Notes on day one of the West Indies Australia Test
There are several practices in WI cricket I find difficult to understand, none more so than the one in the twenty-first century of almost invariably sending the opposition in to bat. It seems almost sadistic. That it has failed so often, as should be expected, makes it even more painful for fans, of which I may well be among the most avid. I am certain the practice is unreasonable. The explanation always given is that the captain has detected something in the pitch that would be helpful to quick bowlers early in the game. That something is either never there, or it does not stay very long. The practice may be ok for teams with a devastating opening attack, but not for a merely decent one.
I referred to the captain, because it is often said the decision is made by the captain, a circumstance, that, to me, at any rate, raises the major issue peculiar to cricket, about the role of the coach, whose passivity once the game is underway, is unique to cricket. One needs to ask why such a critical decision is made by the captain, and more generally, why coaches are not more involved in the management of a game. This is not intended to be critical of the current coach and captain, because as I have said above, the particular practice and the whole approach are not new. The role of the coach during the game needs to be revisited.
Notes on day two
There have been two main arguments pressed against the use of the Decision Review System (DRS). One is the Indian objection. It is made seriously but is not a serious objection grounded as it is on the spurious basis that the system is not foolproof although the evidence shows clearly that it has significantly improved the quality of umpiring.
The other objection is that it gives the benefit of the doubt to the standing umpire, rather than the batsman or bowler. That may well be a weakness, but it does not make for clearly unreasonable outcomes.
The major problem with the system is that the strict limitation, or indeed the very limitation of its use, leaves batsmen at the wicket who are out beyond dispute, and puts batsmen out who are clearly not out. This occurs because of the natural reluctance to ask for a second review when the first was rejected unless the captain is absolutely certain that it would be granted. Captains cannot be certain. Since the ultimate objective of any umpiring rule should be to produce the best result whenever possible, this is a fundamental flaw in the system. It is not an argument for discontinuing its use, but it certainly is an argument for changing it. The delays that are supposed to arise from unlimited use of the system would do much less damage to the game than the injustice that persists from such limitation in usage, especially since such delays are grossly exaggerated and can be almost eliminated by a sensible penalty regime.
There are seven players on this W.I. team who have scored test centuries. If anyone believes that their performances are an indication of their talent or commitment, such person has no idea of the power of the mind, or what is the same thing, the importance of the notion of confidence in this game called cricket. There are twenty six people on this W.I squad, not one whose area of specialty is mental gymnastics. The attitude revealed by such absence may well be the biggest problem in W.I cricket today. My fear is that it will not be solved because the explanation of lack of commitment is so much more in keeping with the culture.
This is the second successive game in which the need for a new coaching responsibility has been demonstrated. It is the need to teach batsmen of their special responsibility to their batting partner with respect to the use of the DRS system. The core lesson is that the risk of losing a review is a lesser danger to the team than the loss of a batsman who is given out when he is not out. You have a duty to persuade a good batsman whom your team depends on, to ask for the review.