Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Responding to referrals

The UDRS is an ongoing topic of discussion, even during commentary of ODI series where it does not apply. As far as the Australian summer goes, the system could be considered to have served its purpose, at least in the Sydney Test, in making sure that post-match discussion didn't revolve around what would have happened if Australia were not gifted a wicket on the last day. However, it has also, here and elsewhere, provided talking points that could be seen as failures and negative side effects.

There is plenty to be said about the design of the system, its misuse and alleged abuse, but that's not my intent right now. The question of how the game itself may be changed by the current umpiring technology and/or the review system might be a less important topic of discussion, but I find it just as interesting.

In general, the system is intended to overturn out/not out decisions where the technology in use provides evidence that the original decision was incorrect. Even apart from which standard of evidence is used and the much-discussed misuse/abuse of the system, this means different things in different contexts. While a front-foot no ball should always result in an reversal, the gadgets are not set up to capture everything. It is more likely that compelling evidence of an edge will show up than similarly compelling evidence of a non-edge, while the use of cameras to judge the cleanness of catches can be a black art. It would be interesting to check thte figures to see whether UDRS has produced more reversals of out or not out decisions.

Let's turn to specifics. So far, the most extreme departure from human umpiring is the use of Hawkeye, which aims to provide the actual path of the ball and tell us where it would have travelled if the batsman had not been there, enough to completely answer the question of whether a legal delivery deserves an LBW verdict.

Kartikeya has already raised the issue of whether this spells the end of techniques intended to reap the traditional benefit of the umpire's doubt. Personally, I am amazed that this sort of technology is used in any context, cricketing or otherwise, without the presence of a serious treatment of its margins of error. Once present, there is a decision to be made as to whether this margin of error should be incorporated in the application of the technology. I believe it is consistent with the traditions of the LBW law and the motivations of umpiring technology, that a sensible margin of error be include. Without too much certainty, I expect that this would mean the age-old technique of coming down the pitch would still provide greater immunity from LBW, although not as much as we have previously seen.

The heat-sensitive cameras provide images that in theory should be fairly easy to interpret - they show a pattern of waves received at frequencies which our eyes do not detect, showing a difference between, say, a bat in normal conditions, and a part of the bat that has just hit a cricket ball. This can establish that there was an edge, although care still needs to be taken if the question is whether the edge came before some other impact in an LBW decision.

Apart from that, the evidence is not always there. The more angles, the better the chance of finding something, and it has been suggested that with only two (or one?) camera in play, players could game the system by turning bats one way or the other. More controllably, some stickers on the back of bats do reflect electro-magnetic waves in a way that appears similar to impact-induced heat on the HotSpot screen. Persistence with this technology should possibly lead to more conditions being placed on bats.

Finally, something that I haven't heard even mentioned by anyone else. It has long been wise for fielders to remain on the ball at least until an appeal has been given a positive answer. On at least one occasion now, a batsman has been given out LBW, the fielders celebrated, only for a reversal and an outcome of four leg-byes. At the time, it didn't mean much, but you never know when four runs could matter in a Test match, let alone the shorter forms if they also adopt a review system. With (dismissal) reviews in place, it is sensible for both teams to keep playing until the ball is dead for some reason other than a wicket. Having said that, I don't want to imagine the controversy that may arise from a situation where one team continues and the other doesn't, with a reversal of a wicket resulting in a run-out decision.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Clarity on horrific crimes

The recurring stories from Melbourne which have prompted worldwide headlines are very disturbing. I have not been able to find anything that could be said that would actually be helpful. I'm not sure that this article from Sushi Das will help either, but it is the one comment I have seen that has come from a helpful perspective. It is a pity that even it has been misread by many commenters more interested in arguments of superiority.

The Indian Minister of State has particularly sensible comments. Is he usually like this? It's hard to imagine such common sense appearing in Australian politics!

Friday, 15 January 2010

Bellerive records

When you start your Test career with a 151 in fairly dramatic circumstances, you're probably not thinking that it will be five years before you improve on that mark. In contrast, it has only taken the Australians until the 15th day of this year to put together a partnership bigger than any they could manage in the previous decade, a fact less surprising than that one of the partners on that occasion was Jason Gillespie.

After the dearth of Aussie centuries as the summer began, who would have thought the last Test would feature a Ponting double-ton on his home turf? He has certainly capitalised on a couple of chances, and it seems his biggest worry at the moment would be deciding when to declare.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Bent wings

The Blues' Bird is headed to the AIS again.

Quite within the official procedures, he'll still be playing against the Queensland tomorrow night, probably sending down deliveries sa questionable as the ones that saw him reported. At some point he'll get tested in a lab, where he will either keep within the 15 degree limit, as he has done twice, or sometimes transgressing, as happened after the last report. Either way, he will porbably be back again sooner or later, bowling who knows what.

I'd love him to knock over the banana-benders at ANZ, and I don't blame NSW for taking the procedures as they are written, but I'd rather not rely on a player who might be about to be banned for things that are already happening. I'd love him to be able to "prove" his action is (that is, has become) clean and keep playing (although his place in the state team isn't as obvious as it might seem), but this whole story is the farce that could have been predicted when these procedures were adopted. Why care about bent arms if the umpires aren't going to call them? Is this any better than the controversy?

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Watching the ball

What is going on? On the same day, Billy Doctrove manages to replace a ball in bad contition with Pakistan are fielding without suggesting any ball-tampering has occurred, while across two countries and an ocean, a referee's son puts his foot in it, or rather on it. It is not known whether Broad also keeps mints on his soles.