"Ball and bat and pad appear to be together. I don't have any conclusive evidence to overturn that." There was unequivocal conviction in what TV umpire Virender Sharma was about to tell on-field umpire Anil Chaudhary—that the technology wasn't granular enough to decipher if it was pad first or bat first. This wasn't about the batter in question, or the actual decision itself (ball tracker showed it to be hitting middle of middle). This was partly about the technology and its limitations but mostly about umpiring and the interpretation of cricket laws keeping in mind the actual sequence of events.
Kohli's comeback was a four-ball affair, ending in a firm forward-defensive push at Ajaz Patel's fullish delivery. So tightly wedged was the ball between pad and bat that most on-field umpires would have thought twice before ruling against the batter. Chaudhary took his time to raise his finger but Kohli didn't waste a millisecond reviewing it. Kohli normally reviews even when he is plumb but his instincts too need to be taken into account during these close calls. Let's assume Kohli didn't know for sure and wanted to check. What did UltraEdge show? There was a spike when the ball was passing the bat, and a hint of the seam changing direction as well. But on the same frame, the ball looked like it was touching both the edge of the bat as well as the pad. VVS Laxman thought it was bat first. So did Michael Vaughan and Wasim Jaffer. Nothing suggested—despite Simon Doull leading the commentators' chorus later—that the ball had hit the pad first, then the bat and then again the pad. Sharma asked for other angles but they proved inconclusive as well. And since it was the umpire's call, right or wrong, TV umpire Sharma couldn't have overturned it. He did the only thing he could do.
To begin with, the rules about leg-before wicket appeals in the ICC laws are not clear-cut. According to sub-clause 36.2.2 of "Interception of ball" under the clause of LBW appeals: "if the bowler's end umpire is not satisfied that the ball intercepted the batsman's person before it touched the bat, the batsman shall be given Not Out." Chaudhary must have been sure that the ball hit the pad first, or else he would not have taken the decision.
But here's what Clause 36.2.2 of the MCC laws states on the same matter: "if the ball makes contact with the striker's person and bat simultaneously, this shall be considered as the ball having first touched the bat." Going by the video replays, that's exactly what happened.
The Decision Review System (DRS), despite the cutting-edge technology at its core, is a work in progress. There have been calls to review the "umpire's call", something Kohli was very vocal about earlier this year. Equally confusing is the "soft signal" during a contentious catch because it's impossible for the umpire to judge if it has been taken cleanly. The HotSpot technology was once in vogue but there has been a tectonic shift of stance because it was thought that the lamination on bats (especially if petroleum jelly is applied on the bat's edge) may help batters get away with faintest nicks. That stance hasn't changed much over the years even though this incident may warrant a relook. It is within these blurred lines that the DRS has been functioning.
Before technology slowed down the game in an effort to weed out human error, the norm was to give batters the benefit of doubt during close calls. Can't make out if the wicketkeeper or fielder has collected the catch cleanly? Give the batter the benefit of doubt. Not clear if the shoe is on the line or behind it during a stumping referral? Let the batter continue. But the times have changed. This was a barest-of-margins call, and should have been fair considering the technological and human intelligence working at the backend. Ideally, this is where the TV umpire should have stepped in and helped the on-field umpire take a more educated decision. Unfortunately, the ICC doesn't empower him to do that. Umpire's call it is, despite the technology not being sure about it. Debate it as much as you want, the scoreboard will show Virat Kohli lbw b Ajaz Patel 0.