The Investec Ashes 2013 August 6, 2013

DRS 'hasn't worked well' - Flower

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Andy Flower, the England team director, admitted the Decision Review System "hasn't worked well at all" in the Investec Ashes series, but does not favour a return to the days when umpires did not have access to technology.

The series has been notable for a series of controversial umpiring decisions, most of them involving the TV umpire. Hot Spot, the technology that is meant to clarify whether a batsman has edged a ball, has been exposed as flawed and raised doubts about its medium-term viability, leaving players and umpires confused and frustrated following a catalogue of mistakes.

But Flower, a consistent advocate of the DRS, does not favour abandoning the system now. Instead he favours ensuring that TV umpires are equipped with the best possible technology available and, if necessary, the assistants to enable them to utilise it to the optimum. Flower is adamant that a return to the days when TV viewers had access to more evidence than umpires would be a retrograde step and maintains the system, generally, helps get more decisions right than the days before it was introduced.

And, though the words may have been characteristically measured, Flower also hinted that the underlying fault in the system during the current series was human error on the part of the TV umpires. But he rejected the idea that the TV umpire should be a technology specialist, instead reiterating the view that they should first have proved themselves as an experienced on-field official.

"I thought the DRS had worked pretty well in international cricket prior to this series," Flower said as he reflected on England retaining the Ashes following the soggy draw at Old Trafford. "But in this series it hasn't worked well at all. I wouldn't necessarily blame technology. What we have at the moment is the best we've got. I might question whether we're using it as wisely as we can. I think we, the cricket community, can use it better.

"There is technology there to use and there are protocols that go with it. I think the people in charge of using the technology have to make very calm, clear decisions.

"I think we also know and understand that going back to using just the two umpires in the middle is not the answer because that isn't going to get us a greater percentage of correct decisions. Just being smart about how we use the technology - where the third umpire sits, who he sits with, is he sitting with experts in technology so that he sees the best pictures and can run forwards and backwards the various screens and the pertinent screens - those are the things that the ICC need to get right.

"We do try to look after the players that play all three forms of the game in as wise a way as possible. Kevin's one of those guys."

"I think the person sitting as the third umpire has to be an experienced on-field umpire to understand what is going on in the middle."

Flower also welcomed the contribution of Kevin Pietersen in Manchester. Exactly a year on from the debacle at Leeds where Pietersen's relationship with his team-mates reached an all-time low, he produced a century that helped England avoid the follow-on and therefore played a large role in securing the draw.

But while Flower delighted in Pietersen's positive impact on and off the pitch, he did admit to fears over the batsmen's long-term availability due to injury concerns. At present, it seems neither player nor team are looking further than the Ashes series in Australia.

"He's been excellent," Flower said. "Unfortunately he's had a couple of injuries, but he's been very dedicated in the way he's responded to getting those right and it's great to see him bat like he did not only here but when he got a really important 60 in the context of that game at Trent Bridge.

"It's been another vital innings here, so it's great to see him bat like that. He's a very entertaining guy to watch and a brilliant international batsman. It's great that he's fit and firing.

"He'll have to look after himself as well as possible because he's in his early 30s now and, from experience and talking to guys who have played at that age, everything seems to hurt a little bit more after long days in the field and after big innings. He wants to play in the World Cup of 2015, but I don't think any of us can determine what happens in the medium to long-term. He, like all the others, will be desperate to do well in the rest of this series and looking forward to the Ashes away and not looking miles beyond that.

"We do try to look after the players that play all three forms of the game in as wise a way as possible. Kevin's one of those guys so we do take him out of certain competitions when it's necessary, just like we do with Jimmy Anderson and might do with Alastair Cook in the future."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • H_Z_O on August 8, 2013, 19:08 GMT

    @ROXSPORT "Howlers have reduced by 60%???"

    Did I say that? I said that "howlers", by definition, have to be incorrect decisions; if they were correct ones they couldn't be howlers, could they?

    And incorrect decisions have reduced by 60%.

    "We have seen more howlers this series than perhaps the entire past year."

    And most of them caused by umpire error, not the DRS. Whether it's the Broad nick or the Khawaja non-edge, those were all failings of the umpiring. In the case of the Khawaja one, it's the DRS and the technology that shows us it was wrong, and even without the DRS, he'd have been given out. The DRS should, had it been used as it's intended to be, have saved him.

    "And, tell me, how many howlers did we see in the Ind-Eng Test series with no DRS???"

    If I flap my arms and there's a tornado in the world, did I cause it? If DRS isn't used and there are no howlers, that doesn't mean the absence of DRS is the reason. You need better a much better argument than that, mate.

  • H_Z_O on August 8, 2013, 18:56 GMT

    @gdalvi your car analogy is flawed. A better one would be if there was a car with a computer system that reduced accidents by 60%. You're worth $541 million, having made $31.5 million last year, an increase of 101% on the year before, and you are expecting to make even more this year.

    The car costs you $16,000 a day to drive. Or you can spend less (but not nothing; it still costs money to host cricket), but you have 60% more chance of having a crash. Would you pay the extra?

    60% of bad decisions, decisions like the Khawaja one at Old Trafford which, based on the technology, should have been given not out, are corrected by DRS. Any true cricket fan is appalled that Khawaja's part of the 40% that aren't yet corrected, but the answer, logically, can't be to condemn even more players to that fate. The DRS can, and should, be improved, but burying our heads in the sand won't do it.

    Using it, we learn the flaws, and we can fix them. Refusing to use it, we don't learn anything.

  • ROXSPORT on August 8, 2013, 18:50 GMT

    @ H_Z_O: Oh yeah! Howlers have reduced by 60%??? Which series are you watching mate??? We have seen more howlers this series than perhaps the entire past year. And, tell me, how many howlers did we see in the Ind-Eng Test series with no DRS???

  • CapitalMarkets on August 8, 2013, 18:49 GMT

    Another benefit in having DRS, relevant to India (and this test series) is that the DRS system eliminates the need for neutral umpires. There should be at least two off field umpires and they should become pro-active in overturning on field decision which are plainly incorrect. Allowing all four umpires to interact in real time and giving off-field men authority to correct on-field decisions ONLY if there was compelling evidence they were wrong would mean that both on-field umpires would not have to be neutral. This and taking the decision to review away from players would completely eliminate situations where wrong decisions were allowed to stand simply because the players had no reviews left (such as the Broad incident). This would also help players who wished to walk when they knew they were out because they would also know that they'd not usually have to walk when they knew they weren't out. If the decision was not overturned by the time a new batsmen appeared, then it was correct.

  • H_Z_O on August 8, 2013, 18:32 GMT

    @IndiaNumeroUno it does work, though. Of course that depends on your definition of "work".

    You expect it to be faultless, and get everything right. Of course if you're expecting that, maybe you should expect to pay a lot more. It's like a cheap car that runs, but may give you more trouble and need more regular trips to the mechanic. Does that work? Sure. Could it work better? Sure, but it'll cost you.

    If, however, you define "working" as improving the decision making process, then it undoubtedly does work, and the stats back that up. A lot of people look at 95% and 98% correct and say "Oh, but that's just a 3% improvement". But it's not. The issue isn't the number of correct ones, but the number of incorrect ones. Those are what people mean when they say "howler", right? Those have reduced by 60%.

    You say why would anyone pay that amount of money for something that doesn't work. I ask why Mumbai Indians paid $1 million for a guy who scored 36 runs and bowled 2 overs for 23 runs.

  • CapitalMarkets on August 8, 2013, 18:20 GMT

    I agree with Flower but I also think it is time to integrate the technology into the game. This means regarding the on and off field umpires as one team who can interact, taking the review decisions away from the players and using the technology for what it is, which is an aid to umpiring. Of course we should retain the principle that the on-field decisions are only overridden when there is no doubt they are wrong, but off-field umpires should be pro-active to prevent clearly wrong decisions. I also think that play should continue when the on field umpires refer decisions upstairs and that a batsman should be able to be dismissed/recalled retrospectively at any time between the incident and the ball becoming live due to a new over being bowled or a new batsman facing a delivery, without the score being rolled back. This gives the umpires complete authority/control, keeps the game going and unconditionally gets as many decisions right as possible (by eliminating Broad-like incidents).

  • BHAARATVARSH on August 8, 2013, 15:13 GMT

    @H_Z_O "$16,000 a day is $320,000 for a 4 Test series. For a TV broadcaster in the world's second most populous country, that's peanuts. Cost is not an issue for the BCCI, even if they say it is." Why would anyone waste that amount of money on something which doesn't work?!

  • gdalvi on August 8, 2013, 14:22 GMT

    @jmcilhinney. First, in cricket terms - giving someone out is essentially death of that innings. To your question - cost of manual brakes vs. automatic is same - then I would go for automatic. Better yet, I will stay away from that car itself. I had taken into account 60% reduction in errors but - wonder why ICC is not advertising it that way. The reason is by projecting numbers like 98%- it gives a general feeling of goodness as many (not all) will take it that it reduces error by 98% - hence the system is great!!! But now you say, after spending all the money - DRS reduces errors by only 60% and does not ELIMINATE howler, plus wastes time, plus gives different decision for similar cases just based on on-field decision - then why use it? If it eliminates 98% of errors - I am all for it - but it does not. Also don't blame human factor. DRS was designed to correct Human errors - and you still gives "human factor" excuse - basically DRS has then accomplished nothing of substance.

  • Rally_Windies on August 8, 2013, 13:48 GMT

    @ Ahkera Poika ....

    A simple slow motion would not eradicate howlers ... A normal camera takes between 7-12 frames per second. You would notice in run out replays how "jumpy" the slow motion replays look when transitioning between frames .....

    What happens if an edge occurs in the period between frames that we cannot see in the slow motion replay?

    It occurred once when Chanderpaul walked, and replays showed no edge. But in the post game interview he told reporters that he definitely nicked it.

    Hot-spot can show an edge, if it occurred in-between frames , and Snicko, is continuously recording audio tool with no gaps (therefore Snicko records in between visible camera frames) ..

    The only other option is to use high-speed camera's which record 40-50 (or more) frames per second. This option is actually VERY expensive ! 100 frames per second would eliminate all howlers but would be much more expensive that snicko+hotspot.

  • H_Z_O on August 8, 2013, 12:24 GMT

    @Siddharth Handa The MCC did do the testing you describe, and those results are how we know what the margin of error is. This error margin is the "Umpire's Call".

    Hawk-Eye tracks the actual trajectory taken by the ball. Bounce and seam until the point of contact are known quantities. The laws of the game state that the umpire is meant to assume those remain unchanged afterwards.

    @IndiaNumeroUno "Just because BCCI is rich does not mean it will bear the cost for cricket boards across the world for DRS!"

    They don't have to. The ECB only bears the cost for when DRS is used in England's home series. When we tour Australia later this year, the DRS tech will be provided at the expense of Cricket Australia. The BCCI would only have to bear the cost for home series, not for every other board in the world.

    $16,000 a day is $320,000 for a 4 Test series. For a TV broadcaster in the world's second most populous country, that's peanuts. Cost is not an issue for the BCCI, even if they say it is.