Decision Review System February 6, 2013

Real Time Snicko could give DRS the edge

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A further enhanced version of the DRS, with the potential to increase certainty over edges, could be available later this year if new technology to allow the use of the Snickometer tool to be included in the process gains approval.

Controversy continues to exist over the ability of the Hot Spot cameras detecting faint edges, but this could be eliminated almost completely with the inventors of the system now on the verge of introducing Real Time Snickometer in an attempt to add extra clarity to the decision-making process.

The Australian company BBG Sports, who were behind Hot Spot, has been conducting trials on the new audio technology and believes the new improved Snickometer is the ideal complement to the Hot Spot and, when used in tandem, can enhance the DRS thereby making the review system more reliable, faster and consistent.

Currently, Snickometer is only a viewing aid and not part of the DRS because it requires a physical process by a technician to overlay the pictures with the sound provided by the stump microphones. This leads to delays in producing the final product and also risks inconsistencies in the results. The new system would make the process fully automated.

Warren Brennan, the head of BBG Sports, said: "I am hopeful that it would improve fine-edge detection dramatically. On most occasions, you are going to have the Real Time Snicko and Hot Spot agreeing with another. So the third umpire will now have two points of reference. There can be more consistency that way."

The inability of Hot Spot to detect a fine edge especially when the fast bowlers are operating, and the issue known as the 'motion blur' created by the speed of the ball, has been a constant source of debate and some countries, notably India, are wary of the vulnerability of the DRS. There were recent examples in the Johannesburg Test when Pakistan were unhappy about the decision-making based on Hot Spot.

An enhanced system would go down well with boards already in favour of the DRS but it remains to be seen whether it would sway the minds of the BCCI who refuse to use the system. The BCCI have broader reservations about the technology, particularly the predictive element of Hawk Eye, rather than just Hot Spot.

During 2011 BBG Sports introduced new infrared cameras from British manufacturer Selex ES and found them to be the most sensitive infrared cameras they had used. The new cameras, which Brennan pointed out, "have taken the Hot Spot system from an accuracy of around 85% to a current accuracy of 95%", came with the promise that they would completely eradicate motion blur and make it possible to detect very faint Hot Spots. However, by Brennan's own admission "not even the best infrared cameras on the planet could avoid the occasional missed fine edge."

In late 2011, Brennan discussed the idea of improving the Snickometer product with old colleague Allan Plaskett. The Snickometer was Plaskett's brainchild back in 1999 and the product has been used by broadcasters in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and India over the past decade.

"The first task at hand was to ensure that the Snickometer would be ready for the DRS process within 5-10 seconds of an appeal," Brennan said. "The only way to achieve this was to have our own server hardware recording a minimum of 12 different camera channels plus two stump mics all in real time." Thus the Real Time Snicko was born and has been tested in the last twelve months in trials across Australia and the UK.

The second main task was to come up with a robust procedure whereby audio and video synchronisation could be guaranteed without the need for manual intervention. "Allan and I both envisage a daily pre-match calibration process that will be supervised by the third umpire as the most accurate way in which to set a synchronisation offset between video and audio," Brennan said.

"The major strength of Hot Spot is fine-edge detection for spin bowlers," he added. "A spinning ball with its rotating action will grip-and-rub more profusely against a cricket bat creating more friction. This in turn creates more heat which is much easier for the Hot Spot cameras to identify.

"The strength of the Real Time Snicko is for faster bowlers where the wicketkeeper is standing 20-plus metres behind the stumps. From this position the noise of the wicketkeeper moving his feet creates little problem unlike when the wicketkeeper is standing up-to-the-stumps for a spin bowler."

For the Real Time Snicko to be included into the DRS process ICC ratification would be necessary. "The plan for 2013 is for Allan and myself to meet with the ICC in March and discuss the possible homologation of the Real Time Snicko into the DRS process. If so, then the Hot Spot and Real Time Snicko could work in tandem for faint-edge-detection during the Ashes series starting in July 2013," Brennan said.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • BHAARATVARSH on February 9, 2013, 10:41 GMT

    @Allanplaskett: "snicko should only be used as a negative indicator, to confirm no sound from bat, or anything else, as the ball passed". Why isn't this information being made publicly available? Why is BCCI being bashed about for rejecting the DRS in its present form?

  • Allanplaskett on February 8, 2013, 13:13 GMT

    When I invented Snicko in 1999 it was granted its EU and UK patents on the basis that synchronisation of sound and vision was fully automatic for edges between one and three metres of the stump microphone.. That has remained true ever sincer for Snicko UK, licensed exclusively to BskyB. Susan Betts is correct to say below that Snicko should not be used as a positive indicator in DRS, but not for the reason she gives. Low frequency noises do not appear in the oscillograph; they are filtered out. Snicko should only be used as a negative indicator, to confirm no sound from bat, or anything else, as the ball passed. A positive sound on the graph, even an isolated sharp spike, could (low probability) be something else, picked up at the critical instant by coincidence.

  • Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on February 8, 2013, 6:13 GMT

    I hope my post gets published.

    @Ahsan Rafiq, hot-spot and tracker are definitely not the way to go if you have to seek improvement in cricket. They have been shown to be as inconclusive as the umpires for tough calls. So, answer me - why do you want to spend boatloads of money on such inconclusive things? Is it for howlers like huge inside-edge LBWs? You must be kidding me. We have slo-mo that can do that job for us at little or zero extra cost. If an expensive thing cannot answer tough calls, then one has to question the motive for persisting with it and then argue that hot-spot and tracker are for howlers only anyways. I'm sorry, hot-spot and tracker, the high-tech gadgets they are, will be expected to address tough calls. Tracker is one heck of a wicked joke and hot-spot is not working for tough calls. It fails badly for faint edges just like our age old umpires. So why spend huge money on hot-spot?

  • Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on February 8, 2013, 5:47 GMT

    @Punters Mate, it is mind numbingly stupid to say that hot-spot should be used for howlers like huge inside edge LBWs when everybody is able to watch that on TV with slo-mo replays. Nobody is against DRS here. Yes, I'm against using hot-spot for howlers. You don't need hot-spot for a howler. Do you?

  • Punters_Mate on February 7, 2013, 22:52 GMT

    The nonsense that some posters rabbit on with suggesting that DRS is some anti BCCI conspiracy. DRS supporters simply want a better outcome to remove the howlers that everyone watching on TV or those in the stadium are aware of immediately after the decision has been made. How is it good for cricket when the broadcaster can critically analyse every umpiring decision with the available technology and in the process undermines the consumers confidence in the game. At a time when world sport is under unprecedented scrutiny over probity issues to fail to utilise the best tools to assist umpires is mind numbingly stupid.

  • sensible-indian-fan on February 7, 2013, 19:23 GMT

    Dunno why cricinfo didn't publish my previous comment. Hopefully this one gets through.

    @Johnny_Rook - "They do 2+2 = (4 * pi / pi) and will keep on discussing the value of pi till eternity :)" Couldn't have described what ICC/BCCI are doing in a better way.

    @Dravid_Gravitas_Statchin_Selfishkar - We may have had disagreements over Sachin's achievements in the past but I 100% agree with you on this issue. An equipment must justify its price. Moreover, its stupid to have different forms of DRS (hotspot-no hotspot) for series played in different countries. As a cricket fan, howlers make me sick. I actually felt sorry for Cook in the Ind-Eng ODI series. But imagine, what would have happened if we had some simple no-nonsense referral system in the Ind-Eng Test Series (where Cook got away in the crucial matches). Agreed that we didn't deserve to win that series but things sure would have been very very interesting.

  • Harmony111 on February 7, 2013, 19:14 GMT

    @Dravid_Gravitas: Yeas, I've often tried to pin them down on DRS itself but they drag in BCCI needlessly and start saying that DRS is technology and we all should embrace technology and support innovation else how will the game progress and because BCCI is opposed to DRS it means BCCI is opposed to using technology and so BCCI is not interested in the health of the game and so we must say yes to DRS cos BCCI opposes it. Ha Ha Ha. I can see a no of fallacies in that line of reasoning, if you can call it "reasoning" at all. A Pro-DRS guy will hardly talk about DRS itself, even if we set aside the Howler vs Marginal topic. He will not even touch the main point of the cost of DRS and who will afford it. He will only be interested in DRS being used cos it is technology and that we must oppose BCCI cos technology is good for the game. Some have even said that BCCI has so much money so it can pay for DRS for other boards. O Yeah. Yes I can but why should I? If BCCI bullies it is HELL RIGHT.

  • Harmony111 on February 7, 2013, 18:49 GMT

    Sometimes I feel ICC can learn a lot from Software Engineers. ICC needs to learn how to first test things by building a prototype. How can tools hitherto unproven be used directly at the highest level of the game? Imagine that Bell lbw issue happening in the WC Final...or imagine India or Eng losing out a point and so a place in the QF due to that 1 point between winning and tying. Can ppl imagine the huge huge controversy? In fact it had already happened in 1992 when a shambolic rain rule based on weird logic was used and SA lost out on the SF spot there. ICC should first try to build some scenarios before making changes to rules. The super sub was another such that was done in a hurry. Teams simple opted to have an extra batsmen for the chase to use that rule. Ditto for the 3rd PP, most teams wud take it in the 46th over only. And now ICC wants DRS - an unproven tool proven to act up rarely AND regularly but which needs a lot of money. Moreover, we already have cheaper options to DRS

  • dummy4fb on February 7, 2013, 16:57 GMT

    Rules for any contest should be the same for both the teams, so ECB can not bully the visiting teams to accept DRS or simply leave. Applying DRS are not should be the same regardless of whether it is dashing opening batsman or struggling tailender who is fighting for a draw. If you are talking about getting the decisions right, you are trying to be fair, right? Then applying DRS for all 11 players is only fair. Also, why should player takes it on himself to question Umpire's decision? He should volunteer to do that in every decision which he thinks is marginal. 3rd umpire should watch every ball (just like cricket cray public do) and should reverse the decisions which thinks need to be reversed. He should have the authority to do that, with out being asked. Also, if super-slow mo cameras and pitch map can do the job, why the expensive technology which is no better ? To fill the coffers of ECB and ACB? Guys, what do you think?

  • dummy4fb on February 7, 2013, 16:36 GMT

    Dravid_Gravitas_Statchin_Selfishkar Good point DRS is not meant to give perfect decisions rather its purpose is to improve decision making...............That is why DRS always favors onfield umpire's decision unless there is enough evidence to overturn field umpire's decion.........Hence DRS for sure improves decision making but not give perfect decision that is why all countries r accepting it..................A doctor does not guarentee cure but his treatment only improve chances of cure yet everybody visits doctor when gets ill ......simple........Everythings that we do in life is just for improvement that's all.