The Hawk-Eye Scandal

A Cricketing View posted this wonderful post on Hawkeye over the weekend, and I don’t think it’s got the attention it deserves. There are somewhat explosive new details about the Hawkeye technology contained. Take, for e.g., this e-mail from Paul Hawkins of Hawk-Eye Innovations:

We have proposed on a number of occasions the idea of presenting an “uncertainty ellipse” around the ball, but all broadcasters have rejected the idea for a number of reasons:

1) Almost all commentators are ex cricketers, and generally not that scientifically bright. They would have no ability to explain what an uncertainty ellipse is

2) Broadcasters prefer a “definitive” where was the ball going – some commentators are then good at interpreting that information saying something like: “Hawk-Eye shows it just clipping leg stump, so a good decision to give the benefit to the batsman”

3) If the uncertainty ellipse is supposed to reflect Hawk-Eye error, then the ellipse would be so small around the ball that you would not see it around the ball

In the heated comments section in the post, Kartikeya rightly points that this isn’t just about the merits of the URDS system (though it is, partially). It’s also about how the truth is “socially produced” — we have been told, again and again, that technology and science will lead to precise measurements that will displace human error. But the new technologies in place include their own mistakes (witness cameras’ complete inability so far to tell us whether or not a fielder took a clean catch, e.g. Michael Hussey v. Kamran Akmal, Headingley).

When commentators look at Hawkeye projections after an appeal, they usually tend to give them full credence, as if they are the last word on the subject (X was unlucky; Y was not). But it’s important to realize that even though those bails fall off then the computer’s ball hits the stumps, there is a margin of error — and no matter how small, should, in the interests and spirit of science, be mentioned or credited.

(For the record, I’m not as uncompromising a Luddite as I may sound. If we had to introduce more technology into the game, I’d be happier if any initiative to review came from the umpire, and not the players themselves. Briefly, I argue this because I believe the umpire is a much more crucial figure in the game than we let on (I don’t buy into the notion that we only come to “watch me bat, not you umpire”). If umpires have questions about a particular appeal, let them question the third umpire about it on their own.)


2 thoughts on “The Hawk-Eye Scandal

  1. Mahek says:

    Blame it on the commentators then, but it’s not like they’re accurate with everything else either. The ICC has already incorporated the margin of error in UDRS, it’s just that some people can’t see it.

  2. Wes ~PFCNFS~ says:

    Hawkeye’s error margin will probably always be there but at least in case of catches I think there is room for improvement concerning the resolution of the picture and the number of frames per second, but that’s a matter of money, and won’t be done in the near future seeing that the ICC is struggling to actually introduce the UDRS to all Tests in the first place. I agree that it makes no sense to give the team a limited number of referrals but this adds a new tactical aspect to the game, the captain or batsmen have the make a decision that could prove costly with regard to the outcome of the match. So far I have enjoyed the UDRS more than found it useful.

    Very nice blog, blogrolled you 🙂


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