Steve Smith at Chinnaswamy Stadium in March and Dilruwan Perera at Eden Gardens on Sunday – controversy over seeking a review via the DRS erupted in two consecutive Test series in India, although seven months apart. In Bengaluru, Smith was caught looking toward the dressing room balcony for advice on the DRS call against his dismissal. The Australia captain described it as a “brain fade” moment. In Kolkata today, Perera initially started walking back to the pavilion before turning back and asking for a review. The batsman survived as the Hawk-Eye showed the ball struck his pad outside the line of the off stump. And some commentators on TV hinted at the batsman getting the ‘T signal’ from the dressing room.
Any signal from the dressing room is contrary to ICC rules on the DRS. Clause 3.2 c) states: “If the umpires believe that the captain or batsman has received direct or indirect input emanating other than from the players on the field, then they may at their discretion decline the request for a Player Review. In particular, signals from the dressing room must not be given.”
Going by the letter of the law, it’s easy to smell a rat here and accuse Perera of not conforming to the Spirit of Cricket. But easier said than justified. A batsman gets only 15 seconds to make the request for a review. The position of the dressing rooms at the Eden makes the dismissed batsman’s eye contact with reserve players and support staff almost unavoidable. It’s pretty natural for people to make an impulsive gesture without meaning anything. The ICC’s DRS rules don’t prohibit a batsman to look towards the dressing room. Nor do the rules put an embargo on showing replays in the changing room. So it could well be the case that Perera had caught an impulsive gesture from a squad member or a support staff. There’s no word yet that match referee David Boon took note of the incident and would act on it. But the global body should first remove the ambiguities in DRS rules.
Former India batsman Sanjay Manjrekar, now a commentator with the official broadcaster, spoke about allowing the batsmen a bigger leeway in DRS. “I just feel, what we saw on television gave you the impression that there was some indication from the dressing room to go for the DRS. But obviously, there’s no clear proof of that as that is something you need to back up the observation. But that clearly was the impression that I got,” Manjrekar told reporters here.
“Having said that, going forward if you are a batting team, within the 15 seconds if the batsman wants to look towards the dressing room and get some clues about the DRS, I don’t think it’s that big a deal. So I think the rule maybe looked at as well. It could change because when you are there as a fielding side you have 11 players to consult. You saw Steve Smith as well… So when you are a batsman sometimes you want some help from outside,” he added.
Rangana Herath, who was at the non-striker’s end, clarified that he had already asked for a review from umpire Nigel Llong. “I was asking for the review from Nigel. Maybe, Dilruwan also heard that. I didn’t see anything (as far as the dressing room was concerned). I was looking at Nigel Long,” the Sri Lanka left-arm spinner said.
A release from Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) stated that Perera “mistakenly assumed that Sri Lanka were out of reviews”. “Dilruwan Perera had turned to leave the field, when he heard Rangana Herath inquire from the on-field umpire Nigel Long, if Sri Lanka have any reviews left. To which Mr Long answered in the affirmative. It was then that Dilruwan requested the review,” the release said, asserting that there was no message from the dressing room.
Sri Lanka, all teams for that matter, try to play their cricket fair and square. But the present structure of the DRS rules doesn’t cover all bases, thereby creating room for a batsman to be accused of cheating just for having a harmless look at the dressing room before taking a review call. Like the newly-introduced fake fielding law, where the punishment – five-run penalty – is subject to umpires’ discretion, the DRS rules, too, beg for a removal of the ambiguity.