Sports News

‘Father of DRS’ – Story of Sri Lanka’s Senaka Weeraratna

 

 

 

India Captain Virat Kohli refers an on-field umpiring decision to the third or TV umpire

 

6 April 1997, The Sunday Times

Letters to the Editor

Allow appeals to the Third Umpire

Time and again the cricket public has watched in horror TV replays showing a ground umpire’s decision upholding or dismissing an appeal against a batsman, to be in grave error. But the hardest thing has been to see a manifest injustice on TV replays, and then to note in disbelief that the technology which detected the umpire’s error was not being used to correct the error. Patently wrong umpiring decisions are allowed to stand because of the absence of a mechanism in the laws of cricket to overturn them.

In the judicial system, a dissatisfied litigant has a right of appeal against a decision of a judge, to a higher court or a full bench. Likewise a similar principle of appeal should find expression in cricket rules and allow a dissatisfied captain of a team to appeal against a ground umpire’s decision, to the third umpire. Greater justice in umpiring decisions is now secured because of the participation of the third umpire, upon a request of a ground umpire, in determining appeals for run outs and stumpings. This process should be extended further with the third umpire being required to perform an appellate role in respect of doubtful catches behind or in front of the wicket, and run outs and stumpings (which are not referred to the third umpire by a ground umpire).

Any objection that a two tier appeal process would unduly protract or de-stabilise the game, can be met by restricting the number of appeals against the ground umpires’ decisions, to five per each side per each innings. This way, some of the bad ground umpiring decisions, particularly in respect of appeals for ‘caught behind the wicket’, could be corrected.

The use of the proposed appeal mechanism may also contribute in some way towards containing the unnecessary tension which flares from time to time between cricket playing nations, because of poor umpiring decisions.

Senaka Weeraratna,

Darwin NT 0812,

Australia

Senaka Weeraratna (on right) greets K. Shinya, Senior Lawyer, on the occasion of a reception hosted at Sea View Club, Kollupitiya, on 25 July 25, 1974 to celebrate the admission of Senaka Weeraratna to the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka, as an Attorney-at-law

Cricket grabs back the spotlight despite some parts of the world battling with the Covid-19 pandemic, as the International Cricket Council (ICC) Men’s Twenty20 (T20) World Cup 2021 begins in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman today (17). The Final of the seventh T20 World Cup is to be played in Dubai on 14 November.

Technology plays a key role in every international sport in the modern era. Likewise, even in the game of cricket, the Decision Review System (DRS) along with many other technical aids have become an exciting part of the game, reported www.auselanka.com in one of its exclusive reports appearing on 3 October, 2021.

From here, we’ll publish, with due courtesy to Auselanka, its entire revelation on the remarkable yet very much unknown story of Senaka Weeraratna, the proud Sri Lankan who introduced the DRS system into international cricket, a landmark development in the game of cricket which in a way carried the sport into the new high tech era.

Following is the Auselanka article on Weeraratna and his innovation:

Shashi Tharoor, the celebrated Indian writer and author, recently expressed his views on the impact that the Decision Review System (DRS) has had on the modern game, and he stated unequivocally that it has been one of cricket’s best innovations. Tharoor further said that international cricket should never be without DRS in the future, given how many errors technology prevents.

“DRS is such a major innovation. I never want to see international cricket without DRS ever again. It is so indispensable and eliminates so many bad decisions, and it creates an additional form of excitement for the viewer. It adds an extra element of tension to the plot and it is a very welcome addition as far as I’m concerned,” Tharoor said.

He conceived the ‘Player-Referral’ system

The DRS or Decision Review System has contributed heavily towards ensuring a greater degree of accuracy in umpire’s decision-making and thereby influenced a fair share of match results in the past decade or so. The use of DRS, vividly displayed on slow motion video replay, has also allowed fans and viewers to understand the technicalities involved in cricket.

However, though there has been much debate over the functioning of the DRS, the issue of priority or origin of the DRS has been relatively sidelined or ignored in public discussion in the international media.

The architect of the DRS is a Sri Lankan lawyer named Senaka Weeraratna, who conceived the ‘Player-Referral’ concept, which underlies DRS.  He is the only one claiming recognition with supporting evidence with hardly anyone in the world to challenge him on DRS’ authorship. Unfortunately, ICC has yet to extend due recognition to Weeraratna for his ground-breaking contribution to world cricket.

Duckworth and Lewis

The Duckworth-Lewis Method* [presently called the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern Method or the DLS Method] also plays a major role in deciding the winner in rain affected limited-over cricket matches, i.e. One-day (50 over) and T20 matches.

The DLS Method was initially designed by two English statisticians, namely, Frank Duckworth and Tony Lewis and the rule was named after them.

Later Professor Steven Stern of the Department of Statistics, Queensland University of Technology, became the custodian of the method after the retirement of Frank Duckworth and Tony Lewis. In November 2014, the Duckworth-Lewis method was renamed the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method (or DLS method).

Again, it was named after the people who invented the method including the custodian.

Writing to The Australian in 1997

Senaka Weeraratna

To date, there is no formal recognition extended to Senaka Weeraratna, despite several articles and calls made to that effect from cricket lovers, particularly on the Indian subcontinent. Every song has a composer. DRS is the equivalent of a song doing wonders and it is entertaining the entire cricket world with tension and excitement every time when there is an appeal against an on-field umpire’s decision.

But the composer of the song is overlooked in the melee. Cricket commentators hardly mention Senaka’s name, despite his brainchild DRS being widely used all over the world. Is it because he is not a white man? There should not be any room for discrimination on ground of race, religion, or skin colour.

ICC has a major obligation to the cricket world to explain how it obtained the idea of DRS which was first made known as far back as 1997 and published as the concept of ‘Player-Referral’ in a letter to the editor of The Australian newspaper on 25 March, 1997. The writer of the letter was Senaka Weeraratna.

The right to appeal

In his letter titled ‘Allow appeals to the Third Umpire’, Weeraratna highlighted the importance of a decision review system to minimise umpire errors in the middle. It was later published in other newspapers around the world and in Sri Lanka, including The Sunday Times of 6 April, 1997 (see boxed story).

Despite unimpeachable evidence indicating that he first floated the suggestion which was later adopted by the ICC, however, Weeraratna has not received the type of acknowledgment or recognition that Duckworth and Lewis received for their contribution towards deciding the result on rain-affected limited-over games.

“In the judicial system, a dissatisfied litigant has a right of appeal against a decision of a judge, to a higher court or a full bench,” Weeraratna wrote.

Has the copyright

In August 2008, Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) made a submission to the ICC on behalf of Weeraratna with a folder full of contributions he made to various newspapers across the world. However, without identifying the author of the system or giving him credit for ‘Player-Referral’ in cricket, the ICC ran trials in November that year before adapting the same in all three formats of the game – Tests, ODIs, and T20s.

Weeraratna has since fought for justice but to no avail.

“I am the author of the ‘Player-Referral concept,” he wrote to Kumar Sangakkara, current Chairman of Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC). “I have been battling for recognition of my contribution for nearly 20 years – ever since ICC decided to incorporate DRS within the laws of cricket. The foundation of the DRS constitutes my brainchild. There’s no one to challenge me on this as I have all the evidence to support and establish this fact.”

In support of his claim, Weeraratna also obtained an invaluable legal opinion from Dr. Harsha Cabral, PC, and Kushan Illangathilaka, Attorney-at-law, which says that he has the copyright, both economic and moral, for ‘Player-Referral’ which underlies the DRS.

“It must be noted that the ICC has made use of my concept which I developed and promoted in the cricket world over a period of time beginning in 1997,” he wrote.

ICC launches DRS in 2009

Sri Lanka wait after the batsman (Anil Kumble) asked for a referral when the ICC first tested the DRS in the Sri Lanka vs. India first Test at SSC in July 2008

“Being the pioneer developer of this rule both myself and my country, i.e. Sri Lanka, must get the credit for it,” he asserts. “The term ‘cricket’ is now euphemism for fair play. It would be a travesty of justice and fair play, if the leading cricket institution in the world i.e., ICC, were to copy my innovation which I had brought to the notice of some of the constituent bodies of the ICC in the early stages, without attributing any credit to me and my country.”

DRS was first introduced in July 2008 during a Test match between India and Sri Lanka. The system was officially launched by the ICC in November 2009 in the first Test between New Zealand and Pakistan in Dunedin. Every now and then, the system has gone through certain changes in order to do justice by improving the technology involved during a DRS call.

We are publishing the following article by the Indian journalist Varsha Thakur, says Auselanka, for the benefit of our readers, which is an example of some favourable media reports about Senaka’s contribution to DRS. It was first published on ETV, India in 2020.

Senaka Weeraratna is the Dharmaraja of cricket and the father of DRS

Cricket is also known as the Gentleman’s Game. This British game is very popular not only in Britain but also in India and all over South Asia. Umpiring decisions in cricket have been controversial, particularly blatant errors, due to their impact in producing a distorted result of the game. There have been a number of efforts to improve the umpire decision-making process from time to time.

Finally, the solution to this problem was found by the ICC via the Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS or DRS), which is essentially based on the ‘Player Referral’ concept. It is a technology-based system used in cricket to assist match officials in their decision making. The UDRS or DRS was introduced for the purpose of reviewing controversial decisions made by on-field umpires as to whether the batsman was correctly dismissed or not.

Senaka known to be father of DRS

Sri Lanka’s Senaka Weeraratna is known as the father of UDRS or DRS. Mr. Weeraratna is a lawyer by profession who has worked in Australia and Sri Lanka. Weeraratna was the first to suggest a player referral system for cricket in a letter published in The Australian national newspaper on 25 March 1997.

This facility allows players to request the third umpire to review the decision of the on-field umpire by making use of slow play-back video footage at his disposal before announcing his decision.

Honour to Asia, Africa

The player referral system was first tested in the India vs. Sri Lanka Test match in 2008, and was officially launched by the ICC on 24 November 2009 in the Test match between New Zealand and Pakistan at University Oval in Dunedin. It was first used in a One-Day International (ODI) match during the January 2011 tour of Australia in England.

UDRS or DRS brings the importance of religion (Dharma) and justice to cricket. It is a matter of honour not only for Sri Lanka but for all of Asia and Africa that a person like Senaka Weeraratna, a lawyer from a small developing country, has done the groundwork of bringing the spirit of justice in cricket to the core.

Creating justice

Since India has been the voice of developing countries on the international stage from time to time and has respected Nelson Mandela and many other persons fighting for freedom and justice, the contribution of a friendly neighbouring country i.e. Sri Lanka, to the improvement of the umpiring decision-making process in cricket cannot be ignored by India.

A careful analysis of the essence behind Senaka Weeraratna’s UDRS or DRS is the spirit of religion, justice and Satyamev Jayate that constitute the foundation of the civilisational links between India and Sri Lanka since eternity. The time has come for the values of religion, justice, and Satyameva Jayate to be spread to all corners of the world and influence the whole of humanity.

India needs to take cognizance of the matter

Modi Government started International Yoga Day all over the world which was extremely successful. Elevating sports and honouring the people associated with groundbreaking achievements in sports also signifies successful foreign policy.

Therefore honouring Senaka Weeraratna and his contribution to the development of cricket rules, by India, the world’s leading country in cricket, will not only (sic) Sri Lanka’s relations with India.

Therefore, the Ministry of External Affairs of India needs to take cognizance of this matter immediately so that the Indian High Commissioner in Colombo can be directed to take appropriate and necessary action without delay.

Notes:

* DL Method is a mathematical formulation designed to calculate the target score or the number of runs needed to win for the team batting second in a limited-overs cricket match interrupted by weather or other circumstance. It was introduced in 1997, and adopted officially by the ICC in 1999