Monday, 7 March 2011

More DRS rubbish

The latest twist in the DRS use of Hawkeye when the batsman comes down the pitch is hard to get a grip on, mainly because the reporting seems amazingly confused. There might be something we can get form the latest Cricinfo article, but it's hard to know exactly what, since it's riddled with nonsense.

Why do I say that? Let's start with last paragraph boilerplate that CI has been adding to all their article on this topic.
“The 2.5m clause was included in the DRS rules following the expert view that the ball-tracker technology, in this case Hawk Eye, lost its accuracy when the distance between the point of impact and the stumps was greater than 2.5m.”

The only expert view that seems to be published online is that of the proprietors themselves, and they firstly consider the 2.0m mark more relevant than 2.5m and more importantly don't think the loss of accuracy is great enough to make that much difference, saying the 2.5m rule is their for historical consistency, not technological reasons. Yes, the CI line follows the recent comments from the ICC, but they are speaking just as much nonsense (if accuracy were the issue, it should be relevant to “out” decisions as well), and journalists really should be holding them to account. If there was an altogether different expert view given at some point, is there any reason they can't publich it and point us to it?
The article also says that there has been a change to “rule 3.3” in the DRS code, and that the previous rule said a leg before could be reversed “only if the replay showed that the ball was hitting the middle stump dead centre.” Even if we assume that the writer meant “a not out leg before decision” rather than simply “a leg before”, there are a lot of problems with how the article describes this:
  1. The 2.5m rule (part of clause 3.3i)iii) can't by any stretch be related to a necessary condition for a not out decision to be reversed. The clause deals with when the umpire should be told definitively that the ball was hitting (or missing) the stumps. This is not the only factor.

  2. There is clearly no mention of a middle stump criterion of any sort in the DRS code - the decision is to simply said to be made using “normal cricketing principles” informed by the ball tracking data. Something like “only if the ball is hitting middle stump” has been popping up a lot in discussion of the Ian Bell decision, but it's not at all clear whether it comes from a less formal umpire's directive (for this tournament or more generally), an off-the-cuff press conference example of what might qualify as normal cricketing principles, or a player or commentatorsa (possibly hyperbolic) interpretation of normal cricketing principles applied down the pitch LBWs.

  3. We are told that umpire Erasmus asked whether the ball was hitting “any part of middle stump”. The box claiming to detail the new “law” tells us that it has to be the centre of the ball hitting any part of middle stump. If that's the new guideline, then how restricted was the meaning of “dead centre” in the reported old one? In any case, by my eyes the situation shown in the graphic accompanying the article doesn't meet that criterion anyway - if this is the Cusack referral, perhaps they really mean that any part of the ball is hitting any part of middle stump?

  4. The box with the claimed new law has also clearly misread the code. The wording which is said to have been replaced comes before the 2.5m exception, and is about the more general condition for reporting (and effectively determining) that the ball was hitting the stumps. (It also isn't anything like “hitting the middle stump dead centre” - a much bigger area than middle stump is described!)

So what can we read between all the errors? There is talk of an umpire's directive, described as changing the protocol. I'd guess that the umpires manager has given direction to the umpires that a trajectory hitting middle stump (in some sense) can be considered out (in the absence of other reasons for a not out). It's not a change to clause 3.3 – it is easily seen as a clarification of a "normal cricketing principle", set in stone as a kneejerk reaction to the predictable inconsistency in interpreting that phrase. It's possibly a change to a similar earlier directive, although that doesn't seem likely to me. It's not all that strange - I've certainly heard similar sentiments (“That far down, I'd only give it out if it were hitting middle.”) from umpires relying on their own sight, and especially if technological accuracy really is the issue, the logic transfers well.

So it looks to me that as well as spouting clueless press releases, the ICC has had made a small concession in the name of consistency in response to the media drama round this issue, and this itself hsa been beaten up. Then again, there's so much we can't know, and so much rubbish in the reporting, that I may well be wrong.


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