Hot Spot may earn Ashes reprieve
Hot Spot could be set for a late entry into the upcoming Ashes series alongside a trial for an enhanced DRS, including Real Time Snicko technology, having previously been jettisoned after talks between its inventor, Warren Brennan, and Cricket Australia broke down over the cost of the system.
Now, however, the two parties are reported by the Sydney Morning Herald to have reopened negotiations less than three weeks before the Ashes resumes with the introduction of Real Time Snicko, which is also part of Brennan's company BBG Sports, being pushed forward for full-scale use. The enhancement was trialled behind the scenes during the previous Ashes in England, but was not part of the available DRS process which was the centre of much controversy during the series.
Most of that stemmed from the reliability of Hot Spot which appeared to not detect a number of thin edges with the third umpires using evidence from the stump microphones instead. Under the current DRS protocols, Snicko cannot be used due to the time it takes to match up the audio with the pictures but the Real Time version makes this an almost instant process.
Earlier this year Brennan 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."
Although confidence in the DRS was dented during the Ashes series in England - which also sparked the controversy over taped bat edges which angered the England team - both sides remain two of the strongest supporters of using the review system and the boards are understood to be open to the upgraded version.
David Saker, England's bowling coach, still believes more correct decisions are made. "Obviously over the English summer, a few things went a little wrong with it,'' he said. "But the majority of the time, they've got more decisions right than wrong - so I'm a big supporter of it.'
"I think if we can get as many correct decisions as possible, it's better for the game - not just for England. The decision obviously will be made by Cricket Australia, but I'd definitely welcome it for sure.''
Matt Prior, the England wicketkeeper, supports the DRS if the technology is reliable. "I'm a fan of the review system and technology. At the end of the day there is a huge amount on each decision and you have to get the right decision," he said shortly before the tour started. "If Hotspot is inaccurate it cannot be used and we have to find another way of getting to the right decision. As long as the right decision is made, that is all the players want."
An enhanced DRS - which will require approval from the ICC - would bring the role of the third umpire back to the fore. It has been suggested that because of the key position third umpires now hold in the decision-making process, away from the traditional line decisions of run outs and stumpings, that extra training is required and potentially a panel of specialist TV officials to support on-field umpires.
The back-to-back Ashes have put pressure on the ICC's elite panel of umpires because the majority come from England and Australia which makes them ineligible to stand in the 10 Tests which began in July and run until early January in Sydney.
Only four umpires - Marais Erasmus, Aleem Dar, Tony Hill and Kumar Dharmasena - are available for the Test matches and are rotated through the on-field and TV roles. There have been talks about selecting from the international panel of umpires, the level below the elite, to ease the burden and Billy Bowden, who was demoted earlier this year, has been the name mentioned.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo