This series between Pakistan and England has seen the greatest amount of lbws in a three-test series in test history. Already 36 victims have been struck plumb in front, and have been forced to trudge back to the pavilion, with most batsmen and an increasing number of pundits blaming the rise of the DRS for the increased number of ell-bees.
So is the reason for the disproportionate number of leg-befores due to the use of technology? It’s certainly been proved that since the implementation of the review system that a greater percentage of appeals have been given by umpires, especially to spinners, as replays have shown that a lot of the previously rejected shouts would have gone on to hit the stumps. This has been a boost for the likes of Swann and Ajmal, who have been given plenty of wickets over the past couple of years that they would simply not have been given in times gone past. Umpires have seen that even when batsmen take a big stride down the pitch that the ball will sometimes go on to hit the stumps, meaning that they’re far more willing to give batsmen out. So arguably, DRS has played a part in the dismissals.
For this series, however, the DRS is being blamed for the fact that ball is hitting the pad more often. David Lloyd has spoken about the “paranoia” that the DRS is causing, leading to batsmen’s techniques falling apart and being struck plumb in front. But can the DRS really be blamed? Surely if a batsman plays with a straight bat and actually hits the ball, no amount of replays or ball-tracking technology will give them out. Yes, there have been a lot of lbws this series, but how many of those have been due to poor technique (especially by English players playing spin), and the awareness of the bowlers to exploit this by bowling at the stumps?
The DRS is said to have closed the gap in the balance between bat and ball in test cricket, and that can only be a good thing. One of the arguments against the review system is that there are a lot more wickets given than in the past – but wickets are only given if a batsman is out. Which means that in the past, batsmen who should have been given out weren’t, and if that happens to favour the bowlers then so be it. Surely that’s a lot better than incorrect decisions costing teams games? If the DRS is causing a “paranoia” amongst batsmen about how to play certain shots, then shouldn’t they getting down the nets and working on their obviously shaky technique rather than bleating about the pros or cons of technology? Hawkeye or no Hawkeye, a batsman is asking for trouble if he keeps getting hit on the back pad when standing in front of middle stump, and if the DRS is helping the umpires to get those decisions right, then that can only be of benefit to test cricket.
The DRS does have its opponents, and some arguments against its usage, many of which are very relevant and should be looked at. However, the fact that it is leading to more correct decisions being made surely isn’t one of them. Instead of looking for excuses, the batsmen should be looking at themselves and working out how to avoid being hit on the pads, as until then, the bowlers are going to keep bowling at them.