A birthday, a cat and a review system

erwin_schrdingers_126th_birthday-2002007-hpIt is Erwin Schrödinger‘s 126th birthday today.

Google is celebrating the occasion.

I was thinking about Erwin and his cat two days ago. I was prompted by Nikita Bastian’s post titled The Schrödinger’s umpire’s call in Cricinfo’s The Stands.

Schrödinger’s Cat is a fascinating thought experiment that resonates particularly well with the decision review system in cricket. I liked Nikita’s post title as it amplifies the paradox of the Cat experiment.

In his discussion of The Odd Quantum, Sam Treiman includes umpires’ decisions in his discussion of quantum mechanics. He quotes Heisenberg (“we can no longer speak of the behaviour of the particle independently of observation”) and Bohr (“an independent reality can neither be ascribed to the phenomena or the agencies of observation”). Sam says of three baseball umpires:

  • First umpire “I calls them the way I see them”.
  • Second umpire: “I calls them the way they are”.
  • Third umpire: “They ain’t nothing till I calls them”.

These positions make an interesting synthesis of entanglement in quantum mechanics and decision review.

I thought this tweet in Nikita’s post summed it up nicely:


Roger and Decision Review Systems



The 2013 Ashes Series in England has provided abundant opportunities to consider the role of a decision review system (DRS) in cricket specifically and sport generally.

I have written three posts on Clyde Street about decision review in the last two weeks. The impetus for these posts has not been the very public debate about the accuracy of the system but rather Simon Taufel’s Spirit of Cricket lecture.



I have been reflecting on the lecture and the recent public discussion about decision review and as a result I have returned to read Roger Caillois’ Man, Play and Games. I am particularly interested in his views on agon (competition), alea (chance), paidia (spontaneous play) and ludus (the resolution of an intentionally created gratuitous challenge).

Roger observes with regard to agon:

A whole group of games would seem to be competitive, that is to say, like a combat in which equality of chances is artificially created, in order that, the adversaries should confront each other under ideal conditions, susceptible of giving precise and incontestable value to the winner’s triumph.

Games characterised by alea are “based on a decision independent of the player, an outcome over which he has no control, and in which:

winning is the result of fate rather than triumphing over an adversary. More properly, destiny is the sole artisan of victory, and where there is rivalry, what is meant is that the winner has been more favoured by fortune than the loser.

Roger defines paidia as “spontaneous manifestations of the play instinct”. In ludus “the tension and skill of the player are not related to any explicit feeling of emulation or rivalry; the conflict is with the obstacle”. Ludus requires effort, patience, skill and ingenuity.

Gonzalo Frasca suggests that “the difference between paidia and ludus is that the latter incorporates rules that define a winner and a loser, whereas the former does not”. Deborah Vosser notes that “the play instinct (paidia) gradually evolves into an adaptation characterized by the quest for the resolution of an intentionally created gratuitous challenge (ludus)”.

Game Playing and DRS


I find the juxtaposition of Roger’s ideas on the classification of games and DRS in sport fascinating.

I do feel that the mediation of sports performance with broadcast images and the re-presentation of any aspect of performance as an editorial decision for spectators not at the live event, raises fundamental issues about game playing.

As we have moved towards ludus in agon contest we have allocated more and more significance to measurement and accuracy. As it stands, the DRS in cricket has many anomalies and is struggling to deal with the role alea and paidia play in supporting a play spirit.

I perceive that one of the issues with decision review is the confusion between the craving for absolute accuracy and the desire to enhance real-time decision making … in a very small number of cricket games played around the world.

I am concerned that the drive to agon/ludus contests supported by pervasive technology will lose the alea/paidia dimensions that induct us into play and organised games.

To adapt Roger’s terminology, the move from alea-mentary play to agon-istic competition will upset everyone unless we can come to terms with the constrained probability of making absolutely correct decisions in real-time.

My interest is focussed on supporting real-time decisions in DRS and non-DRS environments.

In these environments we should be able to accept chance (alea) with a profound sense of play (paidia) … if we are to recruit, support and develop umpires willing to accept the opportunity to partner with players (and players with umpires) to offer intrinsically rewarding game play.

 Photo Credits

Drouin schoolboys playing cricket (National Library of Australia, no known copyright restrictions)

Drouin schoolboys playing cricket (1) (National Library of Australia, no known copyright restrictions)

Time for a Game of Cricket  (Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums, no known copyright restrictions)

Decisions and Curves


6216862343_19f2558e5e_oYesterday I wrote two cricket posts. The first was about the Decision Review System (DRS). The second was about Australia’s batting partnerships.

Decisions and Partnerships came into focus on the first day of play in the Third Test at Old Trafford.

Decision Review

The International Cricket Council (ICC) is trialling an independent DRS at Old Trafford. The Test is being played under existing DRS guidelines. These are specified in the ICC’s Standard Test Match Playing Conditions.

Given the debate the DRS prompted on Day 1 of the Old Trafford Test, I thought it might be instructive to look at the ICC regulations pertaining to DRS.

Standard Test Match Playing Conditions

These Conditions stipulate under Law 3 (Appointment and attendance) that:

3.1.6 the ICC will appoint a third umpire who shall act as the emergency umpire and officiate in regard to the DRS. Such third umpire shall not be from the same country as the participating teams and shall be appointed from the ‘Elite Panel’ or the ‘International Panel’.
3.1.8 The Home Board shall also appoint a fourth umpire for each Test Match from its panel of first class umpires. The fourth umpire shall act as the emergency third umpire. In DRS Test Matches the fourth umpire shall be appointed from the “International Panel” or the “TV Panel”.

There is a separate appendix (Appendix 2) in the Standard Test Match Playing Conditions that deal with the Decision Review System (DRS). Appendix 3 in the document refer to the DRS Third Umpire Room and Television Broadcast Specifications. These specifications are circulated separately.

Appendix 2 (in 1.1) clarifies the distinction between “Umpire Review” (paragraph 2) and “Player Review” (paragraph 3).

Under General provisions in Appendix 2, the Conditions specify:

1.3 In particular, the Home Board is to ensure that a separate room is provided for the third umpire and that he has access to the television equipment and technology as specified in Appendix 3 so as to be in the best position to facilitate the referral and/or consultation processes referred to in paragraphs 2 (Umpire Review) and 3 (Player Review) below. (My emphasis.)
1.4 The ICC shall appoint an independent technology expert (ICC Technical Official) to be present at every series to assist the third umpire and to protect the integrity of the DRS process. (My emphasis.)

In paragraph 2, in the context of Umpire Review, it is indicated that:

The third umpire shall call for as many replays from any camera angle as is necessary to reach a decision. As a guide, a decision should be made within 30 seconds whenever possible, but the third umpire shall have the discretion to take more time. (My emphasis.)

2747376948_32beb83ac2_oPlayer Review is addressed in paragraph 3 of the Conditions. The Circumstances in which a Player Review may be requested (paragraph 3.1).

3.1 c) Only the batsman involved in a dismissal may request a Player Review of an ‘Out’ decision and only the captain (or acting captain) of the fielding team may request a Player Review of a ‘Not Out’ decision.

3.2 specifies The manner of requesting the Player Review.

3.2 b) The total time elapsed between the ball becoming dead and the review request being made should be no more than 15 seconds. The on-field umpire should provide the player with a prompt after 10 seconds if the request has not been made at that time and the player should request the review immediately thereafter. If the umpires believe that a request has not been made within the 15 second time frame, they will decline to review the decision.

3.3 specifies The process of consultation. Within this process:

a) On receipt of an eligible and timely request for a Player Review, the on-field umpire will make the sign of a television with his hands in the normal way.
b) He will initiate communication with the third umpire by confirming the decision that has been made and that the player has requested a Player Review.
c) The third umpire must then work alone, independent of outside help or comment, other than when consulting the on-field umpire. (My emphases.)
d) A two-way consultation process should begin to investigate whether there is anything that the third umpire can see or hear which would indicate that the on-field umpire should change his decision. (My emphasis.)
e) This consultation should be on points of fact, where possible phrased in a manner leading to yes or no answers.
f) The third umpire shall not withhold any factual information which may help in the decision making process, even if the information is not directly prompted by the on-field umpire’s questions. (My emphasis.)

3.3 h) specifies:

If despite the available technology, the third umpire is unable to answer with a high degree of confidence a particular question posed by the on-field umpire, then he should report that the replays are ‘inconclusive’. The third umpire should not give answers conveying likelihoods or probabilities. (My emphasis.)

Thereafter, 3.3 k) indicates that:

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.

and 3.3 l) mandates that:

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.

Paragraph 3.7 of Appendix 2 identifies the technology available to the third umpire in the DRS. Namely:

  • Slow motion replays from all available cameras
  • Super slow motion replays from all available cameras
  • Ultra motion camera replays from all available cameras
  • Sound from the stump microphones with the replays at normal speed and slow motion
  • Approved ball tracking technology
  • The mat, generated by the provider of ball tracking technology, not by the broadcaster
  • Hot Spot cameras

In addition “other forms of technology may be used subject to ICC being satisfied that the required standards of accuracy and time efficiency can be met”.

Disruptive Technology

The use of the DRS in cricket is still in a phase of disruptive technology. The move from on-the-field umpire decisions in real-time to the involvement of a third umpire in lapsed-time appears to have generated more discussions about the accuracy of the technology and the range of technology that is or should be available rather than about a game as a partnership between teams and officials.

Increasingly, I feel that if any game moves to the use of video for officiating verification, then the third official must take as long as it takes to come to a decision. The reason for having a lapsed-time system is to provide another layer of decision support. My caveat is that the longer the decision takes the more it is reasonable to believe that there is a benefit of doubt.

As the game of cricket becomes disrupted by technology there is a tendency to talk about “injustice”. There is a great deal of selective indignation about the DRS decisions.

The third umpire at Old Trafford is the current ICC Umpire of the Year. The umpire involved in one of the DRS decisions on Day 1, Tony Hill, has umpired tests matches since 2001.

If we do become overly concerned with the granularity of the technology at our disposal, I think we miss the point about game contests.  Umpire assessment data released by the ICC after the First Ashes Test reported that “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”.

The mediation of spectators’ involvement in game contests through broadcast re-view has fuelled the debate about whether those involved in games in real-time should access the images available to non-participants in lapsed-time.

I am hopeful that considered use of DRS will increase the accuracy of decisions towards 100%. I am hopeful that the current 4.2% gap might be managed through benefit of doubt and or an acceptance that rules do not bring about conformity … they bring about a different kind of non-conformity.


Meanwhile …

Yesterday I shared some batting partnership data and suggested that “To save the Series, Australia has to shift the curve to the right”.

The curve in question was:

A13 T3 Start

For the first time in the 2013 Ashes Series, Australia was able to develop batting partnerships at the top of the order in their first innings (having won the toss and chosen to bat).

A3 1 Day 1

Photo Credits

Old Trafford, Lancashire County Cricket Club (WeLiveCricket.com, CC BY 2.0)

Cricket Players at the Brit Oval (Hatters, CC BY-NC 2.0)

Frame Grab Cricinfo