Samir Chopra November 22, 2008

More Technology. Fewer Draws

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, but that's a small price to pay for knowing that the decision came out correctly
20

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • 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.

  • Personal Injury Lawyers on January 29, 2009, 18:38 GMT

    Who are you picking in the super bowl?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Personal Injury Lawyers on January 29, 2009, 18:38 GMT

    Who are you picking in the super bowl?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Soulberry on November 23, 2008, 6:49 GMT

    Technology can only help, not detract from the game. The umpires will welcome it - the sensible ones, not the egomaniacs if such exist - the players will welcome it for that much more objectivity. Implementation of technology should not be mocked the way it was done in Sri Lanka v India. It gave the process a bad name. Better, the on-field umpire has a gadget to check on his own (can speak with editor for specific cuts on walkie-talkie if needed)and the same cuts are also shown on the big screen and telly for greater objectivity, rather than have a third umpire goofing up on obvious despite having command of technology. Such gadgets/technology must be there already. Bring them in. and the on-field umpire makes the decision, so his power and ego remain intact while avoiding heartburn to players and spectators. Could steal the grist of media mills though who thrive on controversy and player response to it. :)

    Bring on more technology and place it in the hands of on field umpire.

  • yogesh zaveri on November 22, 2008, 18:29 GMT

    As an umpire in local cricket, at least once a game, if not more, I feel, if I had the 3rd umpire, that was in all probability, out, but since I can't be 100% sure, not out is my decision. And this also includes stuff like pithched just outside leg stump, struck just outside off stump and so on. Yes, I think technology would help matches finish faster and even the current imbalance between bat and ball.

  • RC on November 22, 2008, 16:27 GMT

    Interesting theory, but why not actually compile the stats before you write an article. This is something that could be calculated and frankly this is a bit unprofessional to propound a theory without any actual data.

  • D.V.C. on November 22, 2008, 14:30 GMT

    Phanindra, the problem with replays for catches is that they actually introduce doubt. The scientists who know about these things talk about foreshortening of the camera lens, meaning your eye is actually better unless you have a very high frame rate - above what we have now. The run outs are completely different: 2 events which is in the earlier frame, it's that simple.

  • David Barry on November 22, 2008, 13:27 GMT

    Just raw Statsguru "by decade" stuff, too lazy after being at the cricket today to do much more. 1980's: 2048 balls per run out. 1990's: 1950 balls per run out. 2000's: 1913 balls per run out.

    So run outs are becoming more common.

    (Other wickets are also becoming more common - the overall bowlers' strike rate has gone from 70.7 to 68.6 to 65.6 over that time. The proportion of wickets that are run outs did increase from about 3% to 3.5% after the introduction of third umpires - I took that from Charles Davis's study on historical changes in cricket - but it seems that wickets are falling so quickly these days that run outs are proportionally as common or less common than before.)

  • Phanindra on November 22, 2008, 12:58 GMT

    Technology has surely helped in more wickets falling by the way of runouts and stumpings. But also helped some wickets not falling by showing that many catches were not clean. One very good example of what technology can is , the recently conluded India-Sri Lanka series , where the review system was employed. And what more, there was a result in every test match played, so technology definitely increasing the number of results in Test matches . Hope the review system stays.

  • Douglas on November 22, 2008, 10:42 GMT

    Interestingly enough, a superficial look at the stats suggests no significant change in the frequency of run outs. Before the introduction in November '92 there were 1336 run outs 791 in test matches. Since the introduction of it we've had 725 outs 445 matches. Good for a rate of 1.68 and 1.62 run outs per test respectively. I don't know what this implies, whether anything can be inferred.

    What it probably means is that umpires didn't shy away from making tough decisions and perhaps the technology saves as many as it exposes.

    No what needs to be figured out is why umpires don't have access to those 1000 frame per second cameras we see in highlight reels. Use the best technology available I say.

  • John Hart on November 22, 2008, 10:02 GMT

    It's also true that umpires are more willing now to give batsmen out lbw, having themselves seen from other people's replays, and 'hawkeye' projections, how the ball can, and generally does, behave. It is notable how often umpires' decisions are vindicated by the combination of replay and hawkeye.

  • Dick Johnson on November 22, 2008, 9:57 GMT

    Fewer draws, not less draws, please!

    Ed. note: Thanks mate, for the heads-up.

  • Roger@1stslip on November 22, 2008, 6:56 GMT

    Prior to the technology, it was relatively less common to see "run out" as a mode of dismissal in a typical innings so I agree Samir, that the technology has contributed to more "run outs" being given out. It has also probably encouraged fielders to try harder and more often to get "run outs" as they can do so knowing that the appeals will be treated scientifically & fairly by the technology.

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • Roger@1stslip on November 22, 2008, 6:56 GMT

    Prior to the technology, it was relatively less common to see "run out" as a mode of dismissal in a typical innings so I agree Samir, that the technology has contributed to more "run outs" being given out. It has also probably encouraged fielders to try harder and more often to get "run outs" as they can do so knowing that the appeals will be treated scientifically & fairly by the technology.

  • Dick Johnson on November 22, 2008, 9:57 GMT

    Fewer draws, not less draws, please!

    Ed. note: Thanks mate, for the heads-up.

  • John Hart on November 22, 2008, 10:02 GMT

    It's also true that umpires are more willing now to give batsmen out lbw, having themselves seen from other people's replays, and 'hawkeye' projections, how the ball can, and generally does, behave. It is notable how often umpires' decisions are vindicated by the combination of replay and hawkeye.

  • Douglas on November 22, 2008, 10:42 GMT

    Interestingly enough, a superficial look at the stats suggests no significant change in the frequency of run outs. Before the introduction in November '92 there were 1336 run outs 791 in test matches. Since the introduction of it we've had 725 outs 445 matches. Good for a rate of 1.68 and 1.62 run outs per test respectively. I don't know what this implies, whether anything can be inferred.

    What it probably means is that umpires didn't shy away from making tough decisions and perhaps the technology saves as many as it exposes.

    No what needs to be figured out is why umpires don't have access to those 1000 frame per second cameras we see in highlight reels. Use the best technology available I say.

  • Phanindra on November 22, 2008, 12:58 GMT

    Technology has surely helped in more wickets falling by the way of runouts and stumpings. But also helped some wickets not falling by showing that many catches were not clean. One very good example of what technology can is , the recently conluded India-Sri Lanka series , where the review system was employed. And what more, there was a result in every test match played, so technology definitely increasing the number of results in Test matches . Hope the review system stays.

  • David Barry on November 22, 2008, 13:27 GMT

    Just raw Statsguru "by decade" stuff, too lazy after being at the cricket today to do much more. 1980's: 2048 balls per run out. 1990's: 1950 balls per run out. 2000's: 1913 balls per run out.

    So run outs are becoming more common.

    (Other wickets are also becoming more common - the overall bowlers' strike rate has gone from 70.7 to 68.6 to 65.6 over that time. The proportion of wickets that are run outs did increase from about 3% to 3.5% after the introduction of third umpires - I took that from Charles Davis's study on historical changes in cricket - but it seems that wickets are falling so quickly these days that run outs are proportionally as common or less common than before.)

  • D.V.C. on November 22, 2008, 14:30 GMT

    Phanindra, the problem with replays for catches is that they actually introduce doubt. The scientists who know about these things talk about foreshortening of the camera lens, meaning your eye is actually better unless you have a very high frame rate - above what we have now. The run outs are completely different: 2 events which is in the earlier frame, it's that simple.

  • RC on November 22, 2008, 16:27 GMT

    Interesting theory, but why not actually compile the stats before you write an article. This is something that could be calculated and frankly this is a bit unprofessional to propound a theory without any actual data.

  • yogesh zaveri on November 22, 2008, 18:29 GMT

    As an umpire in local cricket, at least once a game, if not more, I feel, if I had the 3rd umpire, that was in all probability, out, but since I can't be 100% sure, not out is my decision. And this also includes stuff like pithched just outside leg stump, struck just outside off stump and so on. Yes, I think technology would help matches finish faster and even the current imbalance between bat and ball.

  • Soulberry on November 23, 2008, 6:49 GMT

    Technology can only help, not detract from the game. The umpires will welcome it - the sensible ones, not the egomaniacs if such exist - the players will welcome it for that much more objectivity. Implementation of technology should not be mocked the way it was done in Sri Lanka v India. It gave the process a bad name. Better, the on-field umpire has a gadget to check on his own (can speak with editor for specific cuts on walkie-talkie if needed)and the same cuts are also shown on the big screen and telly for greater objectivity, rather than have a third umpire goofing up on obvious despite having command of technology. Such gadgets/technology must be there already. Bring them in. and the on-field umpire makes the decision, so his power and ego remain intact while avoiding heartburn to players and spectators. Could steal the grist of media mills though who thrive on controversy and player response to it. :)

    Bring on more technology and place it in the hands of on field umpire.