Wednesday, March 2, 2011


First and foremost, I am sorry but this is a pretty long and detailed post... and will also be a little repetitive to the readers who have read my previous post on UDRS. But this one is more comprehensive and includes a suggestion for improvement at the end, on which I'd like you all to comment.

n one of my earlier posts on UDRS which I put up after the end of the India v. England World Cup match due to the Ian Bell reprieve (yes, I call it a ‘reprieve’), I received a few comments where the basic question that everyone was trying to seek an answer to was why Billy Bowden could have ruled it not out. 

This UDRS debate has raged on and gotten bigger now with Dhoni calling it as “an adulteration” of technology with human judgement, and then ICC coming out with an explanation defending that decision, followed by Haroon Lorgat (ICC Chief Executive) and Dave Richardson (ICC General Manager) too lending support to that decision and the rule of 2.5 metres (distance between the stumps and the point of impact) and 40 centimetres (distance between the point of impact and the point where the ball pitches). 

I have already explained in the earlier post about how the 2.5 metre rule makes the UDRS partly-redundant. I will re-explain that point here again and also suggest and alternative that, in my view, be a much better solution in respect of the ball-tracking technology (Hawk Eye and Virtual Eye). 

Wordings of the actual rule {Appendix 5, Clause 3.3, Sub-clause i (iii)}

"If a ‘not out’ decision is being reviewed, in order to report that the ball is hitting the stumps, the evidence provided by technology should show that the centre of the ball would have hit the stumps within an area demarcated by a line drawn below the lower edge of the bails and down the middle of the outer stumps.

However, in instances where the evidence shows that the ball would have hit the stumps within the demarcated area as set out above but that the point of impact is greater than 250 cm from the stumps, the third umpire shall notify the on-field umpire of:
a) The distance from the wickets to the point of impact with the batsman
b) The approximate distance from point of pitching to point of impact
c) Where the ball is predicted to hit the stumps.

In such a case, the on-field umpire shall have regard to the normal cricketing principles concerning the level of certainty in making his decision as to whether to change his decision."

How UDRS becomes partly-redundant 

With this 2.5 metre rule, the UDRS becomes completely redundant for a fielding captain when a batsman lunges forward more than 2.5 metres. Where there is an appeal for LBW denied with the batsman so far ahead, the fielding captain shall be averse to go in for a review no matter how plumb it looks. This is because the umpire can always go with his original decision even if the review shows all three criteria (pitching, impact and hitting the stumps) as red, simply because the batsman was lunging a long way forward and the ground umpire can cite that as a reason to not reverse his decision

Had the impact been 2.49 metres in front of the stumps, the umpire would HAVE HAD TO reverse his decision and rule the batsman out. But because the batsman was 2.51 metres ahead, the umpire gets AN OPTION to stick by his original decision. I am sure 2 centimetres wouldn’t have made that big a difference in the decision. 

If you like it, then lets have a hypothetical situation. Imagine Lasith Malinga or Mitchell Johnson bowling to Kevin Pietersen or Matthew Hayden (I know he’s retired, but we can always imagine!). These two bowlers, because of their slinging actions, release the ball from right on top of the stumps (when they are bowling over the wickets, of course!) and these two batsmen like to stand outside their crease even to fast bowlers and usually get a HUGE stride forward as a result of their lengthy frames. 

If Malinga / Johnson were to bowl straight and full and strike the front pad of Hayden / Pietersen and the umpire were to rule not out to an LBW appeal, the fielding captain should not even contemplate a review if the batsman in question was struck on the front foot. Even if the ball pitches on off stump, impact is on middle stump and the ball-tracking technology suggests that the ball would have gone to hit between middle and leg stump half-way up, the umpire would still have AN OPTION TO RULE NOT OUT… simply because of that big stride. What’s the use of those Malinga yorkers then! 

Why this rule 

In Haroon Lorgat’s own words, “The rules were designed with serious thoughts in mind. That particular one [pertaining to the 2.5m rule] was to accommodate the scepticism that some players have got with predictive technology.” 

Another quote from that Cricinfo article – 

"What we have been trying to avoid because of the DRS is the absolute shocker. Umpires will acknowledge this and they are happy with the system. 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. "So we said if it's a longer time frame than 2.5m, and people say the prediction cannot be relied upon, then we are allowing the umpire (to take his decision)."

Dhoni had asked why the mark had not been stipulated at 2.4, or 2.6m, and Lorgat said that while, "You can call a mark wherever you want to, where Dhoni was saying 2.4 and 2.6, whatever, call it whatever you wish... it was the experts' views that had been taking into account by the ICC. From the experts' point of view, they said beyond 2.5m, beyond a longer stretch than that, you rely on the umpire." 

The absurdity 

In Lorgat’s own words, where the prediction becomes even tougher for the technology (after 2.5 metres), they are leaving it to the human judgement. Usually, technology is used in any field to assist people when it becomes difficult to use human element. Here, human element is being used when it is becoming difficult for technology! 

My suggestion to make it more acceptable 

I admit that over a longer distance, the predictive element of the technology will become less accurate. However, to set a rigid marker like 2.5 metres is incorrect… as I have shown in an example above where 2 centimetres between 2.49 metres and 2.51 metres can impact the result of a match! 

Instead, what I would like to see is that the companies who manufacture this technology (Hawk Eye and Virtual Eye) should include this element of uncertainty and inaccuracy in their predictive path. In other words, when the tracker is being shown on the television replay, the ball path predicted after the impact should continuously grow larger in radius as it progresses towards the stumps. This will enable the umpires to judge a lot more accurately about the probability that the ball would have hit the stumps. 

The circular area depicted in red around the ball is an addition made by me in an attempt to portray how the area of inaccuracy / uncertainty can be depicted over television replays.

I have taken this screenshot above from Cricinfo’s Hawk Eye application. This is the ball path of Graeme Smith’s LBW dismissal to Zaheer Khan during the first innings of the Third Test recently in January 2011. As I have illustrated above, let the technology show up its area of inaccuracy / uncertainty (whichever term they may want to use), so that we know with absolute certainty that the ball could not have hit outside this area. I have highlighted that with a red circle around the ball.

Here, we know now that larger the distance between the point of impact and the stumps, the bigger will be its area of inaccuracy / uncertainty. Now the umpire will get all the information required that is required for as-accurate-as-possible decision-making, i.e. (a) he shall know what is the most probable path the ball will take, (b) if not that path, then where and how much can the ball deviate, and (c) most importantly, how much percentage of that area is making impact with the stumps.

Where more than 50% of the area of inaccuracy / uncertainty is making impact with the stumps, the batsman should be ruled out (obviously assuming that other conditions are satisfied as well). I am sure that Yuvraj Singh would have earned the dismissal of Ian Bell if we were to follow this methodology of predicting ball paths.

For one, Yuvraj was bowling around the wicket and since Hawk Eye showed that impact was on the off stump, it is obvious that the ball couldn’t have missed off stump as Yuvraj hardly turned that ball… it just straightened very little. It definitely wouldn’t have climbed over the stumps on any sub-continental track. And I am sure it wouldn’t have missed leg stump as well, because the Hawk Eye showed impact between middle and off stumps… so even if the area of inaccuracy / uncertainty were to be very large, there would be no way that it would exceed the leg stump by a margin so huge that even 50% of it would not be deemed within the stumps.


So firstly, ICC should reconsider their rules and usages of technology… because till they don’t get it as right as possible, they cannot shirk away from criticism. Secondly, they should admit that the decision from Billy Bowden was wrong simply because he failed to apply common sense in that decision, which I have applied in the previous paragraph. And thirdly, they should set standards on this type of decision-making… for there have been cases in the past where similar Not Out decisions by the on-field umpires were overturned on review despite the impact being more than 2.5 metres out!

ase 1: Here is the video link of Tim Paine (Aus) being dismissed LBW by Liam Plunkett (Eng) at Perth (out of all places) on 6th February 2011 (7th match of the recently concluded ODI series), as a result of umpire Paul Reiffel overturning his original Not Out decision on review by the English captain, Andrew Strauss (watch the portion between 4:15 and 7:20)!

ase 2: Here is the video link of Shane Watson (Aus) being dismissed LBW by Graeme Cremer (Zim) at Ahmedabad on 21st February 2011 (4th match of the ICC World Cup 2011), as a result of umpire Richard Kettleborough overturning his original Not Out decision on review by the Zimbabwean captain, Elton Chigumbura (watch the portion between 3:03 and 3:48)!


Anonymous said...

Good suggestion. And very good pictorial depiction of the same!

I'm pretty hopeful the ICC will refine this rule after the WC. I think they recognize the UDRS is still in an early evolutionary stage, and they need to refine it
as new experiences / insights emerge.

And very good job posting about that Plunkett / Reiffel decision in Oz... Billy would have done well to emulate it...and he had the discretion to do so under the
current system. But the ICC (Lorgat / Richardson) won't acknowledge it... official people
often get too defensive about mistakes or misjudgments. ( India too. I mean Kumble, Srinath & the KSCA have still not offered a word of regret or apology to the fans who were hurt because of the lack of sense in the distribution of a limited number of tickets)


Unknown said...

Hello BP!

We all do know and believe that UDRS is still in its nascent stages. It will need to improve and evolve with time. But when ICC executives like Lorgat and Richardson defend it as if nothing is wrong with it, and say that the experts' views are the final views, one starts wondering whether they'll actually do something to better the system!

Yes, people in official capacities do tend to get defensive about the mistakes committed by their offices. But I think in the case of KSCA, Srinath did offer an apology in a press conference where he was sitting with Haroon Lorgat. I'm not sure though!

Dean @ Cricket Betting Blog said...

Great article Shridhar,

I see where you are coming from.

Whatever the distance 2.50M, or 2.49M, the Bell decision lacked common sense and was wrong, and just further highlights the fact that the UDRS is still far from perfect and is clearly still evolving (a view I have long held).

Why Richardson and Lorgat have to say black is blue just to be seen to be backing it makes no sense either, why couldn't they just say 'this is the way it is for the world cup, we will review it again afterwards.'

They are also contradicting themselves with UDRS overall, the system is there to help get decisions right.

Even then though, surely Billy could have been told by the TV umpire 'it looked plum, maybe you should give it out,' after it was reviewed.

Is there any reason why that couldn't have happened?

This is another one of those reasons why I don't think I understand the law, as it's that obvious I think I'm missing something.

It just looks to me like Billy hid behind a stupid bit of interpretation to stubbornly say 'see I was right all along.'

Umpires (particularly Billy) must have an ego, even though the system helps them overall by getting them off the hook with match defining clangers, it can still make them look stupid.

Therefore I believe that an umpire loves getting one over on UDRS and saying 'see I know better afterall.'

I can only conclude this was what Billy was doing.

Unknown said...

Hello Dean,

I guess we all (including the ICC) know that the UDRS is still evolving... I think they have admitted it themselves, which is why it came as a surprise to see Lorgat and Richardson defend their positions.

And then, funnily, they tweaked the 2.5 m rule a little bit in such a way that had the new rule been applied in the Bell case, the result of the match might have changed!

As far as I am aware, the ground umpire is just allowed to ask objective questions to the third umpire over two-way radio communication, and in this particular case, the third umpire was additionally just required to inform Billy that the impact was over 2.5 m from the stumps and the exact distance in case he had the data.

The moment Billy got the information about the distance, he got a loophole by which he could continue to go by his own decision. Here, I tend to agree with your comment about Billy's ego and ego of umpires in general. Some keep it in check, some cannot!

After all, Billy would love nothing more than to officiate in the finals at Wankhede, and a clean DRS record might help him do just that!