Patel looked distraught. His hands must have itched to make a T-sign at Aleem Dar. But this, he knew, would be an empty gesture in a series without the Decision Review System. Patel was the first batsman in the Test match to long for DRS. Till then, its absence had only made bowlers’ hearts grow fonder. If R Ashwin had been able to call for a review, for instance, Patel might not have remained at the crease to suffer his unfortunate dismissal. Six overs earlier, an Ashwin off break had struck him in front of middle, not too far in front of the crease.
Before that, Alastair Cook had survived a raucous LBW shout from Pragyan Ojha. He would go on to survive another, later in the day, in England’s second innings, when he missed a sweep and felt ball strike his front pad low, in front of middle stump. Ojha was bowling from left-arm around, and the ball had straightened after pitching on middle.
If anything, the umpires were being very consistent, having overruled a number of close appeals during the Indian innings as well. On Friday morning, Yuvraj Singh and Cheteshwar Pujara had survived a number of loud shouts. This isn’t to say that technology would have made things perfect. Reports have suggested, in fact, that the DRS — had it been in use — might have relied on faulty measures. Derek Pringle, in his Day Two report in The Telegraph, took the example of a Graeme Swann appeal for a ball that Pujara had padded up to, on 113.
“The Hawk-Eye utilised by the broadcasters here had it as plumb lbw while the one used by Sky TV in the UK had it as the umpire’s call (not out),” wrote Pringle. “So perhaps the Indian Board does have a point when it cites Hawk-Eye’s lack of accuracy as its main reason for not using it.”
It’s hard to say whether the DRS would have had a positive or negative effect on this Test. But Pujara wouldn’t have padded up so often to an offie had it been in place. And its availability in some series and its absence in others seems to have affected how umpires judge appeals.
Earlier this year, the Pakistan-England series in the UAE established a new record for LBWs in a single series, with 43 in three Test matches.
In this series, with no DRS, it took till Day Three for the first two LBWs, of which one clearly looked not out and the other — Stuart Broad off Zaheer Khan — was probably headed down leg too. Both decisions were given by Dar.
Dar, the ICC Umpire of the Year in 2009, 2010 and 2011, is known to be almost unimpeachable by technology. During the 2011 World Cup, for instance, not one of his decisions was overruled upon referral. But at Motera, without the beady eye of DRS hovering above him, he hasn’t looked anywhere near as infallible.