India v Australia, 2nd Test, Bengaluru March 2, 2017

India's teething troubles with DRS

Sidharth Monga, Shiva Jayaraman & Srinath Sripath
They were quite terrible in the Pune Test with their use of DRS, but it would be inaccurate to say they are the worst

India and Virat Kohli need to set up rigorous internal protocols to deal with DRS © ESPNcricinfo

India had a horrible Test in Pune. They bowled badly, they batted badly, and they fielded badly. They also challenged the umpires badly.

They tried seven reviews of which only one was successful: when Ravindra Jadeja the batsman clearly knew he hadn't hit the ball. The other six reviews were used up fast: within 39 overs in the first innings, 36.2 overs in the third, and 5.3 overs in the final innings. Three of these reviews were pure wishful thinking, twice against the best batsman in the opposition Steven Smith and once against Mitchell Marsh. They were so far off that they didn't even return an umpire's call; even the flawed you-shouldn't-lose-reviews-on-umpire's-call argument doesn't apply with these. Two other reviews were wasted by India's openers going against reason on the third day.

As a result, India could only watch when Smith could have been lbw on 73. The umpire felt the ball had hit the bat first, India were rightly adamant it made first impact with the pad, but they didn't have any reviews left because of the gambles earlier. Smith went on to score a hundred. In the fourth innings, Wriddhiman Saha and Jayant Yadav could have done with the reviews had M Vijay and KL Rahul been economical with them.

There can be two ways of looking at India's shambolic use of DRS. The first and more popular one is that India were those babies that get hold of a toy and get fascinated by it without really knowing how to use it. It shows in how India have used 54 reviews in their seven Tests with DRS - let's forget the hugely flawed UDRS that India played with in 2008 - and have got only 16 right. Their opponents in this series Australia, for example, have challenged the umpires only 32 times for 11 changed decisions.

The other possibility is the dip in India's performance in other aspects in this Test was proportional to their dip in DRS. After all they had out-reviewed England in their first series with DRS. India's coach Anil Kumble sits in the second category. "We keep talking about it, and I don't think we messed it up," he said. "If you looked at the two series since it was introduced, we did better than the opposition, both against England and against Bangladesh. It's too early to talk about that. You can always have hindsight. I don't see a reason why we need to worry too much."

India's batsmen have been rather prudent with their reviews © AFP

If India's use of their reviews is to be compared with other sides over their last seven Tests, they do come across as impulsive. The man in charge of most of these calls is an ambitious captain who is unlikely to die wondering in perhaps any pursuit in life. Virat Kohli has teed up 41 times in the field in seven Tests. No other side has asked for even 30 reviews in its last seven Tests. A striking statistic here is that of these 41 shouts, only 15 have been close: eight have been overturned with six others returning umpire's call. In 63% of his reviews in the field, Kohli doesn't even come close. Nineteen of his 31 lbw reviews have failed to return even an umpire's call.

Kohli's success rate of 22%, though, is not the worst. New Zealand and West Indies have been poorer. For the purpose of this comparison, no special allowance has been made for the frivolous reviews made just before the 80th over - when challenges get reset - or those made by the last two wickets just because they are there. It has been assumed all sides indulge in it, and it gets evened out over time.

Reviews when India are batting present another story. Despite the shockers from Vijay and Rahul, they have been best at using the DRS in the last seven Tests, getting more than half of the out calls overturned. Only Pakistan come close to India's 53.8% with exactly half of their batting reviews being successful.

Also India's last seven Tests are their first seven with DRS (discounting 2008, again). So it is slightly unfair to measure their use of reviews against other sides' last seven Tests. In their first seven Tests, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, England and Australia made much better use of DRS than India, who have a success rate of 28.3%. Impulsive and more sentimental sides like Bangladesh and Pakistan had fared worse.

Once again, India and Pakistan, with 53 and 49 challenges, have questioned the umpires more often than other teams. Ajinkya Rahane, who is usually in key positions, tends to share Kohli's optimism. There was once a hilarious sight when Kohli obliged Jadeja the bowler with a review, and then admonished him with a little swear word thrown in when he saw the original decision had stayed.

A slight adjustment needs to be made for the fact that not all sides played their first few Tests with the stipulation that reviews were reset after 80 overs, which can to an extent explain some of the caution that was exercised.

India have been hurt by being impulsive with their reviews while on the field © AFP

The numbers say that contrary to popular perception, India with DRS are neither as bad as Pune showed them to be nor as good as they were in the England series. Once Jayant Yadav got his appeal for lbw upheld on review even though Moeen Ali had advanced down the pitch. So just as a batting unit is neither as bad as an almighty collapse shows them to be nor as good as when all their batsmen are on a roll, India with DRS are somewhere in between. They are not the worst, but there is definite room for improvement.

There is a case for setting up internal protocols. The non-striker has to be more involved. During the England series, Joe Root tried to stand as close to the umpire as he could to help his partner in DRS situations whereas Vijay once stood looking away when Cheteshwar Pujara was given out wrongly. The non-striker has to be dispassionate in these discussions, and not a sympathetic mate. Rahul should never have allowed his partner Vijay to waste his review in Pune. The ball from Steve O'Keefe had pitched on off, straightened just a touch, clearly missed the bat, and it was highly unlikely to miss the stumps altogether.

Vijay was candid enough to own up to it. "At the moment, it's not going our way," he said two days before the Bengaluru Test. "We've got to take a little more time, I guess. We've got to use those 15 seconds much better. We've spoken about it."

Much like umpiring, using DRS is not an exact science. You go into a match telling yourself you are not going to waste it on a hunch, that you are not going to guess, that you are going to ask for it only when you are sure the decision is a howler. You follow your protocols to discuss with the wicketkeeper or the non-striker. And then one day, you are desperate, or you just feel like gambling against the best batsman in the opposition, and you end up being successful. It's then that you mess up with your processes. And India do have processes.

"At the end of each Test, we do have a discussion," R Sridhar, India's fielding coach said in December. "We look at all the decisions that were reviewed, and sit with the bowlers. Have a look at it. When the umpire gives not out, we look at what's the umpire's call and why it was turned down and what are the reasons we should take the DRS. That's an ongoing learning process. And bowlers always feel he has got the batsman. So there are people like Virat and Ajinkya, now Parthiv [Patel] or Wridhiman [Saha] behind the stumps, who kind of give the correct judgement. It's a team call. Kohli does take the call depending upon feedback given by the key members, who are placed in the key positions."

India have come a long way from the 2011 World Cup when it seemed one review was reserved for Virender Sehwag. In the semi-final and in the final of that tournament, he wasted reviews upon early dismissals, and did so without checking with his non-striker. It is perhaps such an initial approach and their subsequent resistance of DRS that makes India appear to be worse than they are when they fail. Yet they can't look away from two clear areas of improvement: Kohli's impulsiveness and certain batsmen's absentmindedness.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. Shiva Jayaraman is a senior stats analyst at @shiva_cricinfo. Srinath Sripath is a sub-editor at ESPNcricnfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sanjay on March 4, 2017, 17:28 GMT

    @CricketChat : But you conveniently fail to mention that the official accuracy numbers from ICC in the early days of DRS were misleading. Even experts agreed, much later, that there were problems that needed ironing out. Number of cameras, frames per second were the main issues, there was no consistency in equipment incl the problem with exporting what was considered sensitive (military) equipment.

    So, yes, nothing is 100% accurate but it was way off 100%. Even today, you see some ball tracking prediction that leaves a lot to be desired. And why should it even be reset at 80 overs? Why is it two per team? It all seems rather arbitary.

    My biggest peeve is the "umpire's call". If this tech is so sooper-dooper, why do we need umpire's call? If that ball is clipping the stumps, the only question should be: will one of the bails come off upon impact. The amount of the ball that needs to be hitting the stumps is nonsense.

  •   badboycricfan on March 4, 2017, 7:30 GMT

    As far as koohli's batting is concerned it can't be more overrated than this... as he can't seem to get past even 15 on his home grounds against a pretty avg Oz bowling attack with no good bowlers barring star...

  •   badboycricfan on March 4, 2017, 7:22 GMT

    Kohl is an overrated player and captain he will be whitewashed in any away series to RSA NZ AS ENG... And every thing from overconfidence to inability to handle pressure to very poor use of DRS shows that he is the worst captain around at the moment and incredibly cricinfo awarded him the test captain of the year despite brilliant leadership skills from far who revived the fortunes of an ailing RSA quite brilliantly how ironic Is that ... but indians continue to adore kohli lol...

  • cricfan06964670 on March 4, 2017, 3:45 GMT

    again with the Rahul "shocker". it was umpire's call but I still can't see how. doesn't matter how many stumps it was taking if it hit him outside - and it did. and I am an Australian who hates that rule, and batsmen. stop with the bandwagon reporting and watch the footage.

  • ravi on March 4, 2017, 2:40 GMT

    Saha's contribution is minimal and the main reason of indias DRS headache.

  • Bappi on March 4, 2017, 2:18 GMT

    % Doesn't matter at ALL - what matters is HOW MANY you WIN. But the openers did seem like reaching for straw in the 2nd innings. BOTTOM LINE - 1) DONT LEAVE any challenge on the table 2) Don't RUN OUT of them by using them too early.

  • Arvind Hickman on March 3, 2017, 23:44 GMT

    India's problem with the DRS is the lack of reviews that are even close. That points to an attitude problem where Kolhi is getting too caught up in the emotion of the game, which is hardly surprising given his passion and temperament. Need calm heads. Personally I'm not a fan of player reviews at all. The umpires in the middle and the third umpire should control reviews. Challenging the officials is wrong in any sport, undermines the umpires authority and will never produce anything more than perceived justice. This for me is the bigger concern than whether India use the system poorly.

  • Ken on March 3, 2017, 21:59 GMT

    The DRS rules are (rightly) designed to give the benefit of any doubt at all to the original umpire's decision. The burden of proof is on the reviewer, not the umpire. For LBW decisions in particular that means you only review it if you think the umpire was definitely, absolutely wrong. That's leaving aside reviews when you're 8 or 9 wickets down anyway or it is almost the 80th over - you may as well chance your arm then.

    The whole DRS system is only designed to overturn the shockers, not to second-guess close calls. It is a good system - players just need to bear its purpose in mind.

  • rob on March 3, 2017, 21:54 GMT

    @ Drew12: "What the original comment meant is exactly equal to you rebuttal. An unsuccessful review is bad because it reduces the chance (ie you lose a review) of getting a successful one later." Nah, can't see it. What it does is eliminate the opportunity but I can't see how it has any effect on the chances of success. If you haven't got a review up your sleeve it can be neither successful or unsuccessful. It's more a case of it doesn't exist at all. Success or otherwise simply doesn't come into it.

  • Peter on March 3, 2017, 21:30 GMT

    Let the umpires do their stuff and use it for howlers. if it is line ball, don't use it, Australia never used it against Kholi, & at first appearance it was always a "maybe" appeal, so they saved it. If I were in Kholi's shoes, I would have been disappointed if given out initially because it looked line ball. Sure you may get lucky & it pays off, but in the long run, it will come back & bite you with obvious ones due to using up your appeals. DRS was originally put in place to clean up howlers & rightly so. Wasted appeals allow howlers to go unchecked, that wasn't the original intent.

  • No featured comments at the moment.