Umpiring in the 21st Century
Russell Degnan

Much of the debate over UDRS doesn't object to the technology, so much as the means taken to adjudicate on it. Having players question the umpire's decision is an unedifying spectacle, and slows the game down. This is doubly ironic when you consider that a different process might achieve the same results without a referral at all.

Globally available light-weight smart-phones with sufficient processing and communications power exist to convey information to the centre instantly. The on-field technology of the UDRS - essentially a walkie-talkie and a request for an off-field assessment - is an anachronism in a world of instant communication.

We present here, therefore, several proposals for improving umpiring, based on readily available technology, that would improve decision making, and speed up the game.

Instant Umpire Decision System

Availability: could be implemented tomorrow

The not-so-humble smart phone is the key to improving umpiring. Fundamentally, it is no more than a small, light-weight computer and screen with wireless connectivity. The information assessed post-decision by the third umpire is quite straight-forward: did the ball pitch outside leg? did the ball hit the batsman in line? would it have gone on to hit the stumps? More importantly, that information is stored electronically and available relatively quickly. There is no reason, therefore why it could not be conveyed via a wireless antenna in the broadcasting box to an application on the umpire's smart phone prior to them making the original decision.

With a quick glance to confirm (or over-turn) their original impression, the umpire could make their decision with the same level of accuracy as the existing UDRS process, but all on the field.

But that isn't the only modern technology that could be applied, with a little work.

Edge Detection

Availability: technology is available

HotSpot has been a mixed experience. Good for tv viewers but unreliable because the bat is not always clearly visible, or the mark sufficiently noted. The technical solution is the application of touch sensitive strips to bats. measuring as little as 0.5mm. These would easily sense the ball, and the size and width of contact. However, they also need to be connected to a wireless chip (with a close proximity receiver), a battery and chip. The weight (perhaps 30g) and size (25x5mm) would be no problem, and the chipset could be taped in below the bat handle. Add a light-weight accelerometer and other tv-centric information like bat-speed could be sent via the broadcaster.

No-ball Detection

Availability: needs research

This is significantly more complex than it seems. The law only requires that some part of the foot land behind the line, not be grounded making it difficult to distinguish between a foot passing over the line, and one that has landed. More difficulties arise with the technology. Curvature of the ground would prevent the sort of fault-line technology used in the tennis while anything laid on the ground would quickly be destroyed by bowler's spikes. The most likely option would seem to be visual recognition technology similar to that used by hawkeye, to detect where the foot landed.

Instant referral is a must, however. in this day and age, there is no reason why an umpire must rely on a man in a box to convey the same information they could have had sent to them on demand.

Thanks to Achettup and Kartikeya for inspiring this piece.

Cricket - Articles 8th October, 2010 12:25:09   [#] 


Umpiring in the 21st Century
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Alex Corcoran  8th October, 2010 22:31:05  

Smart phones
Great ideas here - particularly the smart phone one. Although I suppose the only danger would then be that they would stop relying on their naked eye and ears perhaps which could be detrimental i.e. if there was a faint nick. Still definitely something that could be looked into!
Bradders  14th October, 2010 16:22:38  

Umpiring in the 21st Century
Bradders, thanks. I agree, and it occurred to me that it might make umpires conservative. On the other hand, being able to see, before you make a decision that, no, you aren't about to be accused of incompetence by the tv commentary or players, would be a huge boost to the confidence of the umpire.
Russ  14th October, 2010 21:13:31