Birmingham, July 1: Hindsight might suggest that it was a pivotal moment in the game, but that’s the beauty of hindsight, isn’t it? There is no gainsaying what course the contest would have taken had Virat Kohli flashed the 'T’ symbol at umpire Aleem Dar in the 11th over of England’s innings at Edgbaston on Sunday (June 30), but it sure did provide a talking point.
The sequence of events went thus: Brought on as first change, Hardik Pandya banged in his fourth delivery short to Jason Roy, the opener who was back in action after missing the previous three games with a hamstring injury.
Then 21 out of 49 without loss, Roy instinctively went for a pull. As the ball snaked past the batsman and nestled in Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s gloves, Pandya went up in appeal, only to look on with mortification as Dar signalled a wide.
Pandya seemed reasonably convinced that the ball had made contact with one of Roy’s gloves before being caught by the wicketkeeper but then again, bowlers always feel that they have got their man.
Dhoni didn’t seem entirely convinced, those in the ring were divided on whether the batsman had gloved the ball or not. As the 15-second DRS timer wound down, Kohli opted not to use the review. Subsequent replays affirmed that Pandya was justified in feeling hard done by. Ultra Edge evidenced a clear spike, slow-motion pictures confirmed that had India opted to challenge Dar’s decision, they would have effected their first breakthrough.
The gasps of disappointment as the giant screen at the ground flashed the replays were prolonged. There was hand-waving aplenty, heads were held in palms in anguish in the stands. On the park, however, there was a quiet acceptance of the situation. A decision had to be made on whether to take the review or not; in the absence of any great conviction from any single individual, the call to not use up the review was justified, no matter what happened subsequently.
Kohli, and Pandya, must have felt a more than tiny tinge of regret as Roy teed off thereafter to muscle his way to 66, off a mere 57 deliveries with seven fours and two sixes. That one of those fours and one of those sixes came off successive deliveries immediately after the wide that wasn’t would have been particularly hard to digest. England could have been 49 for one; instead, by the time Roy was finally dismissed thanks to a spectacular diving catch on the boundary by sub fielder Ravindra Jadeja, the score board had rattled to 160 in just 22.1 overs. That’s the way the cookie crumbles.
Any review carries with it the risk of unemotional technology throwing a spanner in the works. India have been at the receiving end of hasty reviews more than once in the past. Afghanistan denied themselves the opportunity of a match-turning review against Pakistan as recently as on Saturday in Leeds. Sometimes, therefore, prudence might be a more advisable option than bravado, especially if there is no compelling or convincing reason to opt for the review. Like there wasn’t on Sunday, and like Rohit Sharma was to point out later.
"It's a very tricky thing," the Indian vice-captain, who made his third hundred of this World Cup but couldn’t prevent a 31-run defeat, agreed. "Some of the guys heard (something), some of the guys didn't. The captain is under pressure. It's not right to expect for him to get those decisions right always because there are a lot of thoughts that come around with certain players who are fielding inside the circle.
"If you're lucky, you might get that decision going your way,” Rohit continued. “You're never sure about if it's perfect or not. We as a team don't want to look too much into it.”
That’s a logical, rational, sensible tack to adopt. Even if it comes at the cost of two points and the end of an unbeaten run. Sometimes, you have to ride the punches, roll with the good and the bad. The stated objective of the DRS is to primarily eliminate howlers, and this was anything but a howler.
And for those who might question Dar’s competence at having got it wrong, how about this? The players themselves weren’t sure if Roy had gloved it, so why not the same benefit of doubt to the umpire?
(R Kaushik is a cricket writer who has followed the sport closely for nearly three decades, and is covering his seventh World Cup)