ICC bats for its 2.5-metre rule

MS Dhoni calls for a referral when Ian Bell was struck on the pads by Yuvraj Singh Getty Images

The controversial clause in the Decision Review System (DRS) that reprieved Ian Bell during the tense England run-chase against India in Bangalore was introduced into the rules because of players' doubts over the accuracy of the ball tracker technology. Speaking to ESPNcricinfo in Bangalore, ICC chief executive, Haroon Lorgat, said, "The rules and protocols for DRS were designed by experts with much thought. The Bell example applies the 2.5m rule which, in my view, accommodates the scepticism that some have with predictive technonolgy."

India's scepticism about the DRS has grown following the incident involving Bell, the first time the team asked for a referral in the World Cup. Television replays, which were displayed on the giant screen of the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, appeared to show that the ball had hit a forward-stretching Bell low on the pad with the ball in line with middle stump. Bell had begun to walk off, but umpire Billy Bowden did not declare him out because the distance between the point of impact and the stumps was shown to be 2.5m.

MS Dhoni criticised the Bell decision, calling it an 'adulteration' of technology with human judgement, but Lorgat said it was not an accurate description of what transpired. "It's absolutely not (adulteraton) - as it is there to support the umpire, not to overrule the umpire. The whole purpose of DRS is to avoid the error, not to seek a wicket or to reprieve a batsman. That's not the purpose of the system, the purpose is to avoid an error that would result in gross injustice. The Bell decision was a judgement call for the umpire - if he didn't have the DRS, we would have been arguing about how far down the pitch the batsman was. What we are trying to avoid through DRS is the bad decision, not to adjudicate on decisions that could go either way.

Using the DRS in the World Cup, Lorgat said was, "to simply avoid the shocking error that can happen. And we do not want such errors in the World Cup." Umpires he said would acknowledge this, he said, adding they were, "happy" with the DRS. "They can go to sleep at night knowing that had they made that one mistake, it can be rectified. That would not have happened without DRS."

The rule about the distance between impact and the stumps had been put in place precisely because experts had said that the accuracy of the ball tracker - in this case Hawk Eye - begins to falter from that point. "In other words if the ball needed to travel more than 2.5m, then it is for the umpire to make the final decision as he sees it."

Dhoni had asked why the mark had not been stipulated at 2.4, or 2.6m, and Lorgat said that while, "You can set that mark wherever you want - Dhoni was saying 2.4 and 2.6 - but the experts have decided on 2.5 m, after which the umpire and not technology decides.."

ICC General Manager, Dave Richardson, told Indian news channel, CNN-IBN, that Dhoni should be aware of the rules before passing judgement. "There are a set of rules along with the Hawk-Eye to assist in making the decision when UDRS is implemented ... Most of the time, a player is not fully aware of all the rules. If MS Dhoni is made aware of the specifications of these rules, then I am sure that he will accept the decision that was made."

"If MS Dhoni is made aware of the specifications of these rules, then I am sure that he will accept the decision that was made."

Lorgat went on to say that regardless of the technology, the umpire had remained at the front and center of decision making on the field. "The umpire still has the authority to say, despite what I've heard and seen, I still don't think that is enough reason for me to change my decision. It is for them to decide. That [DRS] has aided them, that does not overrule the umpire. That is a support structure we have put in place."

When asked whether the DRS would now be a constant in ODIs following the World Cup, Lorgat said, "No. A comprehensive review and recommendation can only be decided once the ICC Cricket Committee deliberates in May 2011. You can't deny the progress of technology, either we embrace it or we reject it. I believe we reject it at our own peril."

The DRS was met with a lot of resistance when it was first introduced in 2008, but it has now enjoys what Lorgat calls a, "lot more support" across all Test playing countries other than India. Lorgat said, "Now, people are asking us, "Why is it not mandatory?" It is currently not because of the lack of available technology. We would also want all players and Match Officials to experience and embrace it fully." He said there were, "commercial and contractual aspects related to its application" which is why the ICC had left the decision, "to the participating Boards."

The system had come into play in the World Cup because it was an ICC event but leaving it to bilateral boards was not unfair on the part of those countries which have embraced it, "This (the World Cup) is an ICC event and the ICC has decided to use it. In the case of bilateral series it is up to the Members to decide. Some claim this is not consistent and therefore not fair. I don't believe so as the playing conditions would be the same for the two competing teams and it is still the subject of the umpire deciding."

Lorgat said the DRS was, "no more than a tool" to help the decision making the umpire. "By using DRS, the correct decision making percentage has improved by around 5%, from 92% to 97%. With such improvement how can we not support its use?"

In the ICC's DRS rule pertaining to the Process of Consultation, No. 3.3 (i), states that if a 'not out' decision is being reviewed on the 'point of impact' issue, the third umpire must tell the onfield umpire whether the ball is past 2.5m or not and then pass on the following information: the distance from the wickets of the point of impact with the batsman, the approximate distance from the point of pitching to the point of impact, and whether the ball is predicted to the hit the stumps. According to the explanation given on the ICC's website, along with the 2.5m rule, should the distance between point of pitching and point of impact with the pad be less than 40cm, "the umpires are not obliged to follow the normal rules for using Hawkeye to determine whether the batsman is out or not and shall have a discretion in determining whether or not to overturn their original not out decision."

The ball tracker, like Hawk-Eye in this case, comes into play from the time the ball pitches and to the point of impact. That passage of information is then passed to the computer through multiple camera frames that help the tracker pick up on trajectory and make its assessment. The greater the distance between the point where the ball pitches and the point where it makes contact with either bat or pad, the more camera frames there are for the tracker to trace the predictive path. The shorter the distance, the less information is available to the technology to make an accurate prediction, which is why the 2.5m rule was brought into play.

The Bell-Bowden incident has raised the issue of whether the third umpire should be able to instruct the on-field umpire to change his decision, as opposed to merely passing on information.

The argument in favour says that the third umpire is the man who has both access and time to look at the replay and is also detached from the emotions on the field and in the crowd looking at the dismissal on a giant screen. The argument against states that giving the third umpire these powers will reduce the importance of the man in the middle.