The DRS Debate Is Getting Out Of Hand

I understand that different people have different opinions on DRS and the current series-by-series policy. I have long been an opponent of any additional use of technology in the game (I’m an old man in many other ways), but I want to note just how unjustly skewed the debate has become.

If an umpire makes a call that is confirmed to be “correct” by Hotspot or EagleEye, the commentators will merely note that it was a good decision, and how difficult it is to be an umpire today. If they’re being really charitable, they’ll show what the umpire saw in real time. That’s it.

If an umpire makes a “bad” call that is revealed to be as such by technology, however, all hell breaks loose. The wronged batsman will lay out his personal views in the post-match press conference, the commentators will have an extended discussion about what went wrong, and Twitter catches fire. Little is said about the number of correct decisions that are made, and how they outnumber the bad ones. Even less is said challenging whether or not technology has delivered an “objective” review (in the case of Cowan’s dismissal, for example, I’m still not sure what happened). In other words, the scales are not equally placed: a “bad” decision receives many times the attention that a good decision does.

The anti-DRS crowd (with whom my allegiance lies) will lose this battle if it keeps being played out this way. Some bloggers (A Cricketing View, for e.g.) have done admirable work questioning the assumptions that technologies like ball-tracking and what not use. At this point, I can only hope broadcasters will slap a label that reads “This recreation is loosely based on true events” whenever Hawkeye is displayed.

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4 thoughts on “The DRS Debate Is Getting Out Of Hand

  1. Krishna says:

    Let me play devil’s advocate here a bit.

    First, this is true of all thankless jobs. If your wicketkeeper takes 4 catches and drops one sitter, the last one will be talked about more. Nobody ever talks about how few byes the wicketkeeper let through. By the same token, umpires are supposed to get decisions right. When they miss something, obviously that is going to be talked about more. And this has happened in the past even when no technology was available.

    Second, when a batsman is given not out, the match resumes instantly and there is less time for discussion. When a batsman is out, you obviously see the replays again and again at least for a couple of minutes.

    Third, this can be life and death for a batsman. Take Mike Hussey, who is under pressure to make a good score. India has a good chance to win this Test and if so, heads will roll. Hussey already got one decision wrong and is one bad stroke OR one poor decision away from the end of his Test career.

    • duckingbeamers says:

      Yup, all good points, Krishna. I’m not saying there’s any bias on the parts of the commentators — it’s just the natural way the debate is taking shape.

  2. Russ says:

    There is an interesting subtext to the discussion of “correct” decisions as well. The ICC cites 92% of umpiring decisions as correct and 97% using DRS. But to make that claim they’ve used the technology to assess “correctness”. Which means two things:

    a) The limitations of the technology are being ignored – or not discussed. What percentage of decisions are “controversial”, meaning difficult for the umpire, as opposed to clearly not out? What percentage are undecided by the technology; what percentage have been wrong, and how do we assess technology, in order to know what is being correct?

    and b) The current implementation of DRS is only correcting 62% of wrong decisions, which is quite low. Surely supporters of the idea that “the aim ought to be to get as many correct decisions as possible” are upset that the particular scheme being used has such limited success?

  3. Chrisps says:

    I would extend Krishna’s point that attention is invariably focused on failures to the coverage of DRS itself. For example, the failure of hot-spot to detect thin edges in a few cases gets more comment than its routine ability to enhance the perspective of the naked eye.

    As a supporter of technology in decision making, I admit to disappointment as more frailties of the existing kit are exposed. However, I don’t expect a technology to be 100% accurate for it to be useful and used (not that I know how we’ll tell when we reach ultimate accuracy). The technology will improve, as long as cricketers, umpires etc work with the engineers behind the technology. I fear a divide developing.

    There also needs to be a recognition that we aren’t now where we want to be in 5 yrs time. Mistakes will be made on the way to finding better systems for decision making – technical and human (review appeals, etc.). That’s inevitable as cricket moves with the culture around it (remember that the DRS technology will be avaiable to tv producers however it’s used in the game).

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