Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Cricket, Physics and the Laws of Probability

In the recently concluded test match between New Zealand and England an event occurred which in this writer's opinion once again questions the predictability of an lbw decision as a method of dismissing a batsman and especially the DRS system which is being touted as a scientific fact. On the last ball of the 99th over in the England second innings the ball, to quote Andy Zaltzman in Cricinfo:

The ball ricocheted from Prior's flailing bat/arms/head, and plonked downwards, in accordance the traditions of gravity, onto the timbers. It did not brush the stumps. It did not snick the stumps. It did not gently fondle the stumps. It hit the stumps. The bails, perhaps patriotically mindful of their origins in early cricket in England all those years ago, defied all the conventional principles of science by not falling off.

If the stumps and bails had behaved as cricketing precedent and Isaac Newton would have expected them to behave, England would have been seven wickets down with 43 overs left.

If the ball having hit the stumps fails to dislodge the bails then doesn't it introduce even more uncertainty into a DRS based lbw decision which its supporters claim to be irrefutable evidence? This incident requires that in an lbw appeal the DRS should not only predict whether the ball, if not impeded by the batsman illegally, would have gone on to hit the stumps but also if it would dislodge the bails.

Supporters of the DRS rely on the infallibility of scientific laws to promote their support for technology. Then, like true scientists they should admit the weakness of their science whenever an anomaly appears. Assuming for a moment that these scientific laws are infallible then how do they explain the reprieve that Prior obtained? Also, shouldn't the DRS have been used to declare Prior out since the ball had actually hit the stumps?

Hence I would like to make a suggestion which may unite the supporters and opponents of the DRS. I suggest that the LBW as a method of dismissing a batsman should be struck off from the laws of cricket. Instead, a run penalty should be imposed on the batsman every time the ball comes in contact with an  'illegal' part of his/her body. The DRS could be used to adjudicate on this decision. The penalty could be  ten runs and increasing every time the batsman uses such illegitimate methods to stay at the crease.

I look forward to a debate.

Related article

Abolish the LBW - it has no place in the modern world

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