A new Decision Review System (DRS) is being trialled by the International Cricket Council (ICC) at the Third Ashes Test at Old Trafford. The system provides the Third Umpire with independent access to video of a decision. A report from the ABC notes that “it will not yet be available to help the third umpire with his deliberations”. At present, the Third Umpire requests video playback from the TV producer.
No matter what system of technology review / referral we implement in our game, it will not be perfect or 100%. The all-human solution is not 100%, neither is the DRS and neither will be an “all appeals” review system. There are trade offs and compromises with every system adopted. It all depends how the majority believe our game should be played underpinned with the values we want to promote and preserve (the Spirit of Cricket).
DRS was one of the topics discussed by the MCC World Cricket Committee at its meeting at Lord’s on 15 and 16 July. At that meeting:
- It was a unanimous view of all members of the Committee present that the Decision Review System works, and undoubtedly helps the umpires to bring about more correct decisions on the field.
- The committee was unanimous in its opinion that it was the poor implementation and use of DRS that led to the controversies, rather than the system itself.
- A further benefit from universal use would be the ownership of the whole process by ICC rather than by television companies.
The members of the Committee are listed here. The Committee is an independent body comprised of current and former international cricketers and umpires from around the world. It meets twice a year to discuss prevalent issues in the game.
The ICC has published Umpire assessment data from the First Ashes Test.
- The umpires made a total of 72 decisions, which is well above the average (49) for a DRS Test match. The umpiring team was assessed to have made seven errors during the match, out of which three were uncorrected decisions and four decisions were corrected using the DRS.
- As such, the correct decision percentage before reviews stood at 90.3 per cent but climbed to 95.8 per cent as a result of the use of the DRS. This represented an increase of 5.5 per cent in correct decisions, which was the average increase from DRS Test matches in 2012-13.
Reflecting on Decision Making Ability
Two weeks ago, Malcolm Conn wrote about DRS in the Courier Mail. He suggested that “much of the time it is not the technology which creates the problem but the arbitrary rules put in place around it and those who use it”.
It will be interesting to see how Third Umpires develop their review skills with the new resources at their independent disposal. I think the volume of their work will be quite different to the decisions referees make about whether a goal has been scored in football.
Data from the First Ashes Test at Trent Bridge indicate that the umpires at that game adjudicated on 72 decisions about whether a batsman was out or in. The ICC noted “the conditions, with reverse swing and spin playing an important role, and the added intensity of the first Ashes Test, it was a difficult match to umpire”.
I do think the DRS does bring into focus, the Spirit of the Game. Michael Conn observed “Under the letter of the law players are quite entitled to stand their ground and wait for the umpires decision but there comes a time when they are so obviously out they should go”.
My hope is that being obviously out (or not out) remains the social contract between players. I believe absolute reliance on DRS is a path to moral hazard that transforms the play spirit of sport contests. My sense of DRS is that it supports this social contract and play spirit and exists to uphold both. I see this as a non zero sum approach to the flourishing of the game.