New Delhi: The Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS) has been one of the most widely debated topics in the cricketing world because of the controversies generated in recent times over accuracy of the technology. Different teams, current and former players have come up with their take on the review system, depending upon their share of experience with the technology.

Each individual is giving his part on the ‘hot’ topic, but still nothing is catching the ‘eye’ and the ‘feather’ touch is still missing. Before we get into a detailed analysis of the technology lets get an idea of the technology itself.

What is UDRS?
The UDRS is a new technology currently being used in International cricket. The system was first introduced in Test cricket for the purpose of reviewing the decisions made by the on-field umpires.

The new review system was officially launched by the International Cricket Council (ICC) on November 24, 2009 during the first Test match between New Zealand and Pakistan at the University Oval in Dunedin. It was first used in One-Day Internationals in January 2011, during England's tour of Australia. Recently, the ICC has made the UDRS mandatory in all international matches from October 1, 2011.

Each team is allowed to make unlimited successful or two unsuccessful review requests per innings during a match. Fielding team or the batting team may use the system to review a not out or an out decision. The fielding captain or the batsman being dismissed can ask for a review by signalling a "T sign” using both the arms.
The cost of using the UDRS technology is very high - approximately $56,000 per match day (close to Rs 25 lakh). So for a five day Test match, the cost would go upto Rs 1.25 crore.

Technology used

Hawk-Eye: Hawk-Eye is a computer based software system used in cricket, tennis and other sports to visually track the trajectory of the ball and display a record of its most statistically likely path as a moving image.

Hot Spot: Hot Spot is an infra-red imaging system used to determine whether the ball has struck the batsman, his bat or pad. Hot Spot requires two infrared cameras on opposite sides of the ground above the field of play that are continuously recording an image. Any suspected snick or bat/pad event can be verified by examining the infrared image, which usually shows a bright spot where contact friction from the ball has elevated the local temperature.
Snickometer: A Snickometer or Snicko, is used to graphically analyse sound and video, and show whether a fine noise, or snick, occurs as ball passes the bat.

Response to UDRS

The Decision Review System has generally received positive response from players and coaches since its launch, however there have been some criticisms as well.

Human errors cannot be completely eradicated out of the game but the fact that the technology used in the UDRS is also fallible is sometimes, quite conveniently ignored.
The creator of the ‘Virtual Eye’ has himself gone on to say that the technology has a ‘high percentage of inaccuracy’.

West Indies legend Joel Garner labelled the system a 'gimmick'. Contemporary West Indies player Ramnaresh Sarwan said he was not a supporter of the experimental referral system. Former umpire Dickie Bird also criticised the system, saying it undermines the authority of on-field umpires.

Pakistani spinner Saeed Ajmal expressed dissatisfaction over the Decision Review System after semi-final of 2011 Cricket World Cup against India. He said that DRS showed the line of the ball deviating more than it actually did.

The British company HawkEye published an official response over Sachin Tendulkar’s review of UDRS, which proves that the decision reversal was right.
Currently there has been many incidents due to which the reliability and accuracy of DRS is being questioned.

On the current India’s tour of England, Indian batsman Rahul Dravid was ruled ‘out’ three times without any conclusive evidence using DRS technology due to which the accountability of the DRS was questioned by captain Dhoni and many other current and former players.

During the India’s first ODI against England at Riverside in Chester-le-Street, Hot-Spot technology failed to register any nick when Dravid seemed to have edged Stuart Broad to keeper Craig Kieswetter. Third Umpire Marais Erasmus went with the noise and the original decision of on-field umpire Billy Doctrove was overturned.

The replays showed no signs of any nick on hot spot though a noise was evident on the sniko-meter which is not the actual part of DRS technology.

During the Test series, Dravid was dubiously given out caught at silly point by Alastair Cook even when hot spot did not show anything. But umpire Steve Davis reckoned that the ball had deviated and ruled Dravid out.

He was given out caught-behind in the second innings owing to a referral made by the England side. This time around it was the Snickometer which failed to register any edge, yet the decision went against Dravid.

The third Test match also had a similar incident when the ball hit the shoelaces of Dravid.  Though, Dravid himself walked.

In the ongoing Australian tour of Sri Lanka, Phil Hughes was given not out during the first Test at Galle by the ball tracking technology when it was rather clear that the ball had spun enough on a very dry pitch to hit the stumps, but the tracker just showed the ball going straight, missing the leg stump.

The main reason why these technologies fail on some occasions is because a ball tracker predicts the path of the ball after hitting the pad, so a computerised or a predetermined path programmed by software will not keep in mind the amount of spin, seam or the bounce the ball might have later on.

Similarly, the hot-spot is not able to pick up feather touches between the ball, bat, pads or gloves.

In conclusion, the UDRS system needs to be shored up and made consistent. There are still many flaws in the system which many think are unfair and only make things complex.

UDRS has continuously failed to impress large number of cricket administrators, ex-players and cricketers. If we use technology in any game it should be 100 per cent accurate and if that’s not the case it will definitely lead to controversies.

If ICC is still not sure about UDRS’s accountability and effectiveness it should again go for its trial at domestic level in all the cricketing nations.

It will help players and officials to understand its usage more effectively and accurately.

Introducing such technology at grass-root level will also help in the development of the game, especially in countries where cricket is still not a money spinner and the boards are not rich enough to afford such technologies.

UDRS was introduced in international cricket to help and improve umpiring decisions but it seems that what it has done till its induction is - it has increased the number of controversies related to umpiring and third umpire decisions.

(Tarun Sharda/JPN)