Decision Review System

'ICC could monitor ball-tracking technologies'

Siddhartha Talya

September 1, 2011

Comments: 15 | Text size: A | A

Steve Smith saved himself with a review after being given out, Australia v England, 3rd Test, Perth, 3rd day, December 18, 2010
Doubts over the accuracy of ball-tracking technology have led to its use being made optional in international cricket © Getty Images
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An independent software funded and developed by the ICC would help evaluate the accuracy of the two competing ball-tracking technologies, Paul Hawkins, the Hawk-Eye chief executive, has said. The two ball-tracking technology providers for cricket are Hawk-Eye, used for the 2011 World Cup among other series, and Virtual Eye, used during the 2010-11 Ashes.

Hawkins said that though an independent software may not be as accurate as the two systems currently in use, it would still be good enough to point out glaring errors committed by either technology provider. He also suggested penalties be imposed on either provider if they were found to be consistently inaccurate.

"What we have proposed to the ICC, which I feel will be hugely beneficial to everyone involved, including ourselves, is a software solution which the ICC could use to independently monitor both systems, ourselves and Virtual Eye," Hawkins told ESPNcricinfo. "So any lbw decision used for DRS, or not for DRS, that anyone has concern with, be it the board, players or the umpires, then the ICC can look into it in the same way that they evaluate the human umpires. It'll be very easy for them to have a software that will give them independent answers for pitch point, interception point, prediction of whether the ball will go on to hit the stumps.

"It certainly won't be as accurate as our system but will be accurate enough to highlight if either system had made a glaring error, of over two centimetres for example. Since it will be developed by the ICC, who have the best interests of the game at heart, they can independently produce track records of both systems and we would be happy to hold our hands up and say, 'If we make too many glaring errors, then we should lose our license to be able to provide ball-tracking systems,' and that would have to apply to Virtual Eye as well."

Such a system, Hawkins said, would help in a couple of ways: "That's a quality-control mechanism that would give everyone the trust. And from a technology person's perspective, it keeps us on our toes because we'll know that there is a downside to us not providing accurately reliable technology."

While ball-tracking continues to be used in cricket coverage, it has been made optional in the Decision Review System (DRS), largely due to opposition from the BCCI, which has questioned its accuracy and said it isn't fool-proof.

The software would have to be developed by a neutral body approached by the ICC, but Hawkins said generating such a system was not difficult "It doesn't require a lot of expertise," he said. "It can be developed in a week. To do the scaled-down model that doesn't need to work in real time, it can have human input and can be developed easily.

"Let's just say it's got to decide whether the distance between pitching and hitting the batsman is accurate to within 1 cm, and the prediction of whether the ball's going to hit the stumps accurate to within 2.5 cms. For every decision, it can give a tick or a cross. They [ICC] are at the stage of working out how best to go about it. My hope is that an independent body does become established so that both companies can promote their own track records and it'll be very definitive."

One of the significant disagreements between Hawk-Eye and Virtual Eye is over frame-rates of the cameras used in ball-tracking, and the role they play in determining an accurate track. Hawk-Eye's cameras track the ball at 106 frames per second, and Virtual Eye, during the Ashes in 2010-11, tracked it at 230. In an interview on ESPNcricinfo's audio show Time Out, Ian Taylor, chief of Virtual Eye, said the higher the frame-rate, the better the decisions can be due to more data being available for establishing a ball-track. Hawkins, however, challenged that claim.

"It's completely misleading, in fact it's wrong," Hawkins said. "If it was just about frame-rates, why not have cameras of 1000 frames per second, or 2000 frames per second. You can get cameras that run for 10,000 frames per second. We have run a higher frame-rate system alongside our lower frame-rate system and our lower frame-rate system has worked better, just to explain to you how important frame-rates are in the overall scheme of things.

"You need very high-resolution cameras in order to accurately find the centre of the ball in each image. You need very accurate calibration mechanisms to know exactly what the calibration or the lens distortions of the cameras are, you need to be able to very accurately synchronise your cameras so that an image taken from one camera is taken at exactly the same time as an image taken from another camera. Or you need to compensate for that by knowing the time difference between the cameras. And you need to be able to compensate for any wobble there might be in the camera."

Ball-tracking technology for DRS is currently in use for Australia's tour of Sri Lanka.

Siddhartha Talya is a sub editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by cricketzilla on (September 3, 2011, 15:48 GMT)

Hawk-eye's accuracy is probably high when the distance between the point of impact and stumps is less. The chances of cricket ball swinging in that distance are pretty slim.The problem would arise if there is lot of seam movement/deviation of the pitch as then the predictive path would be much more difficult to predict and certainly It's accuracy would be dependent on the accuracy of tools that provide the input data in creating the virtual picture.

Posted by AJ_Tiger86 on (September 2, 2011, 18:34 GMT)

@binojpeter Check out Hawk Eye's official website where they specifically explained the Tendulkar decision with many diagrams.

Posted by binojpeter on (September 2, 2011, 13:47 GMT)

@ Sir_Freddie_Flintoff What do you say about Sachin Tendulkar's decision against Ajmal's delivery in WC semifinal when everyone including the umpires thought it would have hit the stumps but Hawkeye showed it would have missed the stumps.

Posted by hattima on (September 2, 2011, 5:22 GMT)

Completely agree with barbarzia here. The comment from Mr. Hawkins about frame rate makes no sense. If the ball starts moving very late, obviously a higher frame rate would give a more accurate prediction. From certain comments here it seems Hawk-eye has some people to support them in all forums no matter what, which is odd. I wonder if commercial interests are playing a role here. Almost every match we see more and more examples why hawkeye is suspect: it is one thing to be inadequate, like hotspot is for very faint edges; but it is totally different to have a predictive element with a big margin of error, which is the case for hawk-eye's predictive path, especially in cases of late abrupt spin/swing etc. I simply don't think the software is reliable enough in such cases to overrule human judgement.

Posted by dsig3 on (September 2, 2011, 4:00 GMT)

Its still better than not having it. I also think Hughes dismissal was strange. I guess I dont really care because he was given out anyway. If he hadnt and Sri Lanka had reviewed it and got him out I would be probably a bit angry. I have never seen that happen before where hawkeye and real life pictures are so far out. I would think there is more room for error when you have alot of spin bowling going on with alot of deviation which happens in the subcontinent.

Posted by Wombat on (September 2, 2011, 2:49 GMT)

Hughes did not get done by the ball tracker. He was given out by the on field umpire. The only role that the ball tracker played was in showing that there was no reason to overturn the umpire's original decision.

Posted by bigwonder on (September 1, 2011, 22:53 GMT)

So, ICC wants to develop its own software to keep an eye on two other ball-tracking/predicting software. W ICC to spend money unnecessarily? This is more like hiring a security guard to keep an eye on your current security guards. Plus, if it is so easy to develop this software (in a week for a scale down model), then it must be crappy. Hawkins also said "It certainly won't be as accurate as our system but will be accurate enough to highlight if either system had made a glaring error". So basically, software "A" that is not as accurate as software "B" will be responsible to indicate if software "B" has made a glaring error, did anyone get the joke? Was it meant to be a joke? Why are we wasting time, energy and resources in this useless piece of technology when software's can't predict weather correctly yet. Someone mentioned tennis and Hawkeye -> there is no comparison with cricket here, tennis court do not resemble various cricket pitches around the wor

Posted by AJ_Tiger86 on (September 1, 2011, 21:32 GMT)

@fromthehip, If Hawk Eye can't predict late swing, then how can the umpires do with the naked eye within a fraction of a second? Answer: they can't. And the umpires make a FAR LESS accurate GUESS. And quite often they get them wrong. In comparison Hawk Eye is 99% accurarate -- no techonology on the planet on any field is 100% accurate -- but the umpires are just 92% accurate. Only those people who have no idea about science and technology call for a 100% accurate system -- which is simply impossible to achieve in any sphere of life.

Posted by landl47 on (September 1, 2011, 20:53 GMT)

@Quazi Zaman: my thoughts are that you aren't a spin bowler or one who has mastered reverse swing. 5 new balls in an innings pretty much guarantees that there would be no bowlers except new ball swing bowlers. No doubt Jimmy Anderson and Praveen Kumar would be delighted, but it would make for very predictable and dull cricket.

Posted by fromthehip on (September 1, 2011, 19:27 GMT)

Ball tracking is a joke. How can late swing be 'predicted' with any accuracy when the ball doesn't always swing? Stick to hot spot to eliminate the edge onto the pads or pick up the caught behind etc, and the line decisions but please dump the cartoon graphics sequences. If it was accurate why is the 'on-field decision' 1/2 stump stuff needed?

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