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Fixing DRS

Fixing DRS

DRS, has raised a debate unlike any Cricket has seen in recent years, and no matter which side of the fence one is on, it is unfair to deny that both sides have a fair point. Sadly, any debate on DRS becomes a BCCI vs the Rest debate, and the DRS itself is never quite given the focus it deserves.

Decision Review System (DRS), is an option for either team, to refer a decision of the Umpire, directly linked to falling of a wicket, to the third umpire for review.

Now one may think that is a wonderful, its good to remove errors, so why should there be any disputes at all. Well the answer to that is that things don’t always work, or rather haven’t always worked as expected.

There are primarily two types of dismissal subject to DRS review – LBW and faint edge catches. The third umpire has primarily four tools at his disposal to review the on field umpire’s decision –

1) The Naked Eye – Invariably the first thing the third umpire checks for are No Balls. He can also look at replays for evidence regarding edges. If it is clear on review that the ball has edged the bat, then the naked eye evidence is good enough. With regard to dispute this can be said to be in the clear !!

2) Real Time Sniko (RTS) – This uses stump microphones to capture the sound of edges and then plays the sound in sync with the video replay. So if there is a spike in the audio bar as the ball is passing the bat close enough to edge it, then its a safe assumption that the ball has taken the edge of the bat.

While the bulk of the debate on DRS has not focused on the use of the Sniko, but one cannot honestly deny that in some instances, few and far in between they may be, there may be a situation where it is somewhat difficult to make out just what is causing the spike on the audio bar, ball hitting the bat, or ball hitting the pad, or thigh pad or … !

However I think even the biggest doubters of DRS will agree that for the most part the use of the Sniko as part of DRS has been undisputed.

3) Hot Spot – Hot Spot puts into use Infra Red Cameras, which show a bright spot whenever the ball makes contact with the Bat, or the Pad or indeed any other part of the body of the Batsman. This tech is extremely helpful in the case of thin edges, for the Infra – Red cameras can pick up the faintest of edges.

However, they don’t always pick up the edges, and with regard to the debate on DRS, this area of Hot Spot is where the proverbial sh** hits the proverbial fan. Hot Spot has been embroiled in numerous controversies over the years. More on this in a bit.

4) Hawk -Eye – This uses the ball tracking system to two uses, 1) to track the actual path that the ball traveled up to the point of impact with the pad and 2) to predict the path the ball would have travelled had it not hit the pad.

No one has any issues with Part 1), but its doubters questions how can the Hawk Eye accurately predict the path a ball would travel, i.e., point no. 2). The doubters say that bounce of a ball is subject to many factors on the cricket pitch, like for instance, how hard the ball is, whether a spinner is bowling or a seamer, whether it is a first day’s pitch or a fifth day’s pitch, whether it is Perth speedway or Wankhede dust-bowl, whether the ball has hit a crack or not, etc, and a machine working on a standard base, cannot possibly take into account all these factors and predict the bounce of a ball, especially in cases, where the ball has pitched close to the batsman.

Lets look at the Hot Spot and Hawk Eye debate in detail.

The start of this debate can be said to be India’s tour of England in 2011, when the BCCI, newly in love with Hot Spot, agreed to use Hot Spot review for edges on catches. The series had two instances when Rahul Dravid was given out caught, despite DRS not showing any evidence of an edge.

Most notable of these was in the second innings of the Oval Test, when an appeal was made for a catch against Dravid, at short leg, which Rod Tucker, turned down.

However the English side reviewed the decision, and despite their being no clear evidence of an edge on Hot Spot or otherwise, and without the use of snicko, Third Umpire Steve Davies, overturned the decision and ruled Dravid out, leaving everyone baffled.

There can be some arguments made that Dravid was not the only Indian batsman falling victim to a rather odd review, in the series. This series was the last BCCI attempted to use DRS and since then DRS has never been used in any bilateral series involving India.

Since that day there have been some rather, to put it mildly, controversial decisions, involving Hot Spot, and perhaps the most high-profile of all these was the Usman Khwaja dismissal in the Ashes, where again, like Dravid, Khwaja was given out despite Hot Spot not showing any edge.

The decision was so outrageous, that the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd called it the worst decision ever. As the questionable decisions stacked up, so did the jokes –

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Even the creators of Hot Spot have agreed that the technology was not 100% accurate. Now this sort of ends the debate for me. When the makers of a technology themselves are saying its doesn’t work as well as they would like, or as well as it should, then there is little point in pushing for its use.

Warren Brennan inventor of Hot Spot said, “Look, I have always said Hot Spot is not 100 per cent accurate. Over the years, we have found that occasionally, we do not get hot spots when we are expecting them, particularly on the faint edges.” (http://www.dawn.com/news/648687/hot-spot-not-100-per-cent-accurate-says-inventor).

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Even Andrew Strauss, former England skipper, who have continually backed the use of DRS, said that players don’t trust Hot Spot. (http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/cricket/24493121). “Hot Spot just creates confusion. Sometimes it shows up, sometimes it doesn’t, so no-one really trusts it.” After Brennan’s admission another former England Michael Vaughan joined in and said “He’s admitted his system will not work. It has to go.”

The point is Hot Spot when it works is great, but when it doesn’t work, it creates one monumental mess of a situation and no one knows what to do, and this has over the years led to some of the worst decisions ever in cricket.

A system which, when it doesn’t work, leads to some errors worse than the ones it was introduced to eradicate, is perhaps not such a great system ! The point however is here we are trying to fix DRS, not lash out at it. However, admitting there is a problem, is the first step to fixing.

So when do we say a system works. I think there can be a simple two-step test for that. A system to be a success, 1) it should ideally never not work, or not work very few times, and 2) even when it does not work it should not do much (any) damage. Hot Spot sadly fails miserably on the both counts. Sure it may get a lot of decisions right, perhaps an overwhelming majority of them right, but not all of them right.

It fails (and fails regularly enough for players to not trust it according to Strauss), and when it has failed, it led to some of the worst decisions in the game, and thus has by all accounts done damage. There is no point in saying the error was not with the tech, but with the human interpreting it, because the human interpretation is also part of the Hot Spot system.

Any machine has two parts, the tech working and sending right data, and the human knowing how to interpret that data. If the Human has not been trained to properly interpret the data the tech is sending, it is still a failed system. Although, with Hot Spot, its inventor himself has admitted, that the tech itself is failing at times to send the right data (show the bright spot on edges), so we can drop his point. Clearly Hot Spot is a broken system.

So can we fix Hot Spot, sure we can and the most obvious way is to use it in conjunction with RTS. However the obvious drawback is that RTS is not always conclusive either, it too has its limitations and sooner or later in some appeal the limitations of Hot Spot and RTS will merge, and Hot Spot will show nothing, while RTS will show a noise, but no way of telling what part of the Bat/Body, did the ball hit to create that spike in the audio bar.

Will this be an error within the above agreed definition – Yes, will it do damage – Of Course. The only saving grace will be that the frequency may be reduced, but we are really clutching at straws here.

So the second option is to just wait for Hot Spot to develop more, till it does start to show all the edges, and do away with Hot Spot till it does reach this accuracy. It’s the more rational course of action, I feel. As it is, we are relying on RTS over Hot Spot to rule edges, (giving batsmen out, based on the evidence of RTS, even though Hot Spot shows nothing, like with Rohit Sharm vs England in Third Test), so just doing away with Hot Spot entirely seems a reasonable step, especially when players themselves don’t trust it (as per Strauss)

Use RTS only to rule on edges, for it is far more accurate than Hot Spot. Sure RTS has a potential problem area, as mentioned above, but it’s still much more accurate than Hot Spot, and in any case we are now relying on more on RTS, overruling Hot Spot for edges.

So to fix DRS, STEP 1 – NO HOT SPOT, RELY on RTS for EDGES.

Lets look at the problem with Hawk Eye now. I say problem, but it’s not really a problem as much as an area of doubt. The chief objector to Hawk Eye, BCCI has a problem with only that part of Hawk Eye that predicts where the ball would have gone after hitting the pads.

The doubters say that bounce of a ball is subject to many factors on the cricket pitch, like for instance, how hard the ball is, whether a spinner is bowling or a seamer, whether it is a first day’s pitch or a fifth day’s pitch, whether it is Perth speedway or Wankhede dust-bowl, whether the ball has hit a crack or not, etc, and a machine working on a standard base, cannot possibly take into account all these factors and predict the bounce of a ball, especially in cases, where the ball has pitched close to the batsman.

It seems on the surface to be a fair point. Suppose the ball is pitching right before it hits the pads, or just pitches and hits the shoe, how is the Hawk Eye to know that the ball has hit a crack on the pitch and is going to bounce higher than usual, or keep lower than usual, or has hit an edge of the crack and veer wildly to the right and miss the stumps.

Or for that matter, does the Hawk Eye know that the match is being played in Perth, where the bounce in any case is likely to be higher, or on a dustbowl where the bounce is likely to be lower than usual, or who is bowling which can also impact the bounce.

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While even an Umpire cannot know what a ball will do after hitting a crack, or if it has hit a crack, but all the other factors, like venue specific bounce, or accounting for extra or low bounce based on whether it is day 1 or day 5, depending on whether a seamer is bowling or a spinner, can be better done by an Umpire than a machine.

Having said this, I don’t know, for sure and for all I know, may be Hawk Eye does account for all these variations.

The point where I disagree with the Ball prediction part of Hawk Eye has more to do with the spirit and laws of the game themselves, than with Hawk Eye prediction being accurate.

That is to say, if the prediction is inaccurate it needs to go anyway, but even if it is accurate it should not be used. Here is why I feel so.

The whole point of LBW is that the Umpire has to make up his own mind on whether the ball would have gone on to hit the stumps, based on the evidence of –

1) Where it pitched (not outside leg)

2) Where it hit (In line of stumps,  unless no shot offered)

3) Did not hit bat

4) Whether in the opinion of the Umpire it would hit the stumps.

The key point being the Umpire has to decide for himself whether the ball was hitting the stumps.

Very often, especially in case of fast bowlers the Umpire doesn’t get enough time to decide where the impact was or whether the ball would hit the stumps. Everything happens too fast, for the Umpire to be fully sure.

Well this is where Hawk Eye, without the path predicting part (which is the bone of contention), can still help him reach a decision. The first three are determined by Umpires as they are by Hawk Eye. For Bat RTS can be used as discussed above.

Hawk Eye can clearly show (as it does) the actual path of the ball, where it pitched, where was the impact, and then, an umpire can fully arrive at, on his own, whether the ball would hit the stumps, based on the evidence he has in front of him.

There will still be no doubt about where the ball pitched and the point of impact on the pads (body), and then the umpire can take his time think for sure to decide whether the ball would hit the stumps or not.

Further the Umpire will be able to make use of a clear trajectory trail, telling him the path the ball was on, and then he can make up his own mind about whether it would hit the stumps, carefully weighing up the evidence before him.

No need to rush, take his time, all he wants. Show him the graphic with just the line, up to the point of impact and let him make up his own mind. This would alone lead to astonishingly accurate LBW decisions.

Moreover this is much more within the spirit of the game, which implies that the Umpire has to make up his own mind based on  the aforementioned points 1), 2) and 3) above about point 4), i.e., whether the ball would be hitting the stumps.

The rules do not imply that the Umpire has to have his mind made up by an imaginary line about point no. 4). Just what then is the need for the path predicting part of Hawk Eye, as long as the actual path traveled part of Hawk Eye can present the evidence that the Umpire has to keep in mind, as clearly as it does?

If an umpire cannot join the last bit of dots himself, despite their being a clear trail before him on the path actually traveled by the ball, and giving him all the evidence he needs to make up his mind, then I am afraid the solution is not more technology, but better Umpires.

To any Umpire worth his salt, the actual path traveled by the Ball, clearly showing whether the ball pitched in line or not and whether the impact was in line of the stumps or not, (RTS can show whether there was any bat involved), along with a clear trail of the actual path taken by the ball, is more than enough info to rule on an LBW decision with great precision.

hawkeye
That Blue Line At End, Unnecessary in Light of the Info clearly Laid Out and a Clear Trail of the Path of the Ball. Surely the Umpire Can Make Up his Own Mind without the final bit at the end.

So STEP 2 – USE ONLY ACTUAL PATH TRAVELLED BIT (RED LINE ABOVE PIC), and DO AWAY With PATH PREDICTING Part of HAWK EYE

This covers the dispute with regard to Technology, but there are other aspects of DRS that need fixing too. The First of these is with the interpretation of Data Hawk Eye sends. The Umpire’s Call part needs to be got rid off.

Two deliveries could be, pitching in exactly the same spot, hitting the batsman at the same height and the stumps in the same place, and yet because of the Umpire’s call option, one could be out and the other not out !! There is another area of the “Umpire’s Call” issue which has never quite been scrutinised like it should have been.

Suppose in an LBW decision the Umpire knows the ball is hitting the stumps only partly and not full on, just enough to return an “Umpire’s Call” on review. However this is not an issue for the Umpire, he knows the ball is ‘just’ hitting the stumps, and if that is the only issue he would give it out. However the issue is that the Umpire is not sure if the batsman was struck in line of the stumps.

The Umpire is of the view that the Batsman was struck outside the line of the stumps, while playing a shot, and if he believed that the ball struck the Batsman in line he would have given it out, even though the ball would only partly go on to hit the stumps.

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The Bowling side reviews, and lo and behold, the Impact was slam-bang in line of the stumps, but then the ball is show to ‘just’ be hitting the stumps and ‘Umpire’s call’ is returned, and hence the Not Out Decision stands.

This is now ridiculous, because the basis of the ‘Not Out’ was not whether the ball would ‘just’ hit the stumps, but whether the Impact was in line or not. Had the On-field Umpire been given the option of telling the Third Umpire, reviewing the decision, what exactly he was looking for feedback on, the Batsman would be out, but because there is no provision to explain what the On-field decision is basing his decision on, the Hawk Eye and the Third Umpire will just assume, that the on-field Umpire is fine with point of impact, and (wrongly) return a Not Out call (Umpire’s call = Not Out in this instance) !!

In a decision where there are three grounds to consider 1) Where did the ball pitch, 2) Where was the impact 3) Would it hit the stumps, on which of the three grounds did the Umpire rule Out or Not Out is important. Without knowing this just blindly returning an ‘Umpire’s Call’ is ludicrous.

Here in this example, as stated above, The DRS, which will show the impact was in line, and just assume that the Umpire already knew this and doesn’t have any doubts on this part, and will let the decision Not Out stand on the ground that the ball was only partly hitting the stumps, which the Umpire knew and was fine with, and which was never a ground for him ruling the appeal as Not Out !!

The Umpire’s Call, part of Hawk Eye needs to go. It is either hitting in line or it’s not, it is either hitting the stumps or it’s not.

So STEP 3 – No More “Umpire’s Call” Option.

Also letting the On-Field Umpire and Third Umpire Communicate would be a good idea. The worst aspect of the whole DRS system is that it doesn’t give any room for an Umpire to consult technology.

Suppose you are an umpire in an India Pakistan match, with 70000 people in the stands shouting at the top of their voices, and there is a caught behind appeal.

You as the umpire think that the batsman has nicked it, but because of the crowd noise, didn’t hear the edge and there was no obvious deviation off the bat, but you know still that there was an edge. Now all you have to do is speak to third umpire and ask him to review the tape and tell you. But oooops … you cannot.

Use that Walkie A Lot More
Use that Walkie A Lot More

All the technology is for the benefit of everyone in the world except the person who is supposed to make the decision !! Within minutes millions of people at home will have the benefit of replays but not the umpire in the middle. So reluctantly, since you didn’t hear the edge you give the batsman not out.

The fielding team reviews and naturally you have to over turn your decision for the replays and sniko show an edge. 70000 people are booing you, and in all this fiasco you are made to look like an idiot.

All this technology and for everyone to use, expect the person who is supposed to make the decisions !!

The DRS, to begin with should be for the Umpires to use, or at the very least have the OPTION of using. In the present system, everyone except the umpires can seek some help. Take DRS out of the hands of the players and give it to the umpires to use in consultation with the players, much like a run out or stumping review.

Umpires go to the third umpire for almost every run out, even the ones that are blatantly out or not out, at the request of the players. Implement DRS to be something along those lines, and perhaps even make it mandatory for the Umpires to take into consideration what the captain or batsman aggrieved by the decision has to say.

For example, if the umpire gives someone out LBW, and the Batman tells the umpire that there was an inside edge, the umpire reviews, and we all get to see it unfold and whether there was an edge or not.

It is a much simpler and smoother system and more than anything, it is not Umpires vs DRS, which the present format of DRS wants it to be, but it then becomes Umpires empowered with DRS.

So STEP 4 – Give the Option to the Umpire to Voluntarily Consult Technology When He wants. At least let him communicate to the Third Umpire to explain why he gave something out or Not Out, or exactly what is he looking for help on.

Lastly the area that needs fixing is that DRS cannot aim to just restrict itself to two reviews per innings. This law needs change and it’s almost like saying that if there is a third howler in the innings, it doesn’t matter. Sure one doesn’t want overuse of DRS to restrict the flow of the game, there is a larger picture to consider. If the plan is to stamp out incorrect decisions then no point in taking half a swing at it. If an innings drags out for 15-20 mins longer, but the errors are stamped out, its still a positive.

Also increase the number of reviews per team to 3, and unlimited voluntary consulting with technology for the On-Field umpires.

So STEP 5 – No. of Reviews available to the Teams to be Increased and No Docking of Reviews Upon a Favorable Review.

5 easy steps required to fix, DRS. Is anyone willing?

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4 thoughts on “Fixing DRS

  1. Well its odd how I stumbled upon this page. I have been a firm supporter of DRS, but I will admit, this article, makes a lot of sense. I suppose one could always improve things. I am not sure Hot Spot should go, but I fully back the thought that an Umpire should be able to consult technology too. I think it puts across the reservations those have against DRS very well. Apart from removing Hot Spot, all the points make a lot of sense.

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