Samir Chopra August 2, 2010

The UDRS and Test cricket

Recently the just-retired Rudi Koertzen opined that the Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS) should be implemented world-wide in all Test cricket

Recently the just-retired Rudi Koertzen opined that the Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS) should be implemented world-wide in all Test cricket. I personally don't like the UDRS (as it stands) for a variety of reasons: the technology does not work as well as it should; it has been introduced prematurely into the highest form of the game without adequate trials at lower levels; and more sentimentally, it injects a form of second-guessing into the game that robs one of the elements that makes the game what it is - the dreaded finality of the umpire's raised finger. But I agree with Rudi anyway.

For if the UDRS is to be implemented, and certainly, as matters stand, it will be, then I suggest that it either be implemented in every single test played anywhere in the world, or not at all. This piece-meal implementation, subject to the whims of individual boards and the local availability of technology, is an incoherent state of affairs for a very simple reason. When the UDRS is used in a game of cricket, you simply aren't playing the same game as one in which it is not used.

A game is constituted, and more strongly, defined, by its set of rules. To call a game basketball it is not enough that you play on a court, which has nets on both ends, and is of the right dimensions; the players' activities must be constrained so that what they do on the court is recognisable as 'basketball'. Otherwise (say if contact with the foot was allowed), they are playing some variant, possibly an interesting game in its own right, but it has lost the right to be called basketball.

What the current implementation of the UDRS does is to introduce a variance, and a significant one at that, into the very heart of the game. Nominally, batsmen are out when the umpires say they are out. With the UDRS, the batsman is out when the umpire says he is out, and provided an appeal against the decision has not been overturned; or the batsman is out in case a successful appeal against an earlier decision of "not out" is made. In both cases (UDRS and non-UDRS), the umpire on the ground has to raise his finger but the decision-making process is significantly altered.

Surely, I'm not the only person who thinks this radically changes the nature of the game? What was out in Trent Bridge was not out in Galle and vice-versa. A batsman or a captain playing in a Test with UDRS appeals to spare is playing in a very different set of circumstances than one playing in one without it: the dismissals of batsmen proceed according to a very different set of constraints.

My contention that the introduction of the UDRS makes the game a different one is a rather strong claim, but I make it because the UDRS interferes with batsmen's dismissals and not just things like boundary calls. A batsman's dismissal is a singular event in cricket; if there is one thing in any version of the game that should be globally uniform it is the definition of a wicket. And it is precisely that that the UDRS alters.

Such would not be the case if the UDRS was used in all Tests the world over. All teams would proceed with a uniform understanding of what constituted a valid dismissal. All of the system's glitches and built-in human idiosyncrasies would be everyone's cross to bear.

But the current state of affairs is simply incoherent: we are being treated to the spectacle of the highest form of the game being played according to different sets of rules depending on the location of the game and the identity of the participants.

It's bad enough that versions of the game have proliferated; do we really need two versions of Test cricket as well?

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

  • testli5504537 on January 26, 2012, 17:22 GMT

    Umm, are you really just giving this info out for ntohnig?

  • testli5504537 on August 12, 2010, 13:51 GMT

    UDRS in test cricket is an insult to the umpires.the classical game is eaten up slowly by days passing on!!let test cricket be like the way it is now,try the hell of other experiments in t20 an odi or beach cricket whatever... it will kill the breed of umpires and any insane can then be an umpire!!!wake up ICC technology cant prove 100% effective nor the lie detectors can catch lies alltime!!! instead of that organize special summits and trainings for the umpires.only in the fielding especially if u can bring technology bring something which can tell whether or not a catch claimed by a fielder is right,and so on!!!

  • testli5504537 on August 9, 2010, 21:08 GMT

    I like hotspot and sniko but not convinced about hawkie as the way the ball moves can be tampered with. As long as the technology is handled by ICC team and not either country or commentators then hawkie will still be okay. The review system is good as it allows players to have a standard that is higher then humans can determine. Its like the invention of the telescope and someone says "why use a telescope I can see them easy enough as it is". The technology and implementation takes time to get right, but needs to be across the board in all tests. Also, ALL wickets should be reviewed AS the batsmen walks off automatically. The referal system should only be by the bowling side and should be unlimited. IF the bowling side is using up too much time doing it THEN the batting side should get "runs conceeded" extras at 150% of run rate for that session (in that innings). Will make teams get through overs quicker, resolve bad decisions and not financially disadvantage captains.

  • testli5504537 on August 9, 2010, 7:14 GMT

    With all due respect, sir, you would have to be practical. "THE DREADED FINGER" is merely a tradition. Wrong "DREADED FINGERS" can cost a team a game. I won't ,mention any names but BANGLADESH CRICKET TEAM had many decision related problems with a certain umpire. So, UDRS can help.

  • testli5504537 on August 7, 2010, 5:27 GMT

    Thanks for your replies, guys, anyway it doesn't matter, Pakistan calls up Mohd. Yousuf, and THEY DON'T play him, and then bang! 72, HarHar! Hawkeye or no hawkeye, this pakistani team cannot even get to hundred, I fully expect them to be bowled for 60 in the next inngs, and they fully deserve it, for not playing Mohd. Yousuf. I think hawkeye is wasted on the Pakistanis, all you have to do is wait five mins for them to get out.

  • testli5504537 on August 6, 2010, 23:40 GMT

    I have to say that I like the UDRS. I understand that it does change the game, but as you brought up, a sport is defined by its rules. Cricket has some very finely defined rules, where the tiniest nick, or a difference of millimeters is important. I believe that now that technology has gotten to a point where it can help accurately enforce those rules, it should be used. I admit that I have only followed the sport for about 2 years, so I don't have much emotional attachment to the traditions of the sport. But surely, the correct decision is of critical importance. Especially that now, since the viewer and media see what is correct, isn't the umpire's position more secure if players have the opportunity to appeal decisions they feel are way off base?

  • testli5504537 on August 5, 2010, 19:20 GMT

    @zaxar: Completely agree with you zaxar. But I was trying to make the same point as you. Waterbuffalo was arguing that hawk eye doesnt take into account the nature of the pitch, shape of the ball etc in making its calculations. My point is that it probably doesnt have to. As long as you have measured the swing and bounce of the ball from the point where it bounced to the point where it hits the batsman's pads (which I am sure any sane algorithm will do), predicting the path of the ball for another metre or 2 will not really be a problem. And as you say, getting an accuracy of abt 1 or 2 cms should not really be that hard.

    To allay the fears of most of the people, I believe that the ICC should conduct some tests which shows the accuracy of hawk eye. Conducting such tests should not really be a problem. Just ask bowlers to bowl at a wall so that you know where the ball hits the wall. Then let hawk eye predict where the ball would have hit the wall and measure the error induced.

  • testli5504537 on August 5, 2010, 4:37 GMT

    Samir, while it would make sense to have the same conditions in all Test matches, I don't agree with this argument at all. The umpire's finger being necessary for a dismissal (at least when there is dispute) may be an important part of how cricket is played, but it is not in the same league as the definitions of how a batsman can be out which the umpire relies on. Kids playing in the street, stopping to argue until consensus is reached/someone gives in, is no less cricket than an organised game with home/neutral/batting team umpires. How the decisions are made really is secondary.

  • testli5504537 on August 4, 2010, 22:48 GMT

    @Anonymous " does not take the wear and tear of a cricket ball into consideration, and it cannot tell if the ball hit the seam of the ball or hit the side, it cannot tell if the ball is soft or hard, and it cannot measure the swing." First of all, I am not sure how much of the above is true. " ------------------------------- I have written programs that calculate trajectory for golf balls for my company, that we mainly use for research purposes. (brand SRIXON, Dunlop). And have done testing against experimental data. I can tell you that longer the ball travels the more error is induced. We could predict golf ball within 1 yard of its roughly 250 yards travel. So if cricket ball moves within 1 or 2 meters error won't be more than a 1cm (that is even too high). LBW is mainly a suspect to error in trajectory calculations but seeing how wide stumps are, i would say we are pretty accurate. If they want i can help them improving their calculations.

  • testli5504537 on August 4, 2010, 19:43 GMT

    @John Smith: Dhoni didnt play test matches against Lanka in 2008.

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