Friday, July 19, 2013

DRS adds to the Glorious Uncertainty of Test Cricket

Hot Spot is literally in hot spot again. While in the first test, Hot Spot couldn't conclusively state that Trott had nicked the ball onto his pads since the television replays showed a clear deflection in the trajectory of the ball, from off-and-middle to middle-and-leg, as it went pass Trott's bat. The field umpire Alim Dar had declared at first that  Trott was not out. Later he had to reluctantly overrule that decision as reviewed by the third umpire Erasmus based on the straight-on Hot-Spot camera.

 It was only later that Warren Brennan, the inventor of the Hot Spot technology that uses thermal imaging & simulation software to spot the faintest nicks, apologized that the side-on camera was not ready when Trott came in immediately after Root was out  as that specific camera was still replaying Root's dismissal. I thought that the streaming data from a digital camera is archived and replayed from that archive and anyway the time available after a batsman's dismissal and the new batsman's arrival, taking guard & being ready is between 3-5 minutes. Further advertisements anyway take over the "bonus-time." Brennan's statement is as inconclusive as his invented technology.

Now consider the dismissal of Joe Root in the second test. Ryan Harris's delivery sneaked through the tiny space between Root's bat and pad and crashed on his pads. The on-field umpire, Dharamsena gave him out but Root pressed for a review. The straight-on camera as well as the  side-on camera (it was working this time around) picked up a faint nick from the bat as well as the brush on the pad but they still couldn't say conclusively whether the ball hit the bat or the pad first. One tiny hot-spot on the pad , that showed up via the side-on camera , and was in front of 3 big ones seemed to suggest that the ball hit  the  pad first although the same camera failed to show the nick on the bat since the inside-edge of the bat was hidden to this camera. Now the suggestion that the ball kissed the pad first before it brushed through both his bat and pad,  was possibly more probable but was surely not a 100% perfect decision since the cameras failed to either show both "hits" on the same camera or to show evidences such as time-stamps of the hot-spot impacts. Root's challenge was turned down and he was declared out, again.

The point is Hot Spot has its blind spots besides malfunctioning of equipment and/or of the operators, poor quality of equipment etc. Even if  an attempt is being made to plug the thermal loopholes by simulation, the same would have its intrinsic error and will not be 100%. Besides, the Indian team, Dhoni & BCCI have long been pointing out that the simulated trajectory of a cricket ball , played out by Hawk Eye, in varying type of pitches is error prone as the ball will normally have 8-10 feet to travel , in varying wind conditions, after it hits the pitch. Supporting the Indian point of view; Adam Gilchrist in a recent article suggests that questioning the decision of the test-match umpires, in the first place, is against the spirit of the game.  He feels that the Decision Review System (DRS) is the problem and not the solution.

The Decision Review System (DRS) , with its inherent imperfections, is not making the job of cricketers & captains any simpler. Least of all that of the umpires. It's the latter that are being put into hot spots, literally. ICC's clarification that the correctness of decisions has improved by 5.5% from 90.3% , with the help of DRS, reveals  more on the errors of the on-field umpires (nearly 10%)  than it hides  the inadequacies of the DRS and hot-spot technology.

It's time that the ICC does a fresh review of  DRS and bring back the old charm of a test match, built with its own uncertainties. A part of the latter will stem from the umpires; whose decisions on-field whether to review or not will need to be accepted by all instead of holding up a game for endless minutes as the third umpire pores over inconclusive images made out of  ill-equipped technologies.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

To me DRS is a an utter failure .. which might increase the TRP of the matches but all in all its jeopardizing the authenticity and ethics of the game called cricket .
a thoughtful article this is.