Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS), the arrangement under which decisions of on-field cricket umpires can be referred to the off-field umpire for review by either team, has generated an intense debate. A behavioural analysis of the system reveals two interesting possibilities.
1. Aware of the possibility of reviewing a bad decision, there is the likelihood of the on-field umpire relaxing slightly. He may be more hesitant, and even err on the side of caution and rule not-out, on knife-edge decisions. Will the quality of umpiring therefore suffer?
2. Bowling teams are certain to target their limited allocation of reviews on the best (or the in-form) batsmen from the opposing team. This means that batsmen like Sachin Tendulkar can expect to have a review on most appeals turned down by the umpire. This effectively deprives them of the beneficial side (from the batsman's point) of the law of averages, and leaves them always on the negative side (though the batsman could himself subject atleast some of the negative decisions to review). The batsman is more likely to miss some negative decisions than the bowling side is likely to miss an escape!
Hitherto they benefited both from a reputational intimidation generated reluctance (when compared to other batsmen), however small, of umpires to rule them out without being doubly sure, and from enjoying the beneficial side of law of averages (like everybody else). UDRS and the near-certainty of review virtually eliminates these benefits.
However, there is also the possibility that the availability of UDRS (and the near-certainty of its use in case of an appeal being turned down) will increase the likelihood that umpires to play-safe with decisions involving superstar batsmen. Which of these two trends will prevail? Since superstar batsmen and form players will always be the target of UDRS, does this mean batting averages will fall?