Technology December 20, 2009

The UDRS debate

David Gower, writing in the Sunday Times , says the revised Umpire Decision Review System is superior to the old one but it still leads to debate.

David Gower, writing in the Sunday Times, says the revised Umpire Decision Review System is superior to the old one but it still leads to debate.

At tea yesterday, Sir Ian Botham and I got stuck into a decidedly warm discussion following the upholding of the not-out lbw verdict in favour of AB de Villiers. Hawk-Eye had shown that the delivery from Graham Onions would have clipped the leg stump pretty hard. The crucial point was that it was not within the tolerance levels prescribed by the International Cricket Council (ICC) for such incidents.

So if a review shows that the decision of the man in the middle fell within the margin of error, the orange graphic comes up “Umpire’s Call”, and the original decision stands.

This does present an anomaly. We had a situation in which the umpire had given De Villiers not out, and Hawk-Eye suggested strongly that he should have been given out. However, because of the margin of error, the third umpire could not definitively say the original verdict was wrong, so the on-field umpire’s decision stood, and England had lost their final review. That was the point Sir Ian was most indignant about: that even if one accepted the decision as laid down by the rules of the system, it seemed harsh that England had lost the review when everyone knew it could well have been out.

In the Observer, Mike Selvey zeroes in on another debatable characteristic of the review system: "England asked for a referral that showed, if Hawk-Eye, the tracking device, is to be believed (and remember it has a margin of error) was hitting leg stump substantially, if not quite to the middle-of-the-ball hitting-middle-of-stump degree required for an unequivocal electronic decision. So the umpire's original decision pertained, as per protocol in so-called fringe decisions, a bonus for De Villiers and tough on the bowler who knows that had it been given out, and the batsman sought clarification, he would have been on the way to the dressing room."

The Umpire Decision Review System has had teething problems, not least on England's tour of South Africa, but will lead to more correct decisions and liberate umpires, writes Steve James in the Sunday Telegraph.

It simply cannot be right that an umpire makes a shocker of a decision and the whole world knows about it in an instant, while he remains in the dark. Alerting him doesn't undermine him, it liberates him. He does not stew all day, listening for the whispers, avoiding eye-contact with the aggrieved party (have you ever experienced the cut-the-air-with-a-knife atmosphere of standing at square-leg next to an umpire who has sawn you off earlier in the day?) and maybe even attempting a 'make-up' decision.

George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo