Well, it's a company called Computer Vision Consulting Limited, staffed by post-grads from Cambridge University with expertise in the supply of research and performance assessment services, particularly within the computer vision and broadcasting technology industries. We've asked them to review the level of accuracy and reliability of the two ball-tracking companies - Hawk-Eye and Virtual Eye - that have been accredited for international cricket. In terms of accuracy we want to know whether their virtual depictions of where the ball has pitched and where the ball has impacted the batsman accord with the reality, and whether their predictions as to where the ball would have hit the stumps are correct.
Yes, we did some manual testing, but it was pretty basic. We asked the MCC to assist us with these tests to provide some level of independence. We were satisfied that the systems were accurate enough for us to have enough confidence to implement them for DRS. Certainly the initial testing led us to believe that the systems would be far more accurate than the human eye could ever be.
It may allow us to draw some comparisons, yes.
The ICC is paying. I do not have the exact figure, but it's not too expensive. Certainly it is worth the cost.
Exactly. Whether it will help to change their minds on DRS, even assuming the report comes back positive, or whether they have other reasons for not wanting DRS, we will have to see.
"You see a replay on TV and say, "That looks as if it was hitting leg stump." But then Hawk-Eye shows it just missing. What people don't realise is that the camera for the slow-motion replay might not have been behind the bowler's arm"
They are hoping to have something ready for us by our next ICC Cricket Committee meeting, in May 2012.
We were satisfied with the testing we did. We tested the accuracy as far as we could, and to an extent it showed that the technology was at least accurate and reliable enough for it to be used in the manner that we have used it.
Yes, it has been part of the learning process. But nowadays we have a technical expert who sits with the third umpire in every match where DRS is used. His job is to ensure everything is set up correctly. He monitors that the third umpire has the best available television, with the best screen definition and picture clarity. All that is checked. But it's not always possible to ensure that high definition is available - that is dependent on the cabling at the venue, I believe.
There are minimum specification requirements for the third umpire TV room, some of which are applicable to the broadcasters. Some broadcasters exceed what is required but all have no problem in meeting the minimum requirement. But we're taking a pragmatic approach. We believe that having a TV that is not high definition is better than not having one at all.
We'll have more experience. The umpires will know to look out for a tiny fleck of white. The umpires will learn by experience. So, yes, that is the case. Technology itself will also improve with time.
It's too early to say. Prior to the use of DRS there was a trend that spin bowlers were [beginning to get] more lbws. Even though we weren't using DRS, the umpires were being assessed by it. They might be giving a batsman not out if the ball hit them on the front foot, as they could not be sure that it would have gone on to hit the stumps. Then they would go and watch the replay, see what Hawk-Eye said and realise the ball was hitting halfway up middle. The TV commentators would be saying, "Why hasn't he given it out?"
I wouldn't be too hasty in saying that. I agree that the Pakistan-England series may have suggested that, but maybe a few batsmen were out of form and the bowlers of both sides were very good. There was a bit more in the pitches than most expected too. It's too early to draw too many conclusions.
Yes, it is going to bring about a change of technique. And that will improve things for everybody.
"A year ago, every Tom, Dick and Harry was averaging more than 50 in Test cricket. The balance between bat and ball had got out of kilter and experts were complaining. I think that using DRS may help redress that balance"
The majority are. None of them like making mistakes, and sometimes they might feel that the DRS makes their mistakes more embarrassing. But credit to them, the DRS - more often than not - shows what a good job they do. The stats are unbelievable. Umpires are proved right after reviews 75% of the time. Umpires do not like their decisions having to be overturned but the fact is that at the end of a series where DRS is used, the umpires are normally congratulated for a job well done and people are amazed as to how many decisions they actually get right. In non-DRS series, even where the umpires might have made fewer mistakes, they are inevitably criticised for those that they do make.
You're right, it is expensive. It costs as least $10,000 a day to have Hot Spot and ball-tracking. In my view, cricket will pick up the cost - of using technology for umpiring purposes, if not in the short term then in the long term - because eventually the broadcasters will include it in their budgeting and consequent negotiations with the member boards in determining broadcast rights fees. They'll pay X amount less in broadcast rights each time in order to pay for the technology that is required for DRS. We'd like to have Hot Spot and ball-tracking at every Test. And, if we did, we might be able to do a deal with the companies to provide it at a better price.
No. Hot Spot is real. It's not a virtual picture. What they will be working upon is making their cameras even more sensitive, so that the smallest of touches will be visible. They're learning about the best way to position and set their cameras. Experience has shown that the priority is the sensitivity of the camera, i.e. its ability to generate a visible heat mark as opposed to clearly defined pictures which look nice but do not provide the required level of sensitivity to pick up the faint edges. Whilst Hot Spot cameras may not be able to pick up the very faint touches, they will never show a mark where there is no touch and they are also very useful in distinguishing between whether the ball has touched the bat or gloves, as opposed to, for example, the thigh guard, arm guard, shoulder or helmet.
Not yet, no. Snicko is just a visual depiction of the sound from the stump microphone. At this stage the third umpire does not use it. The third umpire gets the sound from the stump microphone.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo