Aakash Chopra

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Former India opener Aakash Chopra is one of the best thinkers and writers on the game. Find out more at www.cricketaakash.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @cricketaakash

DRS: Take it or leave it

What's the most fundamental reason for trusting technology over human competence? Accuracy, I'd assume. If that is achieved, there shouldn't be a doubt on exploiting it to its utmost. Yet, if its design doesn't allow an infallible fact finding system, it must start a debate.


Let me tell you from the outset that I've always been in favour of using technology, for that's the way forward, whether we like it or not. When everything else around us is evolving at break-neck speed, then why should cricket be allowed to slumber in the stone age? Just to reiterate my point, I must tell you that I haven't come across a batsman worth his salt who is okay to be given out when he isn't, or a bowler who approves of having his appeal turned down when he's 100% sure of claiming another scalp. Just to add to the drama, the broadcasting technology has improved manifold,  which gives the viewers the access to accurate information with regards to every dismissal.


What a pity then that the men - the umpires who bear the onus of taking that vital decision, just on the basis of what they judge from the naked eye and at the spur of the moment - have been unfairly denied the access to that all important information. And this, when most of us have all along admitted that some of the technology being used is actually foolproof. Like in the case of a hot spot that would show the edges, and a snicko would do the same.


While these two have been trustworthy since their inception, Hawk-eye has been the bone of contention for many. I too have doubted its accuracy with regards to the predictive path. Commonsense told me that it must be impossible to know where the ball would finish post the interception,  especially on different tracks. Would it have tracked the path of Shane Warne's famous 'ball of the century' to Mike Gatting had it hit some part of Gatting's body or equipment? Or since the bounce differs from one track to the other, is it indeed impossible to be a 100% certain?


But Javagal Srinath, an ICC match referee, removed all my doubts. He told me that the predictive path is a 100% accurate because it doesn't take the conditions into account while showing us what would have happened had the ball not been intercepted. Yes, you read it right: it doesn't take the conditions into account because instead of calculating the complex and complicated bounce and turn, it follows a rather simple route of just following the path of the ball. And yes, going by what Srinath has told me, Hawk-eye would certainly have followed the path of the 'ball of the century' if it was intercepted.


If this settles the debate, then let's embrace the predictive path shown by the Hawk-eye to get accurate decisions. In any case, Hawk-eye was considered 100% accurate for other readings like the pitch of the ball and the point of impact, two extremely important aspects while judging LBW.


Then there has been the contentious issue of a batsman being more than 2.5 metres away from the stumps at the point of impact. Hawk-eye is not 100% accurate when the ball has to travel more than 2.5 metres, and hence it was decided that the predictive path must show the ball hitting the middle of the middle stump in order to be adjudged out. It was done to allow the buffer of a few centimetres, for if Hawk-eye shows it hitting the middle of the middle stump, even allowing for the technology's margin for error when the point of impact is 2.5 meters or more out, the ball would still hit the stumps. Fair enough!


Yet, even technology is leaving a lot to be desired. There are certain 50-50 decisions which are being referred back to the on-field umpire to take the final call. Yes, even technology is giving us 50-50 decisions, or perhaps it is the interpretation that is leaving the third umpires a wee bit confused. On these occasions the predictive path shows the ball clipping the stumps and not hitting it bang in the middle. It is in such cases that the call is being handed back to the on-field umpire.


Now, Law 36 states, besides other things like the impact and line etc, that the ball should hit the stumps if not intercepted. Nowhere does it mention that half of the ball or more of it should hit the stumps to be adjudged out. Then why isn't clipping the stumps considered hitting the stumps anymore? Or are we not 100% certain about the accuracy of the Hawk-eye's predictive path? If that is indeed the case, then why do we trust it when it shows it hitting the stumps and not grazing it?


In my opinion it's imperative to embrace the technology - but without ambiguity. I'm for trusting the predictive path, but then we must trust it completely. In human judgment there is room for grey areas, but with technology it has to be either black or white.

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