Make no mistake, Alastair Cook and Matt Prior's stand for England against India on day four in Ahmedabad was special. It was brilliant, brave, and as one commenter during the live text commentary on Eurosport suggested, perhaps England's best and most significant since 2010, when Cook and Jonathan Trott put on 329 at The Gabba against Australia to lead the tourists to a draw, which laid the platform for a famous series win down under.
But it would never have been able to take place if India had the Umpire Decision Review System at their disposal.
The premise of the system is simple enough — you can refer an umpire's decision to be scrutinised by the available technology if you think he has made a mistake. You're allowed to do it twice an innings, but if you're encouraged to use them judiciously because if the review shows the umpire was right, you lose that referral.
Across the Test arena, most countries have come to embrace the technology, but India steadfastly refuse to trust it, and as such it is not in use in this series.
More fool them. It has proven to be a remarkable self-inflicted handicap. Cook was plumb in front to Pragyan Ojha when he was 41 not out, a mere day and 127 runs ago. Umpire Aleem Dar, usually a fine official but having a poor Test, would have had his not out decision overturned on review. He would have been long gone before Prior ever got to the crease. The wicketkeeper has also benefited in this innings, Ojha again trapping him on 65, only for Dar turn it down.
There have been several other decisions, some going for India (Samit Patel can count himself unlucky on both his dismissals in the match), and others going for England, but they have not 'evened themselves out', as some dismissively suggest these things do. The lives Cook and Prior have been granted give England a chance, however slim, of saving this Test match. Without them, it is unlikely the match would even be going into a fifth day.
You can debate India's reasons for not using the technology. There are lots of reasons mooted — the fact that the technology is not foolproof, the whispers that it is at the behest of certain senior players within the team who do not want it — but the one thing you can surely no longer debate is that India are out of step with the rest of cricket on the issue, and wrong not to adopt it.
All the arguments against it are easily countered. Technology is not foolproof — of course not. It has, however, been carefully and scientifically tested before it ever saw the light of day in the Test arena and it is statistically proven to be more effective than elite umpires working without it. Should we do away with umpires until they get 100% of decisions right as well?
Technology also helps foster players respecting umpires, too, rather than erode their authority. Firstly, reviews prove most umpire's verdicts correct, reminding players how often the men in the middle get crunch calls right, and giving them a legitimate way to challenge the occasional times a mistake is made without resentment. Secondly, if you think of modern umpires as three-man teams rather than just the two standing officials, then they are working together to get to the correct verdict — crucially, the more accurate verdict. Thirdly, DRS reviews require a clear on-field mistake to have been made. You have to be damned sure the original verdict is wrong to overrule it, not simply, for example, overturn a not out verdict because the ball was clipping the top corner of leg stump.
Put simply, it helps us reach the right decision more often than not. Umpires have come to understand it and work more comfortably within it, players have learned (Stuart Broad perhaps excepted) to use it wisely rather than speculatively. Teething problems, where umpires used their imagination with the pictures available, have largely disappeared.
You can imagine what India's coach Duncan Fletcher thinks of the country's stance. Before DRS was in place, Fletcher, then coach of England, was perhaps the loudest advocate of a referral system. Officially, he has said he agrees with the Board of Control for Cricket in India.
But if you consider the way he has prepared for this series, he has sought to furnish India with every legal advantage possible. England were denied a proper look at spin or Test-like pitches in their warm-ups, the outfield in Ahmedabad was left lush and stopped the ball drying out for the tourists to get any reverse swing.
DRS has proven particularly effective for spinners — not only does it show that more of their appeals are actually out than experts had previously assumed, but it also encourages umpires to give more decisions on the field because they have discovered from reviews that on the balance of probability that long strides forward and padding up do not necessarily protect the batsmen.
This might have been more helpful than any of those other initiatives. Would Fletcher have wanted that option to enhance the threat of Ravi Ashwin and Ojha? If not, it is a curious about-turn.
But perhaps this will be the Test match that convinces the BCCI to take a leap into the 21st century. Bizarrely, despite the television coverage of this match not showing Hawk-Eye analysis, you can go on to the BCCI website and look at the verdicts of the technology for the key decisions in this Test.
It's the wrong place for them to be acknowledging technology's existence, but it's a start.
- Sports & Recreation