ICC should take control of DRS - Virtual-Eye chief
The man behind Virtual Eye ball-tracking has urged the ICC to take control of the DRS and ensure the integrity of the system
The man behind Virtual Eye ball-tracking has urged the ICC to take control of the DRS and ensure the integrity of the system. Ian Taylor, the CEO of Animation Research, the company that provides Virtual Eye, believes technology can help umpires but that several major issues need to be addressed, from the training of TV officials to an acceptance of what technology can and cannot do.
Decision reviews are not being used in the ongoing Test series between Australia and India due to the BCCI's opposition to the system, and Taylor hopes that can be the catalyst for change. Taylor believes the ad hoc nature of the system in its current format is a problem and that strict guidelines need to be enforced to safeguard against human error, technological failure and the misinterpretation of data.
"I don't know of any other sporting organisation that would actually hand over the results of a Test, first to a TV company, or secondly to a company that a TV company hires," Taylor told ESPNcricinfo. "The technology has a part to play, but it really needs to be mandated and controlled by the ICC, right down to the people who operate it. You can change the results. Everybody says you can't do it, but you can. Just move it [the camera]. It's possible.
"We should be allowed to put our cameras exactly where you want to put them. We went to one place, I won't say where it was, and we put the mounts up and turned up to put our cameras up and they had moved it to somewhere else because someone at the ground decided they didn't want it there.
"Nobody takes responsibility for it. For the broadcasters, it's neither here nor there. It's not their deal. They're quite happy to use it but if the ICC wants to use it, it should be mandated that at every ground there are special stands that do not move, that are fixed, that the end-on cameras that we use to overlay everything should be properly mounted."
The New Zealand-based Virtual Eye, known in Australia as Eagle Eye, was at the centre of a controversy during last month's Hobart Test, when New Zealand were searching for the final wicket to complete a historic win. Australia's No.11, Nathan Lyon, was given out lbw by the on-field umpire Nigel Llong, but Lyon requested a review, which showed the ball had pitched a millimetre outside leg stump, and the decision was overturned.
To the naked eye, the ball appeared to clearly pitch in line with leg stump, despite Eagle Eye's assessment. However, Taylor said that was due to the positioning of the super slow-motion camera, which was not completely square on with the pitch, while he was confident in the Eagle Eye footage as his camera was in the best possible position to judge where the ball had pitched.
"One of the rules that the ICC put in was that over 50% of the ball has to be [pitching in line]," Taylor said. "It did hit in line, but our positioning of it was 49% was in line - it was a millimetre. So then you come to the next question, which is if this DRS is only there to do the howlers ... that is not a howler. Our view was it [the umpire's decision of out] should have stood.
"The umpires are sanctioned by the ICC, paid by the ICC, trained by the ICC, yet one of my guys could have overturned their decision and changed the result of the entire series. He's not paid by the ICC, he's not trained by the ICC ... I still love the idea that the umpire has the last say in everything. Our job is to give them the tools they need to do that really, really quickly."
Taylor believes a key part of the success of the DRS surrounds proper training of TV umpires, who should be comprehensively schooled in how the technology works. He said officials on the elite panel should not automatically be assumed to be the best men to review decisions on a TV screen, and that the third umpire's role should become a specialist position.
Under Taylor's plan, part of that training would involve umpires being shown situations in which the technology is less accurate, such as when cameras are blocked by bats, legs or fielders. The more cameras that can track the ball, the more accurate the projection is likely to be, but Taylor said it was important umpires, players and viewers understood that there would be times technology could not be relied upon.
"They use technology and they still put missiles down the wrong chimney," he said. "I think it's absolutely critical that we are able to say, not enough data. There's an algorithm we can put in that goes from red to green, which gives you the scale [of accuracy]. If it's in the green zone, don't argue with it. If it's in orange, maybe take another look at it. If it's in red, don't even think about it, don't use it. The public sitting on the other side should know that and understand it.
"Tracking these balls at 250 frames a second is a huge leap forward. But there are still places and times where we should have the power to say 'actually, we didn't get enough data, umpire's call stands'. But nobody wants to hear that. Everybody wants to believe that it's flawless 100% of the time. That's a big call on any technology."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo