DRS and Down Under4 min read . Updated: 13 Jan 2016, 09:43 PM IST
The bigger issue for Dhoni now is how to find the resources and chutzpah to beat Australia
Was George Bailey out to the first ball he received in the opening One Day International (ODI) between India and Australia on Tuesday? Did he get a nick or did the ball brush his pad before being caught behind? Was this the turning point of the match that India lost despite scoring a massive 309 runs?
Bailey, as we know, survived the appeal of debutant Barinder Sran and went on to smash a fantastic century. With captain Steven Smith’s penchant for the Indian bowling showing no signs of satiation, Australia were able to recover comfortably from a vulnerable 21 for 2.
“It just caught the thigh guard a little bit, I reckon. It would have been interesting on DRS (decision review system) to have a look at that, wouldn’t it?’’ said Bailey about the controversy after the match. While this increased doubts about the decision, it can only be speculated whether the outcome would have been any different. The pitch was far too placid, and heavily loaded in favour of batsmen. The Aussie line-up is power-packed and runs deep. However, it is impossible to rationalize the vicissitudes of sport. Sometimes, a lucky break can transform the course of a match entirely. But that possibility bypassed the Indian team because the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) continues to be reluctant to accept the DRS.
The BCCI is right in questioning the technological efficacy of the DRS—there have been several examples of this—yet wrong in stodgily refusing to play ball, as it were, with all the other cricket-playing countries by accepting it.
As I have pointed out often in the past, it is bizarre that a sport has different yardsticks for different teams. Imagine Grand Slam tennis tournaments where Hawk-Eye is deployed when Roger Federer plays Rafael Nadal, but not when he plays Novak Djokovic, who refuses to accept the technology.
The issue of efficacy of technology then becomes subservient to the principle of fairness and equality: If the DRS technology in cricket is not good enough, then it should not be used in any match.
Interestingly, most cricketers, including the likes of Rahul Dravid and Virender Sehwag in the recent past, have favoured the use of DRS, but the country’s cricket establishment remains unmoved. Given the clout the BCCI enjoys, it should be able to get all the other boards to agree to its point of view, or sail with the rest. Selective use of DRS mocks the sport, apart, of course, from costing the Indian team dear every now and then. I won’t belabour the point.
Stodgily anti-DRS through he remains, skipper M.S. Dhoni will doubtless be ruminating on what might have been. Yet he can’t linger long on the matter. The bigger issue for him now is how to find the resources and chutzpah to beat Australia.
The first match showed how difficult this will be. In home conditions, the Aussies are arguably the most daunting side in the game, as their record over the past few years suggests. Barring the Ashes upset in 2010-11, the Australians have dominated every team, in every format, that has toured Down Under.
In ODI cricket particularly, they have developed a crack unit, as the triumph in last year’s World Cup showed, with high-quality bowlers and batsmen and a ferocious approach that gives opponents little time to settle.
India had looked brilliant in the World Cup, winning every match convincingly, even against strong opponents like Pakistan and South Africa; but they were made to look wholly inadequate by the rampaging Australians in the semi-finals.
Australia’s current side has undergone major changes. Stalwarts Michael Clarke and Mitchell Johnson have retired. The team that played at Perth did not have the leading bowler of the World Cup, Mitchell Starc, who is injured. But even without the considerable class and experience of these players, the team under new captain Smith played with such unrelenting aggression and undisguised ambition that the Indians should be worried.
It’s not often that a batsman scores 171 in an ODI and his team loses: Rohit Sharma’s magnificent century went in vain, as did Virat Kohli’s superb supplementary effort. Or that a bowler grabs two early wickets—as Sran did in a dream start to his career—yet the team struggles to defend 309.
In hindsight, it was Australia’s controlled bowling and brilliant fielding that prevented India from making the 20-25 extra runs that possibly could have won the match. But even more worrying was the inability of the Indian bowlers, especially the spinners on whom the team depends so much, to get the breakthroughs.
India’s credentials as an ODI side are not to be scoffed at. The current No.2 ranking is well deserved. But to beat the No.1 side, these are the gaps that will have to be bridged. How this can be done, which players, what combination can help achieve this, are the vexing questions for which Dhoni must find answers as soon as possible.
Ayaz Memon is a senior columnist who writes on sports and other matters.