The debate on Decision Review System rages on.
The functioning of Hot Spot in different conditions and the ‘half-a-ball’ reprieves or dismissals, depending on the standing umpire’s call, have evoked strong reactions from either side of the divide.
International umpire from India, Amiesh Sahiba, has stood in two series —South Africa versus England and West Indies against New Zealand — where DRS was in view.
Significantly, Sahiba said to The Hindu, “It (the DRS) can be expected to deliver results only when it is foolproof. The standing umpire has the best view of what is happening in front of him.”
Accomplished former Elite panel umpire Simon Taufel had a different take. “The genie is out of the bottle, it (the DRS) is here to stay.”
He added, “We always took the view on the Cricket Committee when I was there that technology had to be 100 per cent before we incorporated it. If we wait for that to occur, we may never actually implement it.”
Former international umpire A.V. Jayaprakash told this newspaper that DRS appeared to be working on the minds of the umpires which eventually weakened their natural instincts.
“They (the umpires) appear to be worried about the replays and player challenges and even some blatant decisions are not given these days. We might thus lose some strong umpires in the future.”
He emphasised, “Technology is good for some line-decisions but has to be streamlined. For instance, if the hot spot is not showing anything, the third umpire relies on stump microphone. This creates a lot of doubt.”
Then he touched on one of the core issues. “If an umpire gives a batsman out leg-before on half-a-ball or less, his decision stays.
“If he had given ‘not out’ too on the same delivery, his decision is not over-turned. This should not happen.”
Given the level of DRS-related discontentment in the Ashes — several umpiring ‘howlers’ were on view — there are moves within the ICC to increase the number of unsuccessful referrals in a Test innings to three.
S. Ramakrishnan, CEO, SportsMechanics revealed, “The cameras for Hawk-Eye have to be in line with stumps on both sides. But this is not possible in some stadiums because of their structure. This can create errors.”
He said the Hawk-Eye collected data from the ball’s release to the point of impact, using hundreds of frames, employing high-speed cameras.
Room for error
Once the ball made contact with the pad, Hawk-Eye used the data collected to predict the sphere’s future course, including its deviation (if any) and height using mathematical predictive calculations.
“There is always room for a marginal but critical error here since it is predictive,” said Ramakrishnan.
The DRS results on fuller-length balls, he pointed out, could have a larger room for error since there is less data collected after the ball landed.
Ramakrishnan said Hawk-Eye used infra red imaging system to measure the heat generated when the ball hit the bat.
Since it worked on friction created, there were some who believed Hot Spot did not detect thin edges.
The Hot Spot could falter, he said, in certain cold conditions or under a cloud cover where there is less heat generated, adversely impacting the thermal imaging system.
Further, if there were tapes on the willow like a silicon film or polymica, or vaseline or just a coating on the bat, it could mask the thermal footprints.
Clearly, the DRS has to evolve.