Decision Review System January 4, 2012

ICC should take control of DRS - Virtual-Eye chief


The man behind Virtual Eye ball-tracking has urged the ICC to take control of the DRS and ensure the integrity of the system. Ian Taylor, the CEO of Animation Research, the company that provides Virtual Eye, believes technology can help umpires but that several major issues need to be addressed, from the training of TV officials to an acceptance of what technology can and cannot do.

Decision reviews are not being used in the ongoing Test series between Australia and India due to the BCCI's opposition to the system, and Taylor hopes that can be the catalyst for change. Taylor believes the ad hoc nature of the system in its current format is a problem and that strict guidelines need to be enforced to safeguard against human error, technological failure and the misinterpretation of data.

"I don't know of any other sporting organisation that would actually hand over the results of a Test, first to a TV company, or secondly to a company that a TV company hires," Taylor told ESPNcricinfo. "The technology has a part to play, but it really needs to be mandated and controlled by the ICC, right down to the people who operate it. You can change the results. Everybody says you can't do it, but you can. Just move it [the camera]. It's possible.

"We should be allowed to put our cameras exactly where you want to put them. We went to one place, I won't say where it was, and we put the mounts up and turned up to put our cameras up and they had moved it to somewhere else because someone at the ground decided they didn't want it there.

"Nobody takes responsibility for it. For the broadcasters, it's neither here nor there. It's not their deal. They're quite happy to use it but if the ICC wants to use it, it should be mandated that at every ground there are special stands that do not move, that are fixed, that the end-on cameras that we use to overlay everything should be properly mounted."

The New Zealand-based Virtual Eye, known in Australia as Eagle Eye, was at the centre of a controversy during last month's Hobart Test, when New Zealand were searching for the final wicket to complete a historic win. Australia's No.11, Nathan Lyon, was given out lbw by the on-field umpire Nigel Llong, but Lyon requested a review, which showed the ball had pitched a millimetre outside leg stump, and the decision was overturned.

To the naked eye, the ball appeared to clearly pitch in line with leg stump, despite Eagle Eye's assessment. However, Taylor said that was due to the positioning of the super slow-motion camera, which was not completely square on with the pitch, while he was confident in the Eagle Eye footage as his camera was in the best possible position to judge where the ball had pitched.

"One of the rules that the ICC put in was that over 50% of the ball has to be [pitching in line]," Taylor said. "It did hit in line, but our positioning of it was 49% was in line - it was a millimetre. So then you come to the next question, which is if this DRS is only there to do the howlers ... that is not a howler. Our view was it [the umpire's decision of out] should have stood.

"The umpires are sanctioned by the ICC, paid by the ICC, trained by the ICC, yet one of my guys could have overturned their decision and changed the result of the entire series. He's not paid by the ICC, he's not trained by the ICC ... I still love the idea that the umpire has the last say in everything. Our job is to give them the tools they need to do that really, really quickly."

Taylor believes a key part of the success of the DRS surrounds proper training of TV umpires, who should be comprehensively schooled in how the technology works. He said officials on the elite panel should not automatically be assumed to be the best men to review decisions on a TV screen, and that the third umpire's role should become a specialist position.

Under Taylor's plan, part of that training would involve umpires being shown situations in which the technology is less accurate, such as when cameras are blocked by bats, legs or fielders. The more cameras that can track the ball, the more accurate the projection is likely to be, but Taylor said it was important umpires, players and viewers understood that there would be times technology could not be relied upon.

"They use technology and they still put missiles down the wrong chimney," he said. "I think it's absolutely critical that we are able to say, not enough data. There's an algorithm we can put in that goes from red to green, which gives you the scale [of accuracy]. If it's in the green zone, don't argue with it. If it's in orange, maybe take another look at it. If it's in red, don't even think about it, don't use it. The public sitting on the other side should know that and understand it.

"Tracking these balls at 250 frames a second is a huge leap forward. But there are still places and times where we should have the power to say 'actually, we didn't get enough data, umpire's call stands'. But nobody wants to hear that. Everybody wants to believe that it's flawless 100% of the time. That's a big call on any technology."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Andross on January 6, 2012, 6:21 GMT

    To be quite frank, I am astounded to know that the 3rd Umpires are not specially trained about the equipment that they are using, & I would suggest that rather than a specialist technition been given umpire powers, I should think that the umpires should be trained in the technology.

    To my mind, the Eagle-Eye is the only part of DRS that seems dubious though, Hot Spot doesn't show up every knick, but it shows enough to remove the howlers; if there's only a very faint spot, the original decision stands, it's not there to change those decisions anyway.

    The 2 big things I would like to see with the DRS is the 3rd U looking at every ball so that he can give a verdict as soon as it happens, and for faster camera's to be used for the runouts. how many times have we seen a close situation where the breaking of the stumps & the passing of the crease happens within one frame; no one sure which happened first, & yet for all our 200 FPS cameras we still seem to use ordinary 25-30FPS TV cameras.

  • kannan on January 6, 2012, 1:04 GMT

    Goodness me ! This, coming from the peddler of the technology himself ! I have always maintained that " predictive pathway" is flawed and that should be taken away. Now we are told that even the trajectory till the point of impact can be tampered with !! Technology is only as good as the people interpreting it. People badgering the BCCI and India should take note of this, please.

  • Dummy4 on January 5, 2012, 22:58 GMT

    I Totaly agree with Taylor, in my Opinion ICC Umpires should be trained how to Operat the whole system of emerging Technology rather then other TV- Operators, and its required litile bit more work on it like "How it works" and Perminent Positioning of Cameras in dedicated Locations in every Ground so no one can change it later on, after all these matters sorted out, ICC can think about Virtual Umpiring, Control the whole umpiring system in which No Humain Intraction for Decision in which Less error Possibility, In Future Technology will take place Hopefully, Only Players will be in the Ground and Look for every single Decision on Big Screen, ICC can save Lot of Money in that way. cheers

  • rahul on January 5, 2012, 22:11 GMT

    I agree that operators should all be from ICC, but the eagle eye folks have to first admit their system is not very accurate. You just have to look at the track record. Replay of the wrong footage on no ball, 2.5m laws for LBWs, no decision due to shadow on pitch, clearly faulty projected path. All these have happened in the last year alone. So even people like me who were all for technology now have started doubting if this method is reliable enough to use in a test match.

  • Arun on January 5, 2012, 20:38 GMT

    @ Punters_Mate: Some traditionalists do oppose DRS on the grounds that it diminishes the authority of the umps, or may be construed as dissent (ECB's stance at one point). A significant fraction of people do question its correctness, and its purported efficacy. It is now well known that ball-tracking technologies are unreliable in fading light, or when the pitch is partially under a shadow. Hotspot has been shown to be unreliable for faint edges (some have claimed that vaseline suppresses the appearance of the spot.) Some have made the point that the tech needs to be 100% correct. (BCCI, Dhoni, et al. fall in this category). I suspect that they are being inarticulate. What they mean, IMHO, is that the precision, and accuracy (different concepts) are not bounded. In other words, high standard deviation for error. Thus, precision/accuracy may be lousy in fading light, but the average accuracy is still OK. It is a reasonable stance. A third party evaluation of said tech. is necessary

  • Arun on January 5, 2012, 20:28 GMT

    I've made these exact points before (like Harsha's column on DRS), and am glad to see that the VirtualEye management agrees. In addition to these points, I would like to see a third-party evaluation of virtual eye, so that we have data on its efficacy from an unbiased source. (Ditto for hotspot, snickometer, pitchmap, etc). Most importantly, the ICC must know every detail of the technology, including the image-processing software. If that means the ICC has to pay to get access to the code, so be it. It's not hard for bookies, or others, to put some backdoors into the code, and alter a decision, and the ICC needs to manage that as well. In general, I'm a little sceptical of the current black-box approach. With an umpire, there is a single point of failure, and hence a single point of blame. With all this technology, which, lets face it, cricket administrators or players are not qualified to understand or regulate, it's difficult to know if there was a failure, and how it occurred.

  • Anura on January 5, 2012, 18:40 GMT

    @findadiat - This is exactly what I was trying to imply. The mat is the key. If the mat shifts, so does the path.They will have to find a way to lock the mat so that no one can change it.

  • Ryan on January 5, 2012, 16:50 GMT

    Nice article, agreed on every point.

  • Dummy4 on January 5, 2012, 16:33 GMT

    UDRS proved today again in SL v SA test match. I'm a lankan and have no problems when Thrimanne was given out on review with clear evidence form hotspot. Technology is a must

  • Rupesh on January 5, 2012, 16:16 GMT

    (1) Do independent testing to find out which technology is how accurate. (2) Establish parameters (camera position, frames per second). (3) Train umpires to use it properly. (4) Educate players about rules, caveats, failures. (4) Make it mandatory.

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