Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Cricket and DRS - The Best is not the Enemy of the Good

by Girish Menon

The anonymous source who once wrote, 'To err is human; to really foul things up requires a computer' was spot on when it comes to cricket and its Dreadful Review System (DRS). After tragicomic incidents in the just concluded Ashes test, the world, as represented by Adam Gilchrist, has begun to appreciate India's 'Luddite' approach to the DRS. This writer feels that cricket and technology both need to evolve a lot before they can become mutually compatible and enhance the spectators' and players' experience.

Firstly, umpires in cricket need to adjudicate only on events based on facts and eliminate those decisions based on opinion or interpretation. The first casualty of such a change will need a repeal of the LBW law. Cricket should find a way of penalising those batsmen guilty of using unauthorised means of impeding the ball. For example one could modify the 'three strikes' rule in baseball and rule out any batsman who has illegally impeded a cricket ball three times. Thus this decision will be based on fact and will not rely on the convoluted law that explains an LBW decision. Along similar lines, all decisions made by umpires need to be evaluated on the fact-opinion dialectic and ways to eliminate opinion based decisions need to be found.

If this is done, then adjudicating a cricket match can be mechanised. However, the current level of technology in cricket leaves a lot to be desired both on the validity as well as the speed perspectives. The validity of the technology has been debated ad infinitum and I feel that once technology is used for fact based decision making then its validity will be convincing to even Luddites.

However currently used DRS technology has a problem with speed. Gordon Moore's axiom about a microprocessor's power doubling every eighteen months does not seem to hold true with the technology suppliers to the cricket industry. How else does one explain that Hotspot was not available to adjudicate on the Trott decision because 'its resources were concentrated on processing the earlier delivery'.

Thus cricket's struggle with DRS arises not only because of the shortcomings of technology but also because of some of its anachronistic traditions. While Voltaire has been quoted as saying, ' The best is the enemy of good', in the case of cricket and DRS Voltaire may be wrong. So both cricket and DRS need to evolve before the sceptics can be convinced about technology based decision making, until then some may even prefer human howlers.  

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