April 2, 2017

Fabulous series, but can we deal with the DRS and on-field chatter?

India and Australia showed what good pitches and good leaders can offer to a contest. But the misuse of the referral system grated on the nerves

Ajinkya Rahane (left) mostly lives in the shadow of Virat Kohli, but in Dharamsala he showed what an astute leader he can be © Associated Press

The recent series between India and Australia showcased many good things about Test cricket and a few of the unsightly. It was the most entertaining series I've watched since the thrilling and dynamic Ashes battle of 2005.

First, the good things - the attributes administrators ought to highlight in promoting Test cricket.

The most important ingredient was the competitiveness of the two teams. Test cricket needs more teams that can compete at home and away. The administrators need to encourage improvement in the standard of the lower- ranked Test teams before they think about expansion.

Some of the pitches came in for criticism but they provided exhilarating contests, where the fan or viewer felt something was about to happen every ball. The pitch for the fourth Test was a beauty, where everyone had a chance to display their talent.

The moral? Provide pitches that give bowlers some assistance and there's every chance the Test will live up to its name. The surfaces also highlighted the excitement on display when slow bowlers are encouraged. Cricket needs to make a concerted effort to improve the lot of spin bowlers. It can't do without top-class tweakers. An educational programme aimed at young spinners and their captains would be a start.

Speaking of captains, there was some excellent leadership in the series. The stand-in, Ajinkya Rahane, was outstanding in the deciding Test. His decisive use of left-arm wristspin debutant Kuldeep Yadav in the first innings and the brave way he sought second-innings wickets in a tight contest were standout examples of how a captain can influence a game.

Rahane then placed the trophy firmly in India's hands when he was proactive in the chase and ended Patrick Cummins' fiery attempt to provoke a collapse. Good, imaginative captaincy is crucial to the success of Test cricket.

The prodigious run-scoring by Steve Smith and Cheteshwar Pujara reflected an old-fashioned approach to batting. Their concentration was relentless and the shot-making displayed a desire to eradicate error; they mostly hit the ball along the ground. It was reminiscent of a time when Test cricket was the only game in town.

Now, for the not-so-appealing aspects of the series.

The review system was not meant to be used for tactical purposes © AFP

The DRS doesn't achieve what it was introduced to do. It should simply overturn howlers and, within a margin for error, ensure decisions are correct. It shouldn't be constantly employed to review 50-50 decisions and tactically induced punts. It should also be under the sole control of the umpires. The adjudication process shouldn't turn a captain into a Money or the Box contestant, with onlookers shouting advice from the sidelines.

The DRS should not include reviews to determine if a fielder has caught the ball. M Vijay caught Josh Hazlewood in Dharamsala. Any fair-minded slip fielder will confirm it was a legitimate catch; a fielder doesn't catch the ball with his fingers pointing straight towards the ground. He only does that when he's intercepting a ball that has bounced in front of him. Vijay had his fingers curled under the ball. It's just that the foreshortening effect of the cameras made it appear otherwise on one replay.

Not only does reviewing these decisions often bring about the wrong conclusion - on-field umpire Ian Gould's soft signal was out - it also implies the fielder is a cheat. The evidence is flawed and should be thrown out of the court.

Then the incessant on-field chatter has to be drastically reduced. It should drive batsmen mad, but if it doesn't, it's the equivalent of a fingernail on a chalkboard for the television viewer.

We don't need to hear another "Nice, SOK" any more than the bowler does. These inane comments don't convey anything useful to team-mates or viewers, and they are not part of the game, no matter how much we are constantly assured they are by participants.

Those annoyances apart, it was a fabulous series, showing Test cricket in a wonderful light. It emphasised why this version of the game needs to be nurtured, albeit with some tweaking.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is a cricket commentator for Channel Nine, and a columnist

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Simon on April 8, 2017, 3:52 GMT

    The demise of Test cricket, as predicted and lamented, for the last 10 yrs of T20 has been slowed and reversed constantly by the Australians in numerous series since 2007. They haven't won them all, but they've tried to and that is the best result for Test cricket. Kohli said a couple of years ago he was going to adopt the Australian way of playing Test cricket and he has. Naturally when teams with the same philosophy comes up against each other, there will be fireworks. Again, Test cricket is better for it. The characteristics of different nations environments can be affect by drop in belters, but that too needs to be resisted as player examination on every type of surface produces the truly great player; batsmen & bowlers. A truly gifted paceman can still aim at cracks and take a 5fa. Agreed the DRS needs to be in the hands of the umps, as players review on hope. As for players picked up by microphones - turn off the microphone and let the players play their game. Again, Tests win!

  • Jay on April 7, 2017, 11:30 GMT

    Chappelli misses the boat on "incessant on-field chatter"! How can it ("annoyances"!) be "drastically reduced"? We have come a long way since SCG 2008, which saw the worst acts of on-field misconduct: sledging, grounded catching, dissent, umpire pressuring, triumphalism & bad sportsmanship. Cricket behaviour has since improved with cross-cultural leagues like IPL. Still more needs to be done. Look at other sports. Even in full-contact American football, NFL has cracked down on trash talk, racial slurs, taunting & excess celebrations with fines, ejections & suspensions. The late Martin Crowe wrote a compelling article "Why cricket needs yellow and red cards" to curb indiscipline, like in soccer. Tennis has taken steps to outlaw on-court misconduct, even "racket abuse"! Yet cricket does nothing about "verbal abuse" of fellow human beings? That's absurd. The buck stops here. The ICC & boards must take back control of the game, enforce strict rules & action! Something to chew on, Ian?

  • Jay on April 7, 2017, 1:27 GMT

    Chappelli is right re: DRS not working as intended, But for the wrong reasons. So let's first ask: "How should the system work"? Let's examine what works or does not. Yes, line decisions work - as in baseball - for run-outs, stumpings, no balls & boundary calls. These are in or out calls: black or white. But what about grey areas: catches, edges & lbws? Therein lies the problem. Recall infamous SCG 2008? Michael Clarke was involved in 2 howlers: 1) he wrongfully claimed a low catch, ump Mark Benson agreed with Ponting's raised finger rather than consult his on-field or TV umps! 2) Clarke edged a catch to slip off his glove, was given not out; later he admitted he should have walked! Reality: Umpiring blunders & players cheating! Lesson: DRS should include reviews for catches to avoid howlers! MLB allows reviews of trapped catches on appeal by dug-out manager (via players). Only balls & strikes are rightly off-limits (hint: lbws). As a baseball buff, Chappelli should know. Howzat, Ian?

  • animes8089535 on April 5, 2017, 13:54 GMT

    It's funny that people are now criticising DRS .BCCI refused using DRS and always mentioned that it needs revision and it's not accurate. Today we hardly find any game without any howlers and incorrect decision. Says much about the new referral system. It should be done in old fashioned way giving umpires all the power and benefit of doubt to batsmen. And also more bowlers friendly pitches should be prepared if one does not want this sport to die.

  • S on April 5, 2017, 13:41 GMT

    Good to see a former Aussie captain suggesting cracking down on on-field chatter, given that sledging seems to be viewed as part of the Oz sporting landscape (at least based on some of the Oz comments on this site's articles - I would be happy to be corrected). When the sport is of great quality, why demean it by unseemly comments? Would tennis be better if Roger and Rafa were yelling insults at each other during the match? If the current Indian team led by Kohli (who seems to have an Aussie-like attitude) chooses to try and match the Aussies in sledging, that becomes a nuclear arms race that only leaves everyone worse off - and with lingering hard feelings to boot. So for the good of the sport, this is a matter where the authorities and umpires need to clamp down.

  • Jay on April 5, 2017, 13:01 GMT

    Ian - Yes, it was a "fabulous series"! It was a Total Team effort (India) versus a One-Man Team (Steven Smith). Except for the defiant Aussie skipper, India out-batted and out-bowled the Aussies. Kudos to Stevie for making it 1-2 instead of 0-4. But Chappelli commits the cardinal sin of omission by failing to mention Jadeja, even once. So let me do the honours: Kudos to Jadeja who was named the Player of the Series! In sum, India had too many weapons - minus hapless Kohli. He didn't even play in the series clincher. So Ian: what was supposedly an Aussie advantage boomeranged, with Rahane outsmarting Smith with his wise 5-bowler strategy - incl debutant chinaman weapon Kuldeep and, yes, Jadeja the Player of the Match. Encore! In the end, the equally defiant Indian skipper Kohli got to win the Border-Gavaskar Trophy! And the Test Mace!! Remember, even in a fabulous series: "It ain't over till it's over",Ian!!

  • Rajesh on April 5, 2017, 11:01 GMT

    While appreciating everything Ian has stated, I do not understand why he said, "It (DRS)should also be under the sole control of the umpires. "

    This looks very strange! DRS was introduced for the benefit of players so that they can appeal a wrong decisions. This is fair and just. Ian Chappell's idea defeats this very purpose.


    But DRS needs to be improved upon. It should also give the Benefit of Doubt to the batsman. In some rare cases, the replays may not be that conclusive (for an LBW appeal the ball may've just grazed the bottom of the bat). Instead of acting smart and giving the batsman out (for ex., giving Virat Kholi out LBW), the umpire can just give the Benefit of Doubt.

  • Paul on April 5, 2017, 0:45 GMT

    Agree with the above article by Ian Chappell, and definetly agree that the Umpires should be the ones using DRS, not the players. As far as the onfield chatter goes, that SHOULD be controlled by the Umpires more diligently with aggressive behaviour and comments stomped on. As Chappell has said it was a great series and a good indication that Test Cricket is here to stay. I attended the Bangalore test and the atmosphere was fantastic.

  • Jeff on April 4, 2017, 19:48 GMT

    Umm, NO. The DRS should NEVER be under the control of the umpires. Have you seen what giving umpires technology does? Clue - they would refer everything. Umpires refer run outs to the 3rd ump where the batsman is barely over the half way line! Every time the ball hits the pad he would go upstairs. Personally, I would do away with the 'limited reviews', and allow teams unlimited reviews but the team gives away 20 penalty runs if the review is struck down or umpires call. If in the umpires eyes runs are not an issue, for example a team on 100-7 chasing 300 with ten overs left of the final day, he can change the penalties to 'lose 2 overs' and 'add on 2 extra overs'. That should make players use DRS properly. If a batsmen is given out lbw and is 99.99% sure he snicked it, he should NOT review, Only if he is 100% sure he should go upstairs. Thats how DRS should work. But yes, technology should not be used to judge catches.

  • Nathan on April 4, 2017, 16:57 GMT

    The recent IND-AUS series was dominated by the bowlers to a great extent and few batsmen from either side. First test win @Pune was SOK effort, whereas Jadeja and Ashwin shared the spoils @BGL. Ranchi could have been a decider or WIN for IND, but for some spirited display by AUS in the 2nd innings, where IND bowlers came short with their ideas. The test @Dharamsala was a humdinger, where IND bowlers towered over their AUS counterparts. The captaincy can/may be a factor in the 4th test, but the bowlers involved had to deliver, when it mattered. For IND Pujara, Jadeja, Umesh, Rahul were the players and for AUS it was Smith, SOK, Renshaw, Starc and to an extent Lyon. Yes, as a team both units contributed to the outcome of the matches, but give credit where it is due. Coming back to pitches, ICC and match referee may have different views, but players had no complaints as this is not result in any grave injury to any of the players. On DRS, it is both tactical and decisive & needs review.