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 (, CC BY 2.0)

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

Frame Grab Cricinfo

Decision Review



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.

Decision Review

Last week, Simon Taufel observed in his Spirit of Cricket lecture:

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.

Umpire Performance


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.

Photo Credits

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

Umpires stroll out (Will, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Talking About Gambling

News of the outcome of the trial this week of three test cricketers charged with match-fixing has coincided with the publication of two reports about gambling in the ACT in Australia and the release of a Policy Discussion Paper by the Coalition.

The reports are from researchers at the Australian National University. The research was funded by the ACT Gambling and Racing Commission. Their titles are:

Profiling Problem Gambling Symptoms in the Australian Capital Territory: Socioeconomic and Demographic Characteristics and Gambling Participation

Help-seeking and Uptake of Services Amongst People with Gambling Problems in the ACT

Dr Tanya Davidson, one of the researchers, noted that “we need to better understand the experiences and views of people developing gambling problems to ensure that early intervention strategies are attractive and appropriate.”

Problem gambling and the measures proposed to address it were the subject of a Coalition Policy Discussion Paper released 2 November. The Paper presents a number of options that include:

  • A national voluntary pre-commitment program
  • A new training requirement for persons working in the gambling industry based on the ‘Responsible Service of Alcohol’ model to educate a broad range of staff to identify problem gamblers, detect the warning signs of excessive gambling and provide ways to help address and prevent it
  • More and better targeted counselling and support services
  • A nationally consistent ‘self-exclusion’ programme, including consideration of extending self-exclusion programs to third parties, such as immediate family members
  • Prohibiting betting firms offering credit to gamblers
  • Prohibiting the promotion of live odds during the live broadcast of a sports event
  • Possible extensions to the protection regime regarding online gambling established by the Interactive Gambling Act 2001.

Dr Davidson notes that “knowing which population subgroups are most at risk is immensely valuable for adapting gambling education, awareness and harm reduction strategies and targeting them appropriately”.

Events in London and Australia provide excellent opportunities to asses these risks and establish consensus about their management  … otherwise we do have a lottery!


My colleague James Neill has alerted me to this chapter on Gambling in a Wikiversity book on Motivation and Emotion. I include this reference here with my thanks to James and the student author.

A day after this post was written three players and a player agent received custodial sentences for their roles in match fixing.

Photo Credits

Cricket under dark skies

Gambling women, Trade Centre, Finland