by then England were in the game, their gratitude to Moeen and DRS obvious.
Shouting match: Mehedi Hasan, of Bangladesh, appeals unsuccessfully for an lbw against Moeen Ali, inset, who went on to get 68