Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Should the DRS system use sound to dismiss batsman?

This article has been publish on “The Roar” as well

This has been a controversial issue throughout the Ashes. There is a caught behind decision that is referred to the DRS system. Hotspot shows nothing, but there is audio and the batsman are given out. Every time this has occurred there has been controversy with many people arguing that if hotspot shows nothing then the batsman shouldn’t be given out.

However, I disagree with that argument and I support the use of audio in the DRS system.
The reason is that throughout the history of Test cricket, on-field umpires have used a combination of sound and watching any deviation as a guide to dismissed batsman for caught behind decisions. There are many times throughout history where we see batsman being dismissed by on-field umpires based on sound alone for thin edges without any controversy.  Long before hotspot was invented, commentators would often judge the accuracy of the umpire’s decision on whether they can hear a sound during the replay.  

Considering that hotspot is known to have ‘false negatives’, audio should be used to assess whether the batsman has edge or not.  If we used the argument that decision needs a mark to show on hotspot to dismissed the batsman, then we might as well tell the on-field umpire not to used sound of an edge to dismiss batsman as well.  That they should only give a batsman out if they see deviation caused by an edge and therefore only thick edges would ever be given out in cricket.  I doubt many people would accept that umpiring standard in cricket especially when people argue that cricket is too batsman friendly already. It’s a bit hypocritical to demand on-field umpires to hear edges when making a decision whilst at the same time demanding third umpires to ignore sound.

There are a few people who argued that audio can be unreliable as it can hear sound unrelated to the edge like the squeaking of the glove.  However, I’ll argue that same standard could be applied to ignore any sound of the edge by the on-field umpire and hence ignore any audible edge as the audio in the DRS just shows what the umpire hears in the stump microphone. The stump microphones picks up what is going on the field and the chance that out of all the time the glove squeaks just at the moment the ball passes the bat is unlikely. We have to say that on the basis on probability it is far more likely the sound is caused by an edge if the bat is far away from the pad or the ground.  Also umpires can listen to the audio and make the judgment call on whether the audio sounds like a nick.

Now people may wonder that if audio of a nick is given a greater weighting than a blank hotspot then what’s the point of hotspot?

The issue with audio is that it has ‘false positives’ especially when there are issue of bat on pad or ball on pad or bat on ground and it’s difficult to determine what is the source of the sound in the audio.  Hotspot can be used to help determine whether there was a ball on bat impact in those scenarios where audio is unreliable.

I’m hoping that snickometer will eventually be incorporated into DRS. The reason why snickometer is not used in DRS is not necessarily due to inaccuracy but the slowness of the process of getting snicko available to the umpire in a timely manner. Right now snickometer requires a technician to manually sync up the audio from the stump microphone with the video footage and this can take minutes to prepare and since the synchronisation is done manually by a technician it is possible that human error and inconsistency could occur if the technician makes a mistake.

A timely review system requires information in a few seconds and also requires consistent synchronization of audio and video and that isn’t good enough.  However reports are that Alan Plaskett has developed a system called ‘Real Time Snicko’ or RTS, which is an automated system that could produce a snicko-type result within 5-10 seconds which will solve that issue.
There have been calls to introduce RTS to be incorporated in the DRS system and hopefully it will be ready for the Ashes in the Australian summer.  The combination of RTS and Hotspot will assist the umpire in making the correct decision for thin edges and in my opinion would improve the game.

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