What Is DRS in Cricket?

DRS (Decision Review System) in cricket supports the on-field umpires to make an informed decision. This is achieved through technology, including slow-motion replays, infra-red, ball tracking and microphones.

Originally, reviews could only come from on-field officials (umpire review or UDRS). More recently, rules were introduced to give players of either team a chance to contest unclear decisions (player review). 

DRS has played a huge part in the growth of international cricket over the past three decades. Cricket’s governing bodies have used DRS and modern technology to achieve fair and correct decisions. It is now a fabric of professional cricket and used in international and domestic competitions across the world.

DRS has also played a part in some of the biggest moments in cricket since its first use in 1992. The system provides a certain level of accuracy, but it also the subject of wrong decisions, which prompts discussion among players, coaches, officials and spectators.

There is a complicated history behind the gradual growth of DRS. Here we will explore some of the histories behind DRS in cricket and explain its use in the sport. 

Who invented DRS in cricket?

The invention of DRS in cricket is not attributed to one person or group in particular. Instead, it is the evolution of ideas from several people, resulting in the system’s first use in international test cricket in 1992.

Since the 1960s, television replays have been used in cricket. Originally, the technology was just used for fans and was not always considered for umpire’s decision making. However, former Yorkshire and Worcestershire player and umpire, Syd Buller proposed using video replays in the late 1960s. Bill Alley, former test cricket umpire, explained in 1974 that he had previous conversations with Buller about introducing a system where officials could use video replays to support on-field decisions. According to Alley, these decisions would be relayed to the on-field umpire through a green (out) or red (not-out) decision.

Over a decade later, in 1983, Executive Secretary of the Sri Lanka Cricket Foundation, Mahinda Wijesinghe, wrote a memo to International Cricket Conference. His suggestion was for on-field and off-field umpires to use walkie-talkies and converse on close calls for run-outs and caught behind wickets.

Wijesinghe argued that human error led to a dip in standards of umpiring in cricket. As a result, he suggested having two additional umpires watching two television replays to help make correct decisions. At the time, the wider cricket community of sports journalists and fans were on board with a review system.

When was DRS first used in cricket?

The first version of DRS was used in a test match between South Africa and India in 1992 when on-field officials could ask the third umpire to review a decision they were unsure of. The third umpire would then consult television replays and relay their decision to the on-field officials to guide them on whether to keep or overturn their decision.

India’s Sachin Tendulkar was the first player given out by DRS. The batsman went for a run, changed his mind and was run-out. Square leg umpire, Cyril Mitchley, was unsure of the decision and signalled for a review. After 30 seconds of consulting video replays, Karl Liebenberg, the third umpire, pressed a button to signal a green light, confirming that Tendulkar was run-out.

DRS was first used for run-outs and stumpings only. When there were close calls on wickets, which the umpire was not 100% sure of, they could ask for a review by the third umpire, who would make a decision based on slow-motion replays. However, the system has evolved over time to review more phases of play in cricket.

In 2008, the DRS process incorporated LBW (leg before wicket) and caught behind decisions. This evolution came after controversy in Australia vs India in Sydney when all-round Andrew Symonds edged a shot on 30 runs, was caught behind but not given out. The batsman continued his innings and scored 162 not out, and Australia won the test match 2-1 as a result.

The decision accelerated the implementation of the third umpire to include checks for possible LBW and caught behind wickets in test cricket. Six months later, in July 2008, DRS was first used to support on-field decisions when India played Sri-Lanka in a test series. For the first time, run-outs, stumpings, LBWs and caught behind wickets were reviewed by the third umpire.

But there were inconsistencies in its use. Only India benefitted from the review system as 12 decisions were made in their favour. Despite some teething issues with the new system, DRS was first used universally in international test cricket from November 2009 when New Zealand played Pakistan.

In one-day cricket (ODI) DRS was first used in 2011 when Australia played England in a seven-match series.

More advanced technology has also included snickometer and ball tracking in recent years. Further additions to DRS includes checking possible no balls, bounces before catches, and whether the ball has touched or crossed the boundary.

How many times can DRS be used in cricket?

Different forms of cricket have different rules for DRS. In Test cricket, each team begins their innings with two reviews available. If a team reviews a decision, and it’s successful, they keep their two reviews. But if it is unsuccessful, the review is taken away. Each team’s reviews are reset after 80 overs.

However, in ODI and T20 cricket, each team is given just one review per match.

DRS has evolved since 2011 to include different numbers of players reviews per match. There is also a 15 second time limit for team captains or batsman to make a review request in the various forms of cricket.

A fielding team can contest decisions like LBWs and edges for caught behind wickets. A batting team can also review LBW decisions or caught behind if they feel they have been given out incorrectly. Decisions are then reviewed by the third umpire, and a final call is relayed to the on-field official.

To signal for a review, players will make a T sign towards the umpire who made the original call. For the fielding side, players will quickly consult with the captain on a review, as they are the only players who can signal for a review. On the batting team, the batter who is on strike is the only player who can review a decision.

How many DRS can take in IPL?

In the Indian Premier League (IPL) each team has one unsuccessful review per innings. If a team reviews a decision and its incorrect, the review is taken away, and they cannot appeal a decision again in the innings.

However, if the match enters a Super Over then each team’s player reviews rest to one each. A Super Over is used as a sudden death method to determine a winner if a knockout cricket match is drawn. It only applies to ODI and T20 cricket.

How accurate is DRS cricket?

Umpire DRS is 90% accurate on decision making. The human element of DRS means there will be some marginal errors made in the review process. Although technology has advanced to give umpires the best chances of making an informed decision to help overturn wrong calls, it does not always show conclusive evidence on whether a player is 100% out or not out.

For example, ball tracking is one of the modern technologies used in DRS. However, some factors can mislead the third umpire, such as swing or spin produced by the bowler. As a result, this can be inconclusive and can lead to incorrect decisions.

However, in terms of making decisions on clear errors, DRS has proven to be extremely reliable. Incorrect decisions are rarely made when there is a clear run-out, stumping, LBW or caught behind in cricket.

Can an umpire change his decision?

Umpires can change their original decision in all forms of cricket. According to the laws of cricket, umpires must signal if a player is out by raising their index finger above their head. If a player is not out, they must call “Not out”.

But if a team appeals for a review, by making the T signal, the umpire can make a rectangular shape with their fingers, signalling the decision will be reviewed by the third umpire. If the review goes against the on-field umpire’s original decision, they will tap both shoulders with their opposite hands to show their call has been overturned.

Conclusion

The use of DRS in cricket has gone through many changes since its first use in 1992. This is the result of technological advancement and better equipment available for third umpires.

But some of the core elements remain, such as green and red-light signals from the third umpire.

Over the past decade, DRS has been used to incorporate fans, adding to the spectacle for fans watching in stadia or at home. When a decision is reviewed, the images seen by the third umpire are broadcast on big screens and televisions. Accompanying commentary from the third umpire shows the decision-making process and adds to the element of drama for the fans.

Like with any change in sport, DRS took time to perfect. But its use in cricket for nearly 30 years, with little change and alteration, shows it has been a positive addition to the sport.

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