The Ashes 2013-14

Snicko is Hot Spot's insurance policy

Daniel Brettig in Brisbane

November 20, 2013

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Kumar Dharmasena and Aleem Dar try to appease an agitated Michael Clarke, England v Australia, 5th Investec Test, The Oval, 5th day, August 25, 2013
There were several controversial DRS incidents during the Ashes in England © Getty Images
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Real-time Snicko will be used as a virtual insurance policy for the fallibility of Hot Spot as Australia and England submit themselves to experimentation with the latest edition of the DRS during the Ashes series.

The new technology, which provides split screen video synced with stump microphone audio to provide evidence for edges, is only to be used in the event of Hot Spot not revealing a nick, as happened on numerous occasions during the earlier series in England. Several players, including the Australian captain Michael Clarke, have stated their belief that Hot Spot should not be used after its inventor Warren Brennan conceded it would not pick up all edges.

However the ICC, Cricket Australia and the ECB have agreed to the use of Real-time Snicko to increase the circumstantial evidence around the upholding or reversal of decisions. "If the umpire gives it out [and it is reviewed], the third umpire will look at the spin vision replay to start with, then he'll go to Hot Spot," Geoff Allardice, the ICC's head of cricket operations, said in Brisbane. "If there's a mark on Hot Spot he'll go straight to out. That's his conclusive evidence straight away. The only time Snicko will be used is if there's no mark on Hot Spot.

"The consistent message has been that it takes something serious to overturn an on-field decision. You need to walk in to your [fellow umpire] at the end of the day, show him the pictures and say that's why I overturned your decision, and that's probably the toughest audience of all. If you're not sure you stay with the on-field decision."

The Ashes will thus be a testing ground for the use of the technology, with approval of wider use in other series to follow provided its effectiveness is proven. Allardice said a key reason for the approval of Real-time Snicko to be used after years of its parent version's absence from the list of approved technology was that the new system is almost entirely automated, needing only to be calibrated each morning.

"We wouldn't have done it without the support of both boards," Allardice said. "It is part of the evaluation of getting the Snicko on the approved list of technologies, but we've been watching the development of the product for the last 12 months, the fact is it is very different in the way it functions to the previous version of Snicko and it's more automated and it's faster, so the images should be available within seconds rather than minutes.

"We need to look at it in a match situation somewhere, and we've got two boards who are very keen and the ICC to improve the DRS, and the area we need to find what works better is with edges. We feel this is something that can certainly help the umpires - to get a tool to assist them with the timing of the sound is an advantage.

"There's no manual judgments the operator has to make on a ball-by-ball basis. That's set at the start of the day and maintained. Can we guarantee it's going to be absolutely perfect? Probably not, there is always a human operating the system, as with all the technology we're using, but we're minimising things going wrong."

Allardice foreshadowed further changes to the DRS in future, including the broadcast of the umpires' deliberations over video evidence to the public, as is the case in rugby league and union. "It's certainly something that's on the cards," he said. "We won't be doing it this series, but I think one of the medium term goals is to try to get the guys communicating in a more disciplined language.

"That's one of the things that's impressive about the rugby guys is they run up and down the field and yet they can still communicate very clearly to each other and actually enhance the understanding of what's going on. In time we'll be doing that, start with some of the better third umpires and the ones who can adapt to that the easiest, but something we're looking at in the medium term."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by Philip_Gnana on (November 21, 2013, 9:26 GMT)

We will never be able to perfect anything via Technology or human ability. Lets be honest about it. We have to be able to go with whatever that is available that will eliminate howlers made by umpires. The tramline technology needs to be brought in as it gives the third umpire a clearer and more reliable indication. This eliminates one issue. The issues with snicko, etc needs to be address via the close camera and zoom method. This will have to be a visual judgement via and not audio. Audio analysis will always prove to be faulty due to the various sounds emanating around the batsmen. We need to make improvements and not abandon the positives that are available. Philip Gnana-Muttu, New Malden, Surrey

Posted by NALINWIJ on (November 20, 2013, 14:55 GMT)

I am a believer in the giving benefit to the umpire principle and if umpire does not give it out then the batsman should only be given out if both hotspot and real time snicko confirms it. There is nothing worse than a good umpiring decision reversed by a doubtful TV finding.

Posted by eggyroe on (November 20, 2013, 12:38 GMT)

So another ring has been added to the D.R.S.Circus,go back to the old days,ball is bowled, the fielding side appeals, the standing umpire gives an honest response to the appeal,the game then carries on.There is then a distinct possibility of 90 Overs being bowled in the day instead of wasting valuable playing time on the constant replaying of what might or might not happened.After all the paying cricket fan deserves value for his or her admission charge, and that is 90 overs being bowled each and every day,instead of some cut off time and overs not bowled are lost forever.

Posted by disco_bob on (November 20, 2013, 10:21 GMT)

How can it be said that hot spot did not reveal an edge? Are they saying that someone saw it? Not possible. Are they saying that the 3rd umpire could hear the edge? That doesn't seem right because if there was enough contact to make a sound then surely there'd be enough contact to show and edge.

Posted by TheOnlyEmperor on (November 20, 2013, 10:15 GMT)

@Simonc : You speak of comparing and matching "sound waveforms" and then getting a "good idea". That's precisely what I mean by interpretation and subjectivity, which I am against. If players can use fibreglass tape on the edges of the bat to 'outsmart' the HotSpot technology, there is no reason the Snicko, whose performance is subject to interpretative analysis, can't be manipulated! The ICC has already muzzled the HotSpot inventor Warren Brennan for pointing out what the players have been doing (use of fibreglass tape on the edges of the bats) and have asked to him to provide "strong evidence" to back his inference of player cheating!

Posted by couchpundit on (November 20, 2013, 9:29 GMT)

Good luck...not sure if crickets interest is served finally. Seriously doubt that apart from somebody making money. Unless and until human element is removed i doubt this is going to go anywhere

Posted by Simoc on (November 20, 2013, 9:20 GMT)

That is not necessarily so TOE. They have learn't that the sound waveform given off the bat is different from a pad and other sounds, as is demonstrated often by the commentators on Snicko. By matching the time and sharp corners of the bat snick graph you get a good idea. Of course a tape on the bat snick and the gloves snick bring in doubt in a close call. Snicko does differentiate in sounds, which invalidates your argument completely.

Posted by   on (November 20, 2013, 8:57 GMT)

As an avid watcher I know that snicko and hotspot together add to the chances of getting the right decision so a good call from both boards.

Posted by TheOnlyEmperor on (November 20, 2013, 7:36 GMT)

The Snicko isn't reliable and that's borne by the fact that it can never be trusted to be used in isolation. For instance, is it not entirely possible that the Snicko shows a sound while the Hotspot doesn't, because the Snicko can capture all sounds around the batsman and not necessarily of just the ball impacting the bat? The Snicko doesn't differentiate between the sounds captured by it and captures all sounds, relevant and irrelevant. Discerning the sounds is a matter of interpretation and therefore subjective! If this is the situation, then how does it make sense incorporating the Snicko as part of the Decision Review System and adding to the chaos and confusion already present in the decision making process? Just madness! Aus and Eng may see sense in using this, the other countries certainly won't, so don't blame them!

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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