April 5, 2011

The DRS effect on lbw decisions

A look at how the Decision Review System has affected lbw decisions in the 2011 World Cup

The DRS: has considerably improved bowlers' chances of getting lbw decisions © Getty Images

As the 2011 World Cup tournament proceeded through its 49 matches, it became clear to me that bowlers, particularly spin bowlers, were winning many favourable lbw decisions that they would not have won in previous tournaments. I presume it is unnecessary for me to describe the process whereby a bowler, having unsuccessfully appealed for lbw, was able to have the decision re-visited, and through the microscopic examination of video footage, the initial decision was often reversed.

Using our CSW database software, I have tracked back through all World Cup tournaments since they started in 1975, and from my research, have come up with the following table:

LBW decisions in World Cups
Year Venue %lbw %lbw (quicks) %lbw (spinners)
1975 England 14.90 18.01 6.06
1979 England 12.38 14.45 0.00
1983 England 11.52 14.61 3.23
1987 Subcontinent 7.01 9.35 6.54
1992 Australasia 6.42 7.08 8.51
1996 Subcontinent 7.59 10.17 6.86
1999 England 14.24 15.15 17.44
2003 South Africa 12.40 13.33 12.89
2007 Caribbean 11.31 11.38 14.76
2011 Subcontinent 16.28 15.34 21.03
Total 11.57 12.79 12.92

The third column (%lbw) gives the number of lbw decisions as a percentage of all dismissals. Until this year, those tournaments held in England clearly gave the greatest incidence of lbw decisions as a proportion. I initially thought this might be as a result of the higher propensity of English umpires to give batsmen out lbw compared with their counterparts in other countries, but unlike the 1975, 1979 and 1983 tournaments, the 1999 event included only two English umpires of the dozen who officiated that year. One can only therefore conclude that English conditions provide a higher likelihood of players being dismissed lbw than in other countries.

The last two columns (%Qlbw and %Slbw) give the number of lbw dismissals as a percentage of all dismissals engineered by "quick" and "spin" bowlers respectively. (The category "quick" includes all bowlers from medium-pace upwards.) One can see that in early years, spin bowlers found it very difficult indeed to win an lbw decision from umpires. In fact, in the first three World Cups, there were only four lbw decisions given to spin bowlers in total, with none at all in 1979! The removal of the tournament to the sub-continent in 1987 doubled the chance of spin bowlers winning lbw decisions, and there was a significant jump again in the 1999 event. This year, there has been an almost 50% rise in the proportion of dismissals won by lbw decisions for spin bowlers compared with the 2007 World Cup, and for the first time, more than one in five dismissals have been earned this way for these bowlers.

The DRS has clearly shown that umpires have been too conservative in considering lbw appeals in the past, and that batsmen have been getting away with murder for years! The higher incidence of lbw dismissals for both spin and quick bowlers is a result not only of the direct intervention of video replays, but also, in all probability, of a realisation by umpires that they are safer in giving out what they originally would have considered to be marginal decisions only a year or two ago. I recall many referrals in this last World Cup by batsmen given out lbw in the hope they would be reprieved- but weren't.

With batsmen now being at greater risk in being given out lbw at the top level, it will be interesting to see what batsmen will do to counter this danger. Presumably playing straighter, and less "across the line" will be a first strategy, but also coming down the wicket more might be an effective counter. We may expect more stumpings as a result! It is fascinating to watch the game continually evolving.