March 9 2017
Steve Smith the Australian captain by his own admission had a “brain fade” when he sought the help of the dressing room to decide whether to review on-field umpiring decision. The truth is this was not a one-off "brain fade" but the third time that Smith checked with the dressing room. When it happened a third time, and TV cameras caught it the on-field umpires, who had been informed on the two previous occassions by Virat Kohli, finally intervened. What Smith did was not only against the spirit of the game it was illegal.
Yet the International Cricket Council found a way to absolve Smith. The ICC sought to equate Virat Kohli's quite understandably irate comments to the press about what he rightly pointed out was unfair play by Australia as somehow the Indian captain bringing the game into disrepute. Then lo and behold the ICC did them "both" a favor and did not press ahead with action against either one.
This was a blatant eye-wash engineered by ICC which has a history of docking subcontinental players for offenses regardless of whether they claim innocence or “brain fades” or if they are actually not guilty. Who can forget the docking of Tendulkar for ball tampering when he was merely removing dirt from the ball, or the forfeiting of the Oval Test when ICC umpire accused a rightly livid Inzamam ul Haq also of ball tampering? Inzi was eventually found not guilty of tampering, but he was banned for 4 ODIs for bringing the game into disrepute due to his walk out.
In the present case there was no way any sort of equivalence in the actions of Smith cheating and Kohli talking to the press but the ICC found a way to get Smith off the hook. This incensed the BCCI which then formally filed a complaint with the ICC, but a typical last minute behind the scene compromise was reached to save face for Cricket Australia and Steve Smith. One hopes that the BCCI received more than a contrite apology and a promise to not do it again from Smith and the Australian Board for being so magnanimous.
Actually, the whole idea of not allowing off-field help in seeking DRS review is wrong headed. In the USA in baseball the coaching staff is the one who calls for replays not the players. In this day and age of instant TV coverage from multiple angles this makes sense. But as long as the rule is that the players on the field have to decide whether to seek a review of an umpiring decision then getting help from outside is clearly cheating.
And as long as that ban on outside help for reviews remains in place it is time to change the rule that docks a team losing a DRS challenge when the decision stands as "umpire's call". Such challenges should not count against the team losing the appeal. If the on-field umpire is not sure how can you expect the on-field players to be? Players are not less fallible than umpires...unless of course, they are able to get outside help like the Aussie captain did in Bengaluru.