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Time Out with Harsha Bhogle
'ICC should take charge of technology'
January 26, 2010
David Lloyd and Sambit Bal discuss the UDRS system - merits, demerits and the blueprint going ahead
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Umpire Tony Hill signals for a review of Shivnarine Chanderpaul's lbw decision, West Indies v England, 1st Test, Kingston, February 6, 2009
Harsha Bhogle: "My vote is to keep the UDRS down to line decisions. You cannot get catches anyway, if there is a big nick or an inside edge then use the third umpire but don't go beyond that " © Getty Images

Harsha Bhogle: Let's start with the UDRS, as it's now called. I know it sounds a bit like retirement scheme, an umpires' retirement scheme. Maybe it's headed there, who knows, because the objective of the UDRS was to eliminate howlers, to make decision-making accurate, and it's been trialled in England-South Africa and in the home season in Australia. We want to check with both David Lloyd and Sambit, how much technology is good for the game? Should we use the Snickometer, the stump microphone? Is the Hawk-Eye projection good or not, is the HotSpot good given that it can't be used everywhere?

Let me start with you Bumble, you've just been part of a series that was not short on emotion. Is the UDRS delivering? Is it doing what it was meant to do?

David Lloyd: I think it would do Harsha, if the technology was there. If we can just take it back a couple of years, everybody was clamouring about getting the right decision. Therefore it was decided that technology should be used.

Having just worked in South Africa, on South Africa-England series, in conclusion I would say that it should not have been used there because there wasn't right amount of technology. And it was very much guesswork from the third umpire. The technology worked sometimes and did not work other times. There was no HotSpot, there was no Snicko, which won't be used anyway, and another critical piece of equipment, the ultra-motion, the really slow-motion camera. Unless we have all those things in place, I don't think we should use the technology, because it opens the standing umpire and the third umpire to ridicule. So we need all the technology to be available all over the place.

HB: Sambit, you are happy with the system as it exists at the moment?

Sambit Bal: There is no doubt in my mind that it should have been tried, because without trying it we would have not seen the flaws. I actually feel for the ICC a bit, because till they did not try it everybody said that they must. And now that they have tried it, we can see the flaws, and lot of mistakes are coming out. I think the trial has already served its purpose because we are seeing the flaws, and we would have not seen them without trying out the system.

HB: Can you correct these flaws?

SB: I think, what we know is there will be no perfection in this. We have to find a middle ground. We have to decide on the middle ground that is acceptable to all, because technology is never going to be perfect.

HB: So you would go ahead with the UDRS, as it is at the moment?

SB: Personally no, but practically yes. But not the way it is. I think there is a lot of tinkering that needs to be done. It is a work in progress.

HB: You were on Bumble, weren't you when that whole incident involving Graeme Smith took place in Johannesburg? Now, do you think if it hadn't gone to the third umpire, someone might have heard a nick and given it out in the first place? Do you think they just try to play safe by going to the third umpire? Do you think umpires now, knowing that the referrals exist, are just being a little more cautious? What is your take on how the umpires are taking this?

DL: I think the umpires, in my experience, are quite comfortable with it. I don't think they will be comfortable if it was in their court, and the players did not challenge them but they challenged each other. Then I think the game will stop, because there will be so many reviews and referrals if it was left with the umpires on the field. I know that it's a train of thought that some people would go with.

In that particular incident [involving Graeme Smith], the standing umpire has missed the nick - let's try and understand as to why he did not hear it. Let's try and understand why he did not hear it - a lot of people were making a lot of noise at the ground, he may have been downwind of the nick. It's a huge appeal, it's an instant appeal, and it would appear that he [batsman] did hit the ball.

Now to go to the technology, the broadcaster SABC, had a technical glitch in their sound department at that time, and therefore the director, and the two commentators did not hear the nick either. So that meant the information fed to the third umpire, Daryl Harper, meant that he did not hear the nick. But on SuperSport and Sky, there were different technicians and everybody heard the nick. It was as clear as day. So the real problem for the ICC and the review system is to ensure that the broadcasting body has got the right people and right equipment to hear the nick.

"The real problem for the ICC and the review system is to ensure that the broadcasting body has got the right people and right equipment to hear the nick" David Lloyd

Let me tell you the most important thing for everybody listening to this. Harper, in this case the third umpire, was looking at a totally inadequate monitor. He has got to have the best monitor available because he is making the decision. We, as commentators Harsha, like yourself, have got the best equipment, we have got a HD screen - a high definition lead. Harper did not have any of those; he just had an old monitor, and that is totally inadequate. Now that did not come out, and I am very sorry for Harper. He may not be the best umpire in the world but if that's all the equipment he had then it puts him in a very compromising situation.

HB: It's something that I have been always worried about: the moment you go more and more towards the UDRS you are actually handing the game to a technician or a director. And at most times you must assume honourable intent, or certainly must assume that they are very good at their job. You then run the risk of them maybe not being as good at their job, and then doing what happened [in Johannesburg]. But it's nice to see that you have a touch of sympathy for Daryl, very few people in the world seem to have it.

The ICC is going to probe into all this, because we all like commissions, don't we, the review commissions and showing who is powerful and who isn't. But we thought we will check with the ICC, and what the situation with them is.

And Dave Richardson is a pretty genial general manager [of the ICC]. He was a good wicketkeeper in his time, who might have gone for the appeal himself. Let's see what he has to say.

Dave Richardson: The fourth Test between South Africa and England in Johannesburg was a very good example of how complicated this can all get. There we had a situation that the host broadcaster produced a feed that went to the third umpire's room. At the same time we had two other broadcasters, BSkyB which provided and feed into the UK and goodness knows where else plus the SuperSport feed which also had their own feed going out to their own viewers that the third umpire didn't have access to. Obviously if we had that series again, we would make sure that the same levels or specifications that the host broadcaster was using was also being used by the other broadcasters so that there was no room for different feed going out to different people. But these are the things we can learn from experience and hopefully we can rectify going forward.

We often hear the suggestion or the argument that we should have trialled the DRS at first-class level. The problem with that is purely a practical one. Firstly there is very little first-class cricket that is televised. Secondly, if it is even televised, the technology that is available at those matches, compared to the technology that might be available at international level is very scant. It is normally the minimum that is required. Very few times will there be ball tracking, HotSpot cameras and the like. So to trial it at first-class level is impractical. Thirdly, what we are finding is that what is needed is for players to get better understanding of when to use the system and when not to use the system. We also need the umpires to get practice at implementing the various protocols. It is not going to happen overnight. And a lot of the problems we have had so far have been exactly that. And throw in the mix, we also need TV production staff, video replay operators, sound engineers and even the director of the broadcast also need practice at implementing the process, the system and protocols before it gets better and better. I don't think we would have made any progress had we initially trialled it at first-class level

A lot of people are suggesting that the ICC should get involved and that it should take on the cost burden. But the fact of the matter is that the ICC doesn't have its own funds. The funds that ICC gets from ICC events are all distributed as soon as they come in to the members. So when someone says the ICC must pay, in effect what we are asking the members to do is the members to pay. Now some will argue, why should members like Afghanistan, Ireland, Holland or even some of the other full members who do not have as many Tests, why should they be paying the costs for Tests put on in some other full-member country. So it is wrong to say the ICC must pay, or put it this way, if the ICC must pay, in effect what we are really saying is that the members must pay. I think that is again one of the matters that need to be discussed by the ICC. I think that is again one of the matters that need to be discussed by the ICC. We are in this difficult period where we have existing agreements in place between members and broadcasters so we need to rely on everyone's cooperation. But I think the plan is to hold a conference in March this year with the broadcasters to refine the specifications, determine what is necessary and also to discuss the cost implications both for the members and the broadcasters.

The players wait for the umpire review to finish the game, Australia v West Indies, 3rd Test, Perth, December 20, 2009
Sambit Bal: "I think there is a lot of tinkering that needs to be done with the UDRS. It is a work in progress" © Getty Images

HB: I just sense, Sambit, that the problem can be solved if the ICC puts its own equipment.

SB: In fact, the ICC has to take charge of the technology; there is no question about it. We have a ridiculous situation now where we don't have UDRS in India, because Nimbus [the sports channel who owns the broadcasting rights in India] refuses to use it, and I sympathise with Nimbus because they have paid a whole lot of money to get the rights, and when they bought the rights, UDRS wasn't there. It's not up to them to bring the Hot Spot, or whatever technology available.

So it's the ICC that really has to take charge of this and make sure that every piece of technology that is needed is there.

HB: Bumble, is that possible at all, is it feasible? We have worked on lot of telecasts together, and the production houses are always complaining about the budgets. Do you think it's possible?

DL: Well, it depends how much we are talking about here. Some of money that is bandied about the use of Hot Spot is, for a series like South Africa-England is about $70,000 for one camera. Who is going to pay that, and that probably is the stumbling block as to whether it falls with the board or the broadcaster or the ICC. But it's a terrific amount of money. And, at this moment, there are only four Hot Spot cameras, that's all there are. The two were used in the Australia series, and the other two were supposedly being used in the South Africa series. But nobody would stump up the money.

I have got a great tweet in from a chap who is a real cricket enthusiast. He said - you can be out in one part of the world and not out in the other part of the world.

HB: Absolutely, Bumble what you need to do is just send all the feedback to India, and we will find a sponsor that comes up every time Hot Spot is used, and put in a line in the contract that says, Hot Spot must be used 25 times a day with a sponsor message every time. They will put up the money. [Laughs]

DL: That will be great, but 25 times a day … that's excessive Harsha.

HB: No, I was just pulling your leg Bumble.

Yes, but that's a fair point, Bumble has got a jovial way to putting across a series point. But you could be out in one part of the world and not out in another.

SB: Yes, the money has to be found. If you are going to use the technology then you have to use the same technology everywhere. But coming to that, there is no guarantee that Hot Spot works.

HB: That's what happened in the Kemar Roach incident, isn't it?

SB: Yes, and I remember Dinesh Karthik getting out in a series in England; he was given out, he was happy to walk but Hot Spot revealed nothing. When asked at the press conference, Karthik said he nicked it.

HB: It's something that has bothered me a little bit for a while - we accept technology to be correct 100% of the time, but we are happy, almost accepting, of umpires getting it wrong from time to time. The ICC throws out these numbers saying the umpires are correct 90% of the time or 92%. So suppose we assume that those numbers are correct, and we say that the umpires get it right 92% of time, but the machine gets it right 98% of time, are we okay to use the machine every time? Over 100 decisions, the machine will get it right more often than the umpires?

SB: Personally, of course I stand on the other side. I would like the game to go on the way it has.

HB: You are from the era of Thomas Hardy and Shakespeare; you are real traditionalist, aren't you?

SB: No, if you are not going to get 100%, then why would I take the 2%? I would rather live with 8% human error rather than having the case of 2% errors when it comes to machines making a mistake.

HB: Bumble you have been a coach as well, just assume one of your boys has just comeback because an umpire has given him a wrong decision. Would you be happy going to machine that gets it right 98% of time, as opposed to an umpire who gets it right 90% of time?

DL: Well, going back to my time as a coach I was very relaxed about umpires' decisions. You know people make mistakes; the human error comes into it. So I was very relaxed, because I know I will get one that will go the other way. It will even itself out; you win some you lose some. But that's an old traditionalist's way. That's the way umpiring is, its umpire's opinion.

"Use technology where it is simple and everybody can see and accept it. Don't go into grey areas" Sambit Bal
In this day and age, we are saying that we want the right decision. So players can't have it every way. If they want it cut and dry, and if the machines give you a better percentage of right decisions, then so be it. But I do like the system as it is that each team has two reviews. I don't think they are using it too well at the minute. But the more they use them; they will get really savvy as to what is right and what is wrong. In conclusion, what I am saying - it will not work unless the technology is there. It's no point having it unless you have got the technology. Hot Spot, isn't 100 % right, it's nearly, very nearly.

HB: Right Sambit ….

SB: My problem with the idea of challenge is that it is not designed to deliver justice all the time. It is designed to deliver justice some of the times and that is a problem. Because if you have two top-order batsmen who waste the reviews, then nobody has any review available.

HB: So the objective, which was to eliminate the howler, is not served…

SB: Yes. What are you trying to do? If the idea is to deliver justice then you must find another way to deliver justice all the time. I also don't understand what the fuss is about when someone from the dressing room sees something and points it out. The idea is to do justice. The idea is not to test batsmen or the fielders, whether they knew that they were out or not.

HB: Spoken like a real honourable judge of the High Court, but I agree with you. I think the biggest debate needs to be on whether you can use Hawk Eye to project the path of the ball. I have sat in the commentary boxes for a long time, and I am quite happy to use Hawke Eye to see whether the ball lands on the mat, I am happy to use Hawk Eye to see where the impact is, and I am happy to use it as an entertainment tool to see whether or not the ball would have gone on to hit the stumps. But I am not sure the projection is as good as it is, especially when the ball lands very close to the pad and therefore there isn't much distance covered between hitting the ground and impacting the pad, so therefore your projection is not as accurate.

SB: My view is very clear on this: deliver with what you can see. Deliver justice on the basis of what everyone can see and accept. As for prediction, I'd rather live with umpire's prediction than Hawk Eye's prediction.

HB: Bumble, what do you make of that? The old rule seemed quite alright - that you go in for line decisions, you check out the big inside edges on the pad and we could not judge catches anyway. But this Hawk Eye prediction, to me, is not 100 % convincing….

DL: Yes, when we started these systems, the projections weren't used. It was just the moment of impact. And then there was clamour that we wanted to see the projected path of the ball. So Hawk Eye came into the equation. Hawk Eye is not 100 % accurate, so the tolerance of that has been brought into the review system. So I am quite relaxed with that.

The other things is, maybe the three umpires work as a team, like they do in Rugby Union. It's instant, and the three of them are working together and not just two on the field. You don't have to wait for a review and the referral. The third umpire will be very active, and in the ear of the standing umpire and just say that's out.

HB: Sambit were you happy with the old system, as it were? No projection, just minimal use of technology. Football doesn't use any technology at all…

SB: Yes, and they have a clearer case here. A hand ball is very clear and you can judge off-sides very clearly. But football isn't less a beautiful game without technology. [Laughs] So I can live without it.

HB: With all this Hawk Eye projections Bumble, I have seen some numbers about it. People are now giving more lbws than ever before, because they are sitting back in their dressing rooms, and saying that though it was not out it might have just clipped the outside of the leg stump. So maybe next time I will give it out lbw. So I just sense people are giving lbw now, the ones that they would have not given seven or eight years ago.

DL: Yes, they are more confident in giving those decisions; that is the crucial thing. But one thing we can do is disband the whole system and just accept the umpire's decision. That's what we all used to do. When Sunil Gavaskar was given out he would just walk ff. He might have got a rough decision but that was how it used to be. The umpire is not fallible; he will make a mistake every now and again. We used to accept it but we don't anymore.

SB: Oddly, the players are far more accepting of umpiring mistakes than the fans and the media are.

DL: If I was still umpiring, I wouldn't care what you saw on TV and what you wrote in print. If you have a problem with my decision, take your exams and come and stand with me.

SB: But the ICC is under pressure from the media all the time.

HB: We are always the bad boys aren't we? I just wonder if we can ever go back to the Utopian world - we have now tasted blood and seen technology and I am not sure people would be willing to go back. I just sense that a lot of people are talking about what it should be rather than looking at what is feasible. Maybe Bumble, someone somewhere will say lets put all this in cold storage for a while till we can get it to be 100% and lets go back to just having line decisions…

DL: That will never happen. The umpire was is the boss out there and it was a good game to play but we have moved on. Everything moves on. What we are trying to do is work out a system that is very fair to everybody.

HB: We have been talking to David and Sambit about the UDRS. One of the main factors in there is who should call for it. One of the things is that there who makes the call. One of the areas of concern is that they are largely using it for top-order batsmen and not really bothering about the lower-order batsmen and they get hard done by. That's contrary to the view that justice should be done to all. Tony Greig has a point of view on this.

"I just wonder if we can ever go back to the Utopian world - we have now tasted blood and seen technology and I am not sure people would be willing to go back. I just sense that a lot of people are talking about what it should be rather than looking at what is feasible." Harsha Bhogle

Tony Greig: I am not in favour of the players being involved in the decision-making process. I would prefer it all to be left to the umpires, who should be able to call on the third umpire whenever they like. I would also like the third umpire to be able to overrule the standing umpire if he sees a glaring mistake. Most importantly, though, the time has come for players to start trying to make things easier for the umpires and the way to do this is to walk for nicks. In my time as a player, the best umpiring I experienced was in the 70s in county cricket, where we had former first-class players standing as umpires and batsmen were expected to walk. If they didn't then they were branded as cheats and the word was passed around by the umpires, who then went after them. It worked because no self-respecting batsman wanted to be branded a cheat nor did he want the umpires to turn on him. The time has come for players to follow the example set by Adam Gilchrist.

HB: It's a nice Utopian view but how many such batsmen are there who will say: yes I'll go.

SB: It will take about 10 years for a cultural shift to happen. But to come to the earlier point that Tony was making about the third umpire being involved in all the decisions. It will work when somebody is out but there is simply no time when a not-out decision is made on the field. There is no way the third umpire can come in because the next ball would have already been bowled.

HB: Bumble, lets ask you to take the umpire's hat off and put the media person's hat on again. In a not out situation can the third umpire keep stopping the game to see if the decision is correct or if there is a possible referral? Wouldn't that hold the game up?

DL: It would and again it would depend on the quality of the broadcaster as well - how soon they can get to replays. That will be a massive problem if we tried it. Another thing that can be tried and it will take a cultural shift to get everybody to understand that you have nicked the ball and you are out and it is just a game of cricket. I would agree with Greig that the umpiring in the 70s was exceptional and you didn't cross the umpires. There has been a massive shift in that the player seems to be all powerful in this day and age. In the 70s there were three players in English cricket who didn't walk and everybody knew who they were.

HB: Tell me the other two Bumble.

DL: (laughs) My lips are sealed.

HB: My vote is to keep it down to line decisions. You cannot get catches anyway, if there is a big nick or an inside edge then use the third umpire but don't go beyond that.

SB: Exactly. Use technology where it is simple and everybody can see and accept it. Don't go into grey areas.

DL: I would like to continue with the review system. It will need tweaking, it will need the best possible people to work the technology and it needs the best technology.

Harsha Bhogle is a television presenter, writer, and a commentator on IPL and other cricket. @bhogleharsha

Comments: 10 
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Posted by Aidan on (January 27, 2010, 15:42 GMT)

This was an interesting show. One thing that strikes me is hearing the debate between human vs machine. Now whilst it is true technology picks up and records what humans can't pick up; one thing that no one seems to point out still remains. That is, technology is human. Humans create the technology, humans interpret the technology. Therefore technology will never be infallible. Cricket is by nature, instrisically contraversial. Some people can not seem to grasp this reality. Hot spot (aside from the fact Hot Spot will occassionally not even show up actual nicks) does not conclusively prove an inside edge/ nick. The hot spot could easily be a pad/ body wear on occassions. Some times if there was an inside edge it is so faint, the bat is 100% horizontal and the ball continues on its path (no observable deviation, the bat so close to the pads, can you be sure it was an inside edge? No! There are limitations to the system, people need to know this.

Posted by banibrata on (January 27, 2010, 13:33 GMT)

you want to rely solely on the on-field umpires?? you people remember how many excruciating howlers of umpiring mistakes were committed in the recently concluded india-srilanka series and then all of them mostly against srilanka....???? has never ever led to such a flurry of mistakes.umpires are there to rule players but who are going to rule these omnipotent tyrannical breeds??..get a life,sambit

Posted by Shridhar on (January 27, 2010, 9:33 GMT)

Being an Indian, I was upset at the outcome of the Sydney Test between Aus and Ind at the start of 2008. However, speaking as a passionate follower of the game, I believe that I am ready to live with umpiring errors on one condition. The condition is simple: umpires should be accountable for their decisions. Every now and again, we hear players have been reprimanded or fined for kicking an advertisement board or slow over rate, but we never hear that an umpire has been reprimanded or fined or suspended for poor performance. The report of the captains are confidential. Unless there is a huge media uproar (which happens every other day in India), the umpires get away with their errors. Make them accountable, and most people will not mind living with their errors.

Posted by ADEEL on (January 27, 2010, 8:53 GMT)

well technology should be used provided it is the same in all countries. I believe it helped a lot in current series between pak vs aus. And look as its not used in one day matches, what about the dreadful decisions made by asoka de silva against Salman butt & kamran farhat, particularly of salman butt, i mean the umprie must have been kidding. So we need to back up this technology as to eliminate the biased umpiring accusations as well.

Posted by G on (January 27, 2010, 8:20 GMT)

Most professionals at the top of their field can name their employer, and if they are diss-satisfied with how they have been treated by one, they can quickly find another. But who is the alternative employer for a professional international cricket umpire? Its the ICC or nobody.

We have seen umpires blackbaned by boards before, and for them its a personal disaster. So they take no risk of inflaming the ire of any national board. So for me its obvious why they refer every decision they can - self preservation. While the opportunity is there they will make full use of it, and good luck to them.

Hots-spot, snicko etc should be used where available. It doesn't need to be uniform, just as no cricket field is the same size or shape as any other. Let local conditions continue to be a part of the game, even in decision review. The only thing I'm against is hawk-eye predictions of the balls "future" path. We've seen no evidence the prediction is accurate and plenty the other way.

Posted by abhijith on (January 27, 2010, 6:45 GMT)

Use the technology not in matches, but in the nets, and make umpires be a part of the net sessions of both teams.... I know most umpires do it, but just make it compulsory..

This way an umpire understands what the bowler & the batsman are trying to do, and what are the lines they are operating on, this will fine tune their senses and we would get 95% accuracy as opposed to 92% which currently exists.. i would always go for 95% over 98% when the latter is costing me a fortune, and yet bringing in criticism....

Posted by P Subramani on (January 27, 2010, 5:08 GMT)

It is nice to hear a debate on the merits and demerits of the URDS system based on the experience gained thus far. Having seen it a bit in operation, I feel that some modifications in execution may go to make this system truly efficient. The point is that it must be understood that this method is not a slight to the existing human emphasised method of judging matters on the field of play. It should be seen as a dependable ally to making cricketing decisions fair and fairly unquestionable.If these be the two premises to commence from I feel that rather than the players asking for reviews it should be the umpires duty rather than prerogative to ask for a technology aided review in regard to contentious and close decisions.The hawk eye method is very effective and can become a regular feature with some fine tuning. This apart, the players could also be given the right to ask for reviews as it is now in dubious verdicts. I am sure with some modifications it will be a fine system indeed.

Posted by Jay on (January 26, 2010, 18:39 GMT)

Sambit, I am against giving full control to on-field umpires. Take the example of perth march - ind vs aus - worst umpiring for a test match.

Posted by John on (January 26, 2010, 17:44 GMT)

The only thing we fans, Sambit, want, is for the results of matches not to be effected by umpire errors. Clearly this only matters when we KNOW its an error , and if we know, does it make any sense for that knowledge not to be shared with the umpires? Salman Butt today got an absolute shocker, and I shared his sentiments as he walked of the field, you should probably ask him how accepting he is of the umpires' mistakes. These percentages of decisions that umpires get right, do they include the bowled and obvious catches? I am assuming UDRS doesnt factor into these decisions and only comes into play on close calls so I suspect the differences in percentages will be much higher than the 6% the ICC states. Umpires have been trained for decades on the methods of getting the right decision, the UDRS is a few years old, they dont know how to use it yet and they may even have a vested interest in not using it well. Must we always wait for a generation to pass before progress can be made?

Posted by Mainuddin on (January 26, 2010, 14:11 GMT)

It's ridiculous to hear that the ICC can't pay $70,000 for the hot-spot. Didn't they sell the broadcast rights of the World Cups/Champions Trophy for more than $1 billion?

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