DRS plans scrapped amid Big Bash border issues
BBL boss explains why the league has abandoned plans to introduce the Decision Review System this season; optimistic games can be played at all home venues in BBL|11
11 October 2021, 06:00 AM AEST
Cricket Australia has abandoned plans to bring the Decision Review System into the Big Bash this summer due to the complexities of getting technology operators across international and state borders.
Big Bash officials were planning to introduce a version of the DRS for the first time this year but the requirement to get government exemptions for up to 15 UK-based operators to enter Australia and then move them and their equipment around the country has proven to be too great a logistical challenge.
The league has also opted against implementing a basic review system using only television replays due to concerns about decisions being made based on inconclusive evidence.
Players were told the news on Sunday.
The decision comes amid a global shortage of DRS technology operators due to a cluttered calendar, including the rescheduled Indian Premier League, and complexities of travel. The DRS was not used in the recent Australia-India women's series for similar logistical reasons, while the planned men's series between Pakistan and New Zealand last month – which was ultimately cancelled due to security reasons – was also set to go ahead without the DRS.
Ball-tracking technology, which requires several cameras placed at various points around a venue, takes at least 24 hours to set-up and needs specialised operators to calibrate before it can be used in a match. There are no qualified operators based in Australia.
Given multiple Big Bash games are sometimes played on the same day at different venues, and with the significant travel involved across the country, technology providers say the tournament would be one of the most complicated in the world to cover, even in normal circumstances.
Despite this and the multi-million dollar price tag, Alistair Dobson, CA's Head of Big Bash Leagues, said plans had been made to bring in the DRS this season, but they were abandoned due to the ongoing uncertainty around Australia's borders.
"With the need to bring anywhere up to 10 or 15 extra people from the UK to operate it and move that level of additional cameras and infrastructure around the country ... it just got to a point where we couldn't reliably be clear that we could do all 61 games in a way the competition would warrant," Dobson told cricket.com.au.
"It's a combination of people, technology, time and set up. Introducing that in a normal year for the first time will be a challenging project, so to overlay all the other issues we're dealing with, it's just a step too far.
"There are times in the BBL season where we've probably had four or five different venues (in use) over the course of 48 hours.
"And then you overlay (the fact that broadcasters) Seven and Fox have different technology providers, so then you're trying to work through who's the broadcaster and which technology provider is going to be in place for this game.
"You can see the complexity builds pretty quickly.
"We have a clear intention of bringing something in that works for the BBL and the WBBL in the future, and we will now turn our attention to what that looks like next year."
The DRS will be used in the men's Ashes this season, which is an easier logistical operation given the series is scheduled to use only five venues and matches are played over five days, with gaps of up to six days in between. CA has also flagged their plans to use the DRS for the multi-format women's Ashes, starting in January.
Fox Cricket's general manager, Matt Weiss, indicated on social media last week that DRS operators needed last-minute government exemptions to run the system during last summer's Test series against India, underlining the complexities involved even at the highest level.
The BBL is an outlier among other domestic T20 leagues, with the DRS used previously in the IPL and the Hundred as well as tournaments in Pakistan, the Caribbean and Bangladesh.
Dobson said the league considered implementing a basic review system using only television replays, but warned that could produce unintended consequences, such as those that arise in international cricket when third umpires attempt to judge fair catches using only broadcast vision.
With officials keen to reduce the duration of games this season, another concern was the length of time it would take for a third umpire to watch multiple inconclusive replays of an incident in an effort to make a correct decision.
"Once you eliminate virtual technology like ball-tracking, and probably even snicko to a degree, you are narrowing it down to a very small category of dismissal that you can actually review and the video replay would pick up," Dobson said.
"So then it just becomes an equation ... of what's the benefit of that as opposed to the unintended or flow-on consequences.
"It's just about being very clear on what you're trying to solve and by solving it in a certain way, are you then creating other issues that you hadn't intended?"
A technology-free version of the DRS was used in the domestic one-day cup a decade ago but was quickly scrapped amid player uproar that on-field decisions were being reversed based on inconclusive evidence.
However, that system differed in that players were not able to challenge on-field decisions and the third official would make the call to review an umpire's ruling.
The Weber WBBL begins on Thursday in Tasmania, where the first 20 matches of the season will be played, and Dobson's team will now turn their attention to the schedule for the men's tournament, which is slated to begin on December 5.
He conceded there may be forced changes to the current BBL schedule, but he is optimistic that matches will be played all around the country, including in Western Australia, despite that state's strict border policy.
"We're following borders and vaccination rates ... as closely as anyone and trying to understand or somewhat predict what the country might look like in December and build a schedule accordingly, if in fact we need to change it," he said.
"That said, we're really optimistic about playing games in front of all the teams' home crowds.
"There are opportunities to play games in Perth at some point. We're very confident of that and optimistic about that, whether it's early in the competition or throughout. That's what we're working on now."
Dobson also confirmed the Power Surge, Bash Boost and X-Factor regulations that were trialed last summer would be retained in the men's competition this season, but won't be used for the WBBL.
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