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November 22, 2008

Samir Chopra

More Technology. Fewer Draws

Samir Chopra
The third umpire, Barry Dudleston, England v Australia, 3rd Test, Trent Bridge, June, 1993
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Many theories have been put forward to explain the recent (say 1990s onward) increase in the number of Test matches that have not ended in a draw. The usual suspects are better fielding, the dominance of Australia, faster scoring, better catching, more aggressive batting habits inherited from one-day cricket, and so on.

I'd like to think that a small contribution has been made by technology, more specifically, the use of side-on cameras to help decide line decisions like stumpings and run-outs. I do not have precise dates or numbers at hand, but I would be very surprised to find out the number of these dismissals has not increased since the introduction of television replays and third umpires. Any statheads out there that are willing to do the hard work and put some empirical meat on the bare bones of my wild speculation?

The run-out decision is a notoriously hard one, and always has been for umpires. They need to quickly get into place to make an effective call, and while this is not so difficult when the batsmen are running two or three, it can take some nimble stepping when a quick single is on. Batsmen have been given out when they were in, and not-out when they were out. (I suspect the latter was more common.) But there is also something about the nature of the call itself that makes it a hard one. Two events must be tracked simultaneously, the advance of the batsman, or his bat, towards the crease, and the dislodging of the bails, and then the judgement made which one occurred first. It sounds simple, but it can be a dodgy call when people are screaming (both the fielders, and the crowd).

Stumpings are a little easier when the batsman is dancing down the track, but the overbalancing ones and those where the batsman is dragged forward and then tries to slide his feet back into the crease are hard to give. I'm willing to bet we've seen many more stumping decisions of this kind in recent years due to the use of the third umpire.

The use of the third umpire has also affected umpires themselves in the way they handle these decisions. Very few umpires now raise the finger when it comes to these calls. Now, everyone turns to the television screens to find out the result of the appeal. Even dismissals which should have been total no-brainers (c.f. Amit Mishra running out Ponting at the Nagpur Test) are now referred, and unsurprisingly so. Why take any chances when a quick check can be carried out? Indeed, when Tiffin gave Collingwood out in the third India-England ODI, I almost fell out of my chair in surprise. The non-replayed decision has become so rare.

Of all the technological additions to cricket over the years, this one gives me the most satisfaction. The referrals don't take that much time, the decisions are correct 99% of the time, and there is no scope for complaint. I suspect umpires don't mind this particular intrusion too much. Sure, it's taken away some of the pleasure of watching an umpire's finger go up, shortly after the stumps are sent flying by a direct hit and an appeal shakes the remaining timber, but that's a small price to pay for knowing that the decision came out correctly. And that the game is one wicket closer to a result.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

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Posted by Sri Murigak Madhavan on (August 18, 2009, 15:22 GMT)

I have been trying to get details on the height of cameras for run-out and behind the sight screen. Please can you help me to get the details. Thank you.

Posted by Personal Injury Lawyers on (January 29, 2009, 18:38 GMT)

Who are you picking in the super bowl?

Posted by Tony T. on (November 30, 2008, 2:49 GMT)

And then there's Morgan Freeman NOT referring Symond's stumping to the third umpire in Sydney. There was another more recent instance of it in Aust/India, but I can't remember which umpire did it, or rather, didn't do it.

There really is no excuse for a non-referral.

Posted by waterbuffalo on (November 27, 2008, 22:14 GMT)

Hot-Spot is a great addition, IMO. It should be used in LBW's particularly if there is an inside edge. If the Third Umpire sees an inside edge the batsman who has been given out should be recalled. It is amusing to see Aussie fans trying to disregard the use of technology, bla bla bla, indeed, what's the matter? Can't win without home umpires? Don't want to see a bump ball caught on TV? Want to go back to the good old days when Warne and McGrath bullied your own home umpires into submission? No thanks.

Posted by sampath on (November 25, 2008, 7:18 GMT)

Hi Samir,

Nice theory. You are talking about technology helping in more run out decisions. Couldn't you have used "technology" to give us some stats. We could have had some percentages at the very least.

Posted by Warnesie on (November 23, 2008, 23:56 GMT)

Frankly, I'm not a fan of technology in umpiring decisions. I guess the run out and stumping technology has been ok, but too many referred decisions get given not out due to a dodgy replay or the camera being off centre or not clear enough. By definition, if an umpire has to refer a decision isn't he saying that he has doubt? That doubt goes to the batsman - decision = not out.

It has only been TV boffins trying to outdo each other with what they present that we even have things like Hawkeye, Super Slo Mo, HotSpot blah blah blah. None of these technologies have been proven infallable, rather like the umpire.

The umpire should be better paid, better trained and better rested. The days of the absolute need to have impartial umpires has passed so why not have one local and one neutral umpire again? The local umpire can brief the other on bounce, pitch dynamics and weather, all to assist each other know the ground and conditions better. Rotate the three umpires during the day.

Posted by D.V.C. on (November 23, 2008, 21:08 GMT)

Regarding the LBWs: I'd like to see the 95% confidence interval displayed on the screen rather than just the hawk-eye prediction. Or better yet, the chance the ball will miss the stumps. If the ball has further to go before reaching the stumps then the interval will be wider. Then given the current law, that the batsman must be given the benefit of the doubt, only give them out if there is a 95% chance the ball will hit the stumps (in addition to making sure it pitched/hit in the right spot). This would bring the technology more in line with the way the game was traditionally umpired.

Posted by Ram on (November 23, 2008, 10:33 GMT)

I am surprised to find that hawkeye is not used more effectively. Its very accurate when trying to determine whether the ball has landed outside the leg stump or not. Also, we can have a smaller rectangular area drawn inside the boundary of the stumps. If hawkeye shows the ball to go to hit the stumps in the smaller rectangluar area,the batsman can be adjudged lbw.. Its going to be very accurate and cover for the 5-6% error of hawkeye as well.

Posted by Ashok Sridharan on (November 23, 2008, 8:07 GMT)

Another factor behind fewer draws is the changed lbw rules. Up until the mind 90s, batsmen could easily get away by plonking their foot forward, knowing fully well that umpires would almost never give batsmen when they were forward. There also was the fact that one struck outside off, you couldn't be given.

For starters those not offering a shot could be given even if struck outside off. Even more significantly, umpires world over have little hesitation in giving batsmen even if they are way outside the crease- unimaginable a generation ago.

I daresay there might be quite a few legs before, apart from more instances of batsmen bowled playing a shot where they might have happily paded away not too long ago.

Posted by Richie T on (November 23, 2008, 7:10 GMT)

Yes certainly technology is partly responsible for the very low percentage of drawn matches but there are a couple of other factors to consider. 1.Test Match batsmen today are a very different species compared to a few decades ago, players like G.Boycott or C.Tavare who would take 6 hours to score 100 were once the norm, todays Test batsmen score their runs much quicker and bowlers concentrate more on attack than defense. 2.Before the 1990's Test cricket was played strictly by the clock with no minimum over rates, if time was lost due to bad light or weather then a drawn game often resulted due to fewer overs bowled. Today even if the 1st day of a Test Match is washed out much of the lost time can be made up over the course of the match.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Samir Chopra
Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He runs the blogs at samirchopra.com and Eye on Cricket. His book on the changing face of modern cricket, Brave New Pitch: The Evolution of Modern Cricket has been published by HarperCollins. Before The Cordon, he blogged on The Pitch and Different Strokes on ESPNcricinfo. @EyeonthePitch

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