India celebrate their World Cup triumph
As if there could have possibly been an alternate outcome, the Board for Control of Cricket in India has rejected the use of Umpire Decision Review System for its upcoming test and One-Day International series in England.
The series, which starts with a test at Lord's on 21 July, features four tests and five ODIs, with one t20 match sandwiched after the final test but before the first ODI. It was to be India's first tour of England since 2007, where India won the test series and England took the seventh and final ODI to claim the limited over spoils.
India and the BCCI as a whole have remained hesitant at best and vehemently opposed at worst to the use of UDRS, grudgingly consenting to its use in the recent World Cup, but consistently stalwarting attempts by the International Cricket Council to make its use mandatory in all forms of the game.
While UDRS has become commonplace in every other series across the globe, as well as in the World Cup and World Twenty20, it remains obstinately absent when India is a participant. There was no UDRS when India toured West Indies last month and there will be no UDRS next month when India show up at Lord's.
But in the aftermath of a wildly successful and entertaining World Cup where, a couple of noteworthy exceptions aside, UDRS worked marvelously, India seem destined to remain in the stone age, or at the very least the black-and-white era of television, refusing to use a technology that every other cricketing nation has embraced. All logic, all statistics be forever damned, India and the BCCI will not consent.
And the time has come that the rest of the cricketing world stood up and turned its back on India.
It is time that England and the other powerful test nations refuse to schedule series against India until they consent to the use of UDRS. No test series, no ODIs, not even an odd t20 match to fill the crowds. Nothing. A blacklisting as severe as the one handed to South Africa in the 1970s, although for much less severe reasons.
No series in Australia, no Sri Lankan visits to Mumbai and Delhi, nothing, unless UDRS is there. If there is no Hot Spot, if there is no Hawkeye, there shall be no India. There shall be no more granting India their own set of laws.
Of course, even if the other full members banish India, there will still be stragglers. I wouldn't expect a developing nation like Ireland or a fledgling nation like Zimbabwe or Bangladesh to be willing to shut out India. The financial boon they'd receive from more regular series with the world's best and most popular national side would be too much for them to reject barring ICC sanctions against playing India, and ICC sanctions are nigh impossible.
The ICC, unless it makes UDRS mandatory, could not possibly sanction India for doing nothing that is technically wrong. The ICC cannot sanction India for stubbornly choosing not to use UDRS.
But the other members can and it is time that they did.
If India have the right not to use UDRS, the other nine full members have the right not to play India.
This isn't to say India do not have a point. UDRS is not perfect. And India have every reason to be upset after the "2.5 metre rule," which was quickly altered during the World Cup, denied India's Ian Bell's wicket during the famous draw, even though the same rule was applied differently in a previous Australia v Zimbabwe match.
Moreover, the World Cup should not have been a testing ground for such a new technology. And the use of UDRS without the ever-important Hot Spot, a technology that even India has shown a willingness to trust, was not the brightest. The technology was not yet at such an established stage to merit its use in the largest, most important contest the sport had ever seen.
India do have grounds to not completely trust the system.
But these few albeit noteworthy exceptions aside, UDRS does work, almost all of the time. The England & Wales Cricket Board wouldn't trust it if it didn't. And in a sport where a stubborn hold on tradition and the way things always were holds a strong resonance over almost everyone, the fact that nine of ten full members have consented to its use confirms what UDRS track record itself also confirms: it works, far more often than on-field umpires work.
When the choice is between something that usually works and something that works less often, common sense would dictate that we select the previous option.
Yes, there are flaws, but UDRS has many fewer than even the most accomplished umpire. To reject UDRS because it is not perfect is asinine.
And permanent approval of the system will allow India to help improve it and fix its inconsistencies going forward.
India is and should be one of the most important players in the development of UDRS.
Sport has never been and never will be perfect, but it is that pursuit of infallibility that drives both the participants and the spectators to embrace it. It is that hope to be as good as possible, whether it is to be the next Don Bradman or just the best all-rounder on a University team, that drives all of us in each of our pursuits.
Just as we would use a glove that gave us a better hold on the bat, UDRS gives umpires a better chance at making the correct call, and that is the only concern that should dictate whether the BCCI lend their support.
India seem stuck in the stone age, stubbornly refusing to let the sport improve, even as their squad has proven on the wicket that everyone else needs to improve to catch them. But if India keep the ICC from improving, the ICC members can, more poignantly, cut India out and force India to get with the 21st century.
It's high time that one of the two occurs.