Umpire’s call

The Decision review system (DRS) has an annoying, if not fatal, flaw when dealing with LBW reviews, that flaw is “umpire’s call” ruling. Non-sense fence-sitting rubbish. The technology is there to remove the non-sense fencing sitting rubbish not contribute to it. The ball is either going on to hit the stumps or it isn’t. It really should be that simple. There should be no grey area. Grey areas just make people grumpy.

The problem.

Lets look at few example to she how and when the “umpire’s call” comes into play. (If any part of these scenarios are incorrect please let me know.)

  1. Batsman is struck on the pads, bowler appeals, batsman is given “out”, batsman reviews and the ball is found to be crashing into middle stump. Decision up held, and rightly so, batsman has wasted a review. This is fine.
  2. Batsman is struck on the pads, bowler appeals, batsman is given “out”, batsman reviews and less than half the ball is found to be hitting leg stump. DRS rules “umpire’s call” and the original on-field “out” decision stands – in the bowler’s favour. Ok…
  3. Exactly the same as above, but this time the on-field umpires gives it “not out”. This time, the bowler reviews and again less than half the ball is found to be hitting leg stump. DRS once again rules “umpire’s call” and the original “not out” decision stands – but this time in the batsman’s favour.

The end result here is the complete opposite despite it being the exact same delivery simply because the on-field decision was different. How does that make any sense?

Another contentious point is surrounding what percentage of the ball has to be hitting the stumps. At the moment, my understanding is that, at least 50% of the ball must be hitting the stumps for the decision to be changed. So…

  1. If the on-field call is “out” and only 49% of the ball is hitting the stumps then “umpire’s call” keeps the decision as “out”.
  2. Yet, if the original on-field call is “not out” and only 49% of the ball is hitting the stumps then “umpire’s call” keeps the decision as “not out”.

Again, technology has adjudged a different end result despite it determining that the same amount of the ball has hit the stumps on both occasions.

Now if that ball shifts 2% (so 51% is hitting), then the two decisions flip, both get overruled, “out” becomes “not out” and vice-versa. I know its can be a game of millimetres, but come on. Confusing much?

The only “logic” I can come up with for why this is the case to begin with is so that batsman and bowlers have similar chances of the decision going their way. But even that is debatable.

The easy solution.

How do you fix this? Easy, remove the grey area. The ball is either going on to hit the stumps or it isn’t. Doesn’t matter if he whole ball is crashing into middle or if 1% of it is clipping the edge of off, DRS should rule them the same. Hitting the stumps is out, missing them is not. Of course batsman, bowlers and fans alike are still going to get grumpy if decisions don’t’ go their way, but at least it would give us some consistency.

Think of it like this. For a batsman to be out bowled it doesn’t matter how much of the ball hits how much of the stump, as long as the bails come off then it is out. Everyone accepts this, with that in mind…

A better solution.

How about this for a crazy idea? We’re already using technology, let’s take it up a notch. Get an independent (secret code for “no connection to the BCCI”) body to run computer simulations under the direction of the ICC to determine exactly how much of the ball needs to hit how much of the stump to dislodge the bail on an accurately modelled and simulated set of stumps AND bails – preferably also taking into account ball speed.

In other words, we’re not just looking at if the ball is thumping or clipping the stumps, we are looking at whether it would have actually dismissed the batsman by bowling him (ie. hitting enough of the stumps, hard enough, to successfully dislodge the bails) had he missed it entirely. And we know that the ball doesn’t have to hit much of the stump to dislodge the bails, take Michael Clarke’s first innings dismissal at the hands of Jimmy Anderson as an example (pictured). So, why then, should a reviewed LBW call have to have more than half the ball hitting? That makes sense right?

This would then become the clear, black and white, threshold point for the DRS rulings. Anything within the threshold is “out” 100% of the time, everything outside the threshold is “not out” 100% of the time. No “umpire’s call”, no grey area and a better understanding why one delivery is out and one is not.

This “solution” likely still wouldn’t satisfy everyone, and of course it doesn’t look at thing like edges – which should be easy enough to get right (although it’s still not always the case). Nor does it look at whether the ball was pitching or hitting inline both of which have frustrating grey areas of their own, but both could be similarly solved by the removal, or at least clarification, of any grey area.

A reluctant compromise.

At the very least, if they won’t scrub out the “umpire’s call” ruling entirely, then they need to amend the rules surrounding how many challenges a team receives so that when a ruling comes back as “umpire’s call” then the team that called for the review does not lose that review, just the same as they would if the review were successful. It just seems unfair to penalise the team if the umpires with all their technology can’t come a conclusive decision.

So, if the DRS process can have some of these oddities cleaned up or removed entirely then players, umpires and spectators will all trust it more – after all it is not the accuracy of the technology that I’m necessarily concerned about, its the way that accuracy is being interpreted. Who knows, we might even convince a certain sub-continental cricket board to get with the times and accept its use.