The DRS debate June 28, 2012

Greig has yorked himself over DRS

Martin Crowe
The BCCI is in the right over the DRS; the ICC has been wrong from day one but doesn't want to admit it

Tony Greig's Cowdrey Lecture was full of firm strokes, mixed with some seaming medium pace deliveries. A fine all round performance, as always.

However, when it came to the DRS he yorked himself. Greig's rebuke of the BCCI is easily delivered these days, but not necessarily courageous. The BCCI has every right to take its stance; more to the point, its stance is the only one with courage.

From the outset the DRS system has been flawed in design and execution, and has continued to disappoint. In fact, it got to the point this year when the creator of Virtual Eye, Ian Taylor from Dunedin, cried out loud that, with the players criticising the system so much, he thought it was time for the DRS to start again, to go back to the drawing board. This was a truly honest moment and I for one stood and applauded Taylor. As the techno, he was actually saying this was too hard in its present form and therefore was in effect potentially removing his company from the work. It was a significant revelation, one at which the BCCI would have been seen nodding its approval and feeling some justification.

But not the ICC, it carried on blindly. Now, we hear that further guessing is going on with different variations to the number of challenges for Tests and ODIs. What could possibly be the rationale of having two unsuccessful challenges per innings for Tests and one for ODIs?

Back in 2007, when the DRS was first discussed, the advice to the ICC was to run with a player challenge system as tennis does, using Hawkeye's actual path for all line calls and super-slo-mo cameras for edges and catches. There would be only one unsuccessful challenge on offer due to the complexity of umpiring compared with tennis, which requires only a simple in or out call.

One unsuccessful challenge would be enough to remove the howler, the bad mistake, the error that every umpire makes now and then and especially under tired duress. When this happens the players simply step in and say 'We'd better check that please'. The decision gets reversed and the challenge system carries on.

Greig's rebuke of the BCCI is easily delivered these days, but not necessarily courageous. The BCCI has every right to take its stance; more to the point, its stance is the only one with courage

Naively, though, the ICC started with three unsuccessful challenges (one assumes because that's what tennis had), then a year later realised its error and dropped it to two, now it has realised its folly once more and dropped it again to one. Bravo! But why not for Tests? This is a time when the ICC must look for uniformity in all forms and on all networks. Instead, it confuses all by hedging.

The BCCI isn't the most flexible but surely it would agree to some use of technology? Surely it would agree to the DRS if the predictive path was abolished, as Taylor suggested it should. Surely the BCCI would agree to the DRS if there was only one unsuccessful challenge available instead of this 50-50 nonsense that goes on when captains and batsmen know they have at least one challenge to gamble with. All the gamble does is expose the technology far too often.

Last week the ICC said Ed Rosten, a Cambridge professor, had given ball-tracking technology the 100% tick. Yet Ian Taylor, the creator of Virtual ball tracking says it isn't 100%. Whom shall we believe? The inventor, of course, not the professor.

The BCCI, including Tendulkar, Dravid and Kumble, is in the right. Surely all it wants is for the system to be trimmed right back. But the ICC doesn't want to admit it has been wrong on this from day one.

The stalemate continues.

Martin Crowe is a former New Zealand captain

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Keith on July 1, 2012, 18:54 GMT

    I want to consider DRS from the viewpoint of umpires. Cricket is unique in having a variety of officially recognised formats -- Test, ODI, T20 -- and even some peripheral forms (Sixes, Beach). Playing conditions vary with each, including the presence and degree of application of DRS. DRS does not apply to much of cricket, actually. While DRS was at one time tested in the UK County Championship, current Playing Conditions do not include it even in cases where a 3rd Umpire is called for in televised matches. This wide variety of conditions is very challenging for umpires. Even the Elite Panel of ICC-approved international umpires finds itself under significant pressure from such variety. The pressure is magnified in the heat of the DRS review called by players for partisan purposes. The Spirit of Cricket demands relief from some of this pressure. Two approaches immediately suggest themselves: 1. Shift review power from captains to umpires; 2. Soften or remove predictive path.

  • Keith on July 1, 2012, 9:27 GMT

    @Saurabh Gupta: You bring up some important facts, but they do not render Tony Greig a liar. It would be most helpful if BCCI would share more of the official Indian viewpoint in an open-handed fashion. It seems a shame that individual Indian supporters such as yourself are left alone to do the job. I must with regret agree with Mr Greig that governance of cricket is too much about power, and too little about content and proper behaviour. Naturally, power relations will exist in and likely dominate conventional politics. However, the Spirit of Cricket is decidedly not conventional. It asks more of us, and its rewards are surely as great or greater than the money and glory that attaches itself to the sport. If this were not the case, I doubt so many would love cricket so much.

  • Keith on July 1, 2012, 9:18 GMT

    @McGorium: Thank you for sharing your technical insight on DRS. You add to the case for going one of two ways: 1. A continuous cycle of testing & technical improvement; or 2. Seeking less consuming, less involved ways of utilising existing technology that has simpler, more modest goals. Personally, I believe that the Spirit of Cricket, which has always relied on humanity and honourable behaviour, requires the second option be given a serious chance. I also believe that the Spirit requires the true leaders of the sport, esp. BCCI & the Indian bloc at the ICC, to develop a positive position and pursue it w/ vigour. There is ample room for adopting option #2 without being "refuse-niks". It could stop howlers, save money, keep things balanced between humanity and machinery, and maintain an appropriate balance between bat, ball and umpire. It would also keep the gap between playing majority (everything from the village green through 1st class) and pros within bounds.

  • Dummy4 on June 30, 2012, 18:39 GMT

    Tony Grieg's outright lies :

    1. Holding BCCI responsible for the cancellation of the Test Cricket Championship Facts : The real cancellation was due to the ECB not being able to reach an agreement with the broadcasters. I am sure Tony Greig must have been aware of it.

    2. BCCI not paying enough attention to Test cricket : Facts : India played most number of Tests among all Test Nations in 2011 India -12 Sl - 11 Pakistan -10 W.Indies - 10 Australia - 9 England - 8 Bangladesh - 5 South Africa- 5 N.Zealand -5 Zimbabwe - 3 The facts speak for themselves. Tony Grieg is a liar.

  • kannan on June 30, 2012, 4:45 GMT

    I have been saying this for a long time; take out predictive path, use the trajectory only till the point of impact and then let the on field umpire decide. Use pitch map and hot spot. I still feel that a batsman wont waste a review if he has actually edged the ball ( and therefore not risk hot spot not picking it). One of the major bugbears is the 'on field call", where a batsman can be both out or not out depending on the on field umpire's call. This will be negated, if prediction by DRS is done away with.

  • Arun on June 30, 2012, 4:07 GMT

    @ SamonandTrout: Oh, btw, there are just 10 wickets. Why would you need more appeals in tests than ODIs? It's not like the number of *valid* appeals scale up linearly with the duration of the game

  • Arun on June 30, 2012, 4:05 GMT

    @SamonandTrout: <continued>... So as I was saying, ICC won't pay for expensive cameras or take charge of caliberating the installation of said cameras. Oh, and one more thing: No matter how fast the camera is, it can't shoot 500 frames/sec in fading light; there just isn't enough light. So, basically, ball tracking doesn't work as well in the evening. But wait, there's more: The ball tracking image processing algorithm has a hard time tracking the ball when there's a shadow across the pitch (the ball's luminosity changes as it goes from shadow to light). This, IMHO, is an easier problem to fix, but it can't be foolproof. While software is never 100%, agencies like the FAA puts aircraft through rigorous publicly known tests before its declared airworthy; comparing ball-tracking to established tech like radar is ridiculous. We only have Ed Rosten's word (no white-paper on his methodology,measurements,etc.) that it's foolproof. We know that tracking is poor in poor light.

  • Arun on June 30, 2012, 3:35 GMT

    @SamonandTrout: Point taken. But lets see... because this is complicated... there's something called parallax error. It happens when the observer (or camera in the case) is not perpendicular to the observed object, causing a shift in its apparent position. Ball tracking *may* work if the cameras are aligned down to the last millimeter. You see, because the image processing software will have to apply --stay with me here-- a perspective transform to account for a *known* parallax. Who's in charge of setting up cameras? Not the ICC; they've left it up to the broadcasters. But wait, there's more: the cameras need to be sensitive (i.e. high ISO) *and* fast shutter-speed (hundreds of frames/sec). It takes ~0.5s for the ball to traverse the length of the pitch, and standard 25frames/sec is useless. high shutter speed requires extremely sensitive camera sensors to account for much less light per frame (it's complex, I know). Such cameras cost $$. Who pays? Not the ICC! <continued>

  • Keith on June 30, 2012, 3:13 GMT

    If there is any feature of cricket that needs the "Spirit of Cricket" applied, DRS is the one. Tony Greig and Martin Crowe have both done a service offering their viewpoints. Many comments here have done the same. Differing pitch conditions would definitely affect predictive technology (PT). No single evaluation by any expert in any venue would be sufficient. If ICC would invest in such evaluations, then PT could be relied on for marginal calls; otherwise, the tolerances would have to be increased to account for increased margins of error. (All this renders the exact % accuracy of DRS indeterminate; it could be the same or even worse than umpire calls.) That would actually align with the original intent of DRS to remove howlers. Giving captains challenges, regardless of their number, leaves DRS vulnerable to being shut down at any point. Given the expense and technical challenges involved, this seems a poor outcome. Let's trust the umpires to handle DRS via the 3rd umpire.

  • michael on June 30, 2012, 1:58 GMT

    A ball at 90 mph will travel from the popping crease to the batting crease in 0.45 sec. Between bouncing on a good length and hitting bat or pad the time elapsed would be 0.045 sec. In that time the eye will take 1 frame max and rely on the brain processing subsequent images to give the continuous motion. With 4 inches between bat and pad as in the case of Gayle's decision the eye would not have picked up 2 frames in 0.0025 sec and there was no way that the umpire could determine accurately which was hit first. In fact it would take a good slow motion camera operating at 400 fr/ sec to create 2 separate images. This was not the case. The cameras used also could not determine which contact was made first. With that doubt Gayle should have been ruled not out. Similarly the eye alone would not detect a faint snick where there is very little deviation of the ball as in the case of Bell. The Snicko technology picked it up. Time to remove "On Field Decision" and implement full technology

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