DRS cru­cial to how spin is now played

The Cricket Paper - - FRONT PAGE - Pringle:

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.

PIC­TURES: Getty Images

Shout­ing match: Me­hedi Hasan, of Bangladesh, ap­peals un­suc­cess­fully for an lbw against Moeen Ali, inset, who went on to get 68

DEREK PRINGLE

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