Decision Review System

Real Time Snicko could give DRS the edge

Nagraj Gollapudi

February 6, 2013

Comments: 116 | Text size: A | A

Michael Clarke asks for a review, Australia v South Africa, first Test, Brisbane, November 9, 2012
At the moment, when a review is called for, the third umpire does not use evidence from Snickometer © Getty Images
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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

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by IndiaNumeroUno 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?

Posted by 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.

Posted by Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas_Atheist 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?

Posted by Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas_Atheist 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?

Posted by 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.

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