1. That Umpires do not reach decisions like a disembodied computing system does.
2. That this different method of making decisions means that in substance, the conclusions reached are different.
3. That marginal decisions are ones in which both Out and Not Out are equally reasonable decisions. Note, i say equally reasonable, not equally correct or accurate - the distinction is crucial precisely because an accurate decision is not possible.
Clarke LBW adds a wrinkle to this problem which is very interesting from my point of view, but is likely to infuriate DRS afficionados. Before I jump into this confounding situation, here are what I hold to be the different positions on the use of technology in cricket umpiring (or, in "DRS" as some people erroneously describe it):
1. Leave the decision to the Umpire on the field. Rely entirely on real time human judgment
2. Let the technology decide. Don't require the Umpire to make any decision in the case of LBWs. Let it simply be decided only by ball-track.
3. Lets use DRS because its better than nothing.
4. Let the Umpires decide when to use technology. Allow the TV Umpire to initiate reviews.
Of these, i think (2) is the strongest view logically, (4) is the best solution for cricket, (1) is Ok but unsustainable, and (3) is plainly silly.
Michael Clarke was not out because as he shaped to cut the ball that dismissed him, and transferred his weight onto his back foot, his back foot buckled just enough in the knee to push his knee outside the line of off stump in the instant that the ball hit the pad. In all other instances, every other piece of available evidence suggests that it was a dead plumb LBW decision. Interestingly, it was on twitter that i first learned that Clarke may just have been not out. I was unwilling to accept that single screenshot as being conclusive, so I did some inquiring on my own.
First I found a video of Clarke's dismissal. Then I extracted every frame from this video.
This gave me all the actual data available (not in HD or super slow motion, but in a normal frame rate of about 25 frames per second). Based on these, here is where the ball hit Clarke's pad. Here are two sets of consecutive frames. The first is at normal speed:
For a better view, see this sequence of 7 consecutive frames from the part of the video which shows the slow-motion camera with the higher frame rate.
But here's the confounding thing. In my original post (I use this from Haigh's blog since he quotes the key portion), I proposed an experiment. I suggested that a marginal LBW appeal is one, which, if made to 100 experienced professional umpires, would be ruled Out and Not Out roughly equally. Yet, here is a decision, which, I wager, nearly every Umpire would have given Out in real time. Yet, the information available from studying the individual frames of video reveals quite conclusively that impact was outside off stump.
It is doubtful whether any umpire could even have known (in the sense, could have deduced from evidence) that the impact was outside off stump, since the batsman was hit on the move. The pad moved out and then back in line, all within a fraction of a second. From the time that the ball approached the pad, to the time bounced off the knee roll, less than 1/10 of 1 second must have elapsed. In the normal speed video, the ball touches the pad in exactly 1 frame. In the preceding and following frame, there is a clear distance between ball and the pad. All other available evidence shows (1) the pad in line the stumps, (2) the ball approaching the stumps.
The simplest, narrowest way to put it, would be that the evidence available to make a decision in real time is fundamentally different from that available to an individual with a video replay of the event which can be played back and forth. That video provides new information is not new. Eadweard Muybridge famously settled a bet about the gait of a horse by using moving pictures. In the case of the LBW, it reveals facts about LBW appeals which could not possibly be known in real time. The Umpire cannot be reasonably accused of being wrong here.
Consider what the Umpire saw in real time - the batsman, very deep in his crease, impact very tight on off stump, the batsman being beaten by the misbehavior off the pitch (this is something an umpire can know, but a machine can't know - a machine can at best estimate this statistically), every player on the field was genuinely convinced about the appeal. In such an instance, no Umpire is likely to dwell on a faint doubt that the ball may have hit the pad just outside off stump.
On the other hand, consider another type of appeal, say one in which the batsman is pressing forward, bat and pad very close together. The batsman gets hit on the move, but the ball has about 7 feet to travel after hitting the pad (as opposed to about 2 feet in Clarke's case). In such an instance, a reasonable Umpire will dwell on the point of impact far more and is likely to reach a not out decision much more readily.
It is not surprising that the people who felt that the Umpire may have been wrong (like my twitter interlocutor) were ones invested in Clarke doing well. I tend to view LBW decisions against Indian batsmen far more critically as well. It all depends on what one is hoping to find.
So, in this instance, the following things are true -
1. Based on the video replay, Clarke should have been Not Out.
2. The Umpire could not possibly have known this in real time, and in real time, Clarke had to be Out.
3. This was an appeal which, if given to my 100 professional Umpires, the overwhelming majority would have ruled it Out in real time, while nearly all would have reversed their decision upon seeing the replay.
In a recent article, Ian Chappell suggested that marginal decisions rarely upset players on the field. "There never has been, nor will there ever be, a case where a 50-50 decision causes animosity on the cricket field. Players are conditioned to accept that one day these decisions will go your way and the next they'll go against you. What does cause animosity on the field is the absolute howler that can change the course of a match."
In this case, even Clarke seemed to have no doubts about the LBW. I doubt that he would have reviewed it. If he did, it would probably have been one of those desperate, cynical, tactical reviews. Clarke's immediate reaction was to stare down ruefully at the spot on the pitch from which the ball had turned and shot through unusually low. The sense on the field, in the commentary box, and even on Cricinfo's commentary (the pitch was playing "naughty tricks", they said), there was no doubt that it was out.
Yet, it wasn't out if you relied on the replay.
And there, as this rare case shows, lies the core problem - one still has to choose a mode of judgment. One cannot eliminate judgment itself.