Sunday, August 21, 2011

DRS And Marginality

The extent of England's all-round superiority over India has been such that it has managed to push what many thought would be the hot button controversy magnet - the Decision Review System beyond the scope of our attention. Rahul Dravid, India's best batsman in this series, and now, the only one other than Sachin Tendulkar to have made 10,000 runs in a single batting position, must have thought quite a bit about DRS. On one previous occasion in this series, he was give out caught apparently off a shoe lace (he didn't ask for a referral). In the second innings at the Oval, he appeared to have gotten an inside edge in a bat-pad appeal. England's appeal was denied. They reviewed. Despite their being no conclusiveevidence on hotspot or the snickometer, the original decision was reversed and the Dravid was given out.

This creates an interesting situation. The Umpires made the correct decision between them, but under the DRS, their decision was in error. This is due to a condition in the DRS specification which requires that the consultation between the TV Umpire and the on-field Umpire must be about points of fact. The TV Umpire is prohibited from saying whether or not the On-field Umpire made a correct decision. His role is limited to providing the On-field Umpire with "facts".
j) The on-field umpire must then make his decision based on those factual questions that were answered by the third umpire, any other factual information offered by the third umpire and his recollection and opinion of the original incident.
k) The on-field umpire will reverse his decision if the nature of the supplementary information received from the third umpire leads him to conclude that his original decision was incorrect.
What were the facts supporting the TV Umpire's conclusions? He does get a high standard of audio and video information. Given that the decision was reversed, it must be assumed that conclusive evidence was conveyed to the On-field Umpire to reverse his decision. How can we reconcile this with the fact that the heat signature registered nothing conclusive? Umpire Davis, in effect made a marginal call. The correctness of his decision was later confirmed by Dravid himself. But was it correct within the remit of the DRS? As Subash Jayaraman points out here, there is a difference between Umpire Davis's role in an Umpire Review (as in the case of Suresh Raina's dismissal on third evening at the Oval) and his role in a Player Review. The Player Review involves reversing a decision, while the Umpire Review involves a situation where no decision has been made.

But here is where the DRS's problematic nature is illustrated. Far from serving the original purpose of solving howlers, the DRS has tried to eliminate marginality. The fact is, that because the technology has its own limitations, it introduces new areas of marginality to the situation. Hotspot doesn't always work. It works differently when it is sunny and when it is cloudy. This, in and of itself, is not a problem. It would be a mistake to make the perfect the enemy of the good in the case of DRS.

But the DRS's protocol needs significant review. While Umpires clearly possess the expertise to exercise specific judgments, the protocol, as it is currently written prevents them from doing so. The protocol has to make better use of the Umpire's judgment, and hopefully, some day, the ICC will see good sense and eliminate the Player Review and replace it with a pro-active 3rd Umpire Review.

DRS, as it currently stands, places the Umpire in an impossible position, because it prevents them from making the sort of judgment that Umpire Davis appears to have made. Marginality cannot be avoided. And marginality necessary requires inconsistency in rulings. It will be much better if the ICC's DRS accept this inconsistency by allowing the TV Umpire greater leeway when reviewing an Umpire's on-field decision.


  1. I have only seen an unsteady, blurry home-video recording of a TV set showing the replays on YouTube, so I can't really say with too much confidence that I saw a deflection from the camera at mid-off. But I've heard several people say they saw the deflection, and I would guess that Davis did too.

  2. It wouldn't be the first time guidelines have been misused if Davis did make any sort of 'inappropriate' judgment, but how have you reached the conclusion that he did, rather than just gave yes/no answers and other factual info that was enough to convince Tucker, just as the guidelines spell out?


  3. For a deflection to be reliable, the camera would have to be both still and use the same foreshortening for the said portion of the delivery. The feed from the hawkeye camera is the one that would be useful to determine this. Not sure if the broadcast cameras are reliable.

  4. The widespread view while the review was being considered, was that the evidence was inconclusive. Hotspot showed nothing. The snickometer registers a sound, but has no mechanism by which it can distinguish between sounds.

    The TV Umpire gets a feed on a 17 inch monitor with BITC.

    They're not getting any video that the public doesn't get to see.