Over the years cricket has incorporated into the game a few of the technological advances available. There have been some rejections of technology, such as the use of aluminum cricket bats, but generally the ICC have been rightly cautious about making changes to the game that will impact the players and spectators. Here are discussions about a few of the technological innovations that are in cricket or are being discussed about being included.
In international cricket, the third umpire has been used to supplement the role of the two umpires on the ground. The third umpire is equally qualified, and sits off the ground with access to TV replays of certain situations (such as disputed catches and boundaries) to advise the central umpires. The umpires out on the field are in communication via wireless technology with the other umpire. The third umpire is also asked to adjudicate on run out decisions, which he makes without consultation with the two central umpires.
Cricket has joined some other sports and have played around with an umpire referral system. It was first trialed in 2008 (in a Test series between Sri Lanka and India). Unlike in tennis where the challenge and referral decision is clear cut using hawke-eye technology, the cricket referral is adjudicated by the third umpire, and is open to further errors. The actual way it works may change and develop, but when it was first brought in this is how it worked.
Players are allowed to challenge decisions made by the on-field umpires, and have them referred to the TV official. For each innings of the Test, each team can challenge any decisions, though they will be limited to three unsuccessful challenges per innings. Only the batsman on the receiving end of the umpire’s original decision or the captain of the fielding side can appeal by making a “T” sign with both forearms at shoulder height. The third umpire uses the technology of the hot spot and slow motion replays at different angles to gain information and make decisions.
It all sounds great for the players and viewers at home, but the pressure is on the umpires. In reality, the process takes too long and can distract from the game. When there are challenges left near the end of an innings, players tend to make frivolous challenges on the off chance of getting a decision overturned. So there are still problems that need to be ironed out, but a great step forward for cricket.
- Hawkeye - A computer system first used in 2001 for showing the path of a cricket ball. It is a commonly used and indispensable tool for cricket commentators around the world to confirm the umpires decisions. Why not let the umpires see it too?
The system was first used during a Test match between Pakistan and England at Lord's Cricket Ground, on 21 April 2001, in the TV coverage by Channel 4. Since then it has been an indispensable tool for cricket commentators around the world. It is used primarily by the majority of television networks to track the trajectory of balls in flight, mostly for analyzing leg before wicket decisions. In this case, Hawk-Eye is able to project the likely path of the ball forward, through the batsman's legs, to see if it would have hit the wicket. Currently this information is not used by the umpires to adjudicate on LBW decisions - it is only available to television viewers, although in the future it may be adopted by the third umpire. Currently the central umpire only get to see it once - and they have to make their minds up instantly.
The ball by ball tracking by the Hawk-Eye system allows the broadcasters to showcase many other features of the game, such as comparing the bowlers' speeds, spin, swing, line and length.
Although Hawkeye is very accurate in measuring the actual path of a ball, when it comes to predicting the future path of the ball, such as in LBW decisions, it is not as clear. If the ball is heading to the pitch, there's no way Hawk-eye can tell if a delivery is going to skid a bit more than normal or hit a crack, bit of grass, or worn patch of the pitch. The predicted path of the ball is based on the average and expected pathway.
- Snick-o-Meter - a very sensitive microphone located in one of the stumps, which can pick up the sound when the ball nicks the bat. This technology is only used to give television audiences more information and to show if the ball did or did not actually hit the bat. Unfortunately the umpires does not get the benefit of seeing 'snicko'.
This technology is used in televised cricket matches to graphically show the video of the ball passing the bat at the same time the audio of any sounds at the time. It is only used to give the television audience more information and to show if the ball did or did not actually hit the bat. The umpires does not get the benefit of seeing 'snicko'.
As the ball passes the bat, there can be other noises that can be confused with the ball on bat noises. The bat often hits the pads on the way through, making a sound at the same time the ball passes the bat. The sound/sound wave is purpotedly different for bat-pad and bat-ball, but this is not always clear. The shape of the recorded soundwave is the key - a short sharp sound is associated with bat on ball. The bat hitting the pads or the ground produces a flatter sound wave.
Note that the umpire does not have the benefit of the snickometer, and must instead rely on his senses of sight and hearing, as well as his own personal judgement.
Cricket is a sport steeped in tradition. Making changes to the rules that have been in place for a long time is not taken lightly. In addition to uses of technology that are discussed above, here are a couple more ideas
- Give the umpires some feedback about whether a front foot no ball has been made. They could have some technology which gives the umpire a beeping sound if the bowler crosses the popping crease, like in tennis for let or fault calls. This will mean that the umpire does not need to be distracted and looking down as the bowler delivers the ball, and can focus on what the batsman does.
- This has been trailed to some degree, but every batsman should be allowed to challenge a decision if he feels that he's got a wrong one, which can then be referred to the third umpire. Viewers at home get much more information than the umpire, which only makes the umpire look incompetent. Why not change the way things are done so that the right decision is made all the time.