Monday, November 8, 2010

Delivering Decisions

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When a business invests in new technology to better sales, it does not introduce it as a "Sales Decisions Review System" and have its salesmen second guessing themselves. Hospitals don't use technology to review a doctor's decisions. Banks don't invest in software to review a loan underwriter's decisions. All of them introduce technology as tools to empower their work force. They introduce technology as tools that enable salesmen, doctors and bankers to do their jobs better. To reduce errors. To make them better salesmen, doctors and bankers. Technology is rarely introduced to review and then over turn a decision made by experts.

Why then is cricket, where the umpire's decision is considered to be final, positioning and deploying technology as a "review" of the umpire's decisions?

Much has been made of BCCI's opposition to the UDRS, but all of it is due to its funding. Sachin Tendulkar and Mahendra Sing Dhoni too have spoken against it but both the comments miss what I think is fundamentally flawed about the UDRS.

It isn't about the technology and the need for it to be fool proof. Its about empowering the on-field umpire with the data; images, sounds, heat patterns, etc; available to "off field" umpires and millions of viewers and then allowing him to make a decision.

The process of challenge followed by a referral to an "off field" umpire and a final decision by the "off-field" umpire, undermines the authority of the on-field umpire. Its also distasteful. If players are expected to regard the on-field umpire as the ultimate authority, then the on-field umpire needs to always be in complete control of the game and make the big decisions. And if he needs data captured by the tools; hot spot, ball tracker, snick-o-meter, etc; he needs to be provided access to it.

When a fielding side appeals, the on-field umpire should be the exclusive person to determine the process of decision making, the tools to involve or not involve, and ultimately deliver the decision. If the players do not like the decision; there should be no challenges, no one else to go to.

The problem now becomes how to instantly deploy the data to the on-field umpire. How difficult can that be. Today I get all the data on my iPhone Thousands of miles away. The umpire is only a few yards from where the data is located. The underlying technologies in the UDRS will likely evolve to be more accurate but the process of delivery of decisions is flawed. That process needed to protect the on-field umpires authority and it's failed in that regard.


Mahek said...

Why have the third umpire at all then? I don't understand the whole undermining the authority of onfield umpires argument. The third umpire is also an official. More importantly, why should their authority be more important than ensuring players aren't hard done by some bad calls? Why is it such a big issue if a decision is reversed based on the data available to an official who is not on the field? Bringing all this into the equation only complicates a simple argument that we need to minimise the number of mistakes.

Golandaaz said...

Precisely...we won't need the 3rd umpire then. The on-field umpire becomes the sole provider of decisions. The way the process is evolving now....we won't need an on-field umpire. Between the on-field guy and the 3rd umpire, I would rather live to see the 3rd umpire gone than the on-field guy.

The whole introduction of the UDRS seems to make the on-field guy look redundant and foolish at times

Mahek said...

I don't think the UDRS has been introduced to make the on-field guy redundant. I see it as a backup for the times when the on-field umpire gets one wrong, which is bound to happen when you consider how strenuous umpiring can be. I mean if players make so many mistakes surely umpires would make some too. That is when you have the UDRS to rectify those mistakes and everyone can move on. Since the starting point of any referral is the original decision I don't think the on-field umpire is redundant. Besides, if a team uses its referrals brainlessly they have no choice but to rely on the on-field umpires.

Golandaaz said...

The way the process is wait for the umpire to make a decision without giving him all the data to make a correct one. I have a problem with that because this is not how technology is introduced and used in any other field. The notion that the umpire is not the supreme decision maker is undermined. What I am saying is away with the challenge system and give the tools to the on-field umpire to refer to to make a decision; at his discretion; not after a challenge

Soulberry said...

Wholeheartedly agree with " away with the challenge system and give the tools to the on-field umpire to refer to to make a decision; at his discretion; not after a challenge
and has been my constant position too.

Earlier, I was not in favour of the third umpire but have since espied that there is a role he too (or the Match Ref ) can play when the system becomes the way we envisage it to be and that is, I quote from my blog on the topic [...] to a retrospective role as well when a decision has been given but found to be incorrect on replay even if there was no contention over it.

The role of the match referee can be expanded to dispense with an addditional umpire, or maybe the third umpire can be employed this way or upon request by the on-field umpire if he is missing something from his ground controls.

It is the next step without doubt.

Good post Golandaaz. Important one too.

straight point said...

i think the clue lies in the way billy called on third umpire to check had ishant bowled a no ball... until unless there is a way where we can empower on-field umpires with tools to help him out... this is the best way to go...

Golandaaz said...

SP, the tools are there mostly and with the kind of investments being made in cricket, its not a big ask to create one customized for the cricket umpire

Golandaaz said...

SB, I watch a bit of NFL here in the US and for the most part they have got it right with using technology to reduce umpiring error. Although the Challenge system exists, once the coach challenges a decision, it is the on-field head referee who calls timeout, goes into a box near the side line, watches what he has to watch and makes a call. The timeout is then charged to the team that looses the challenge.

Thanks for the good comments

Vidooshak said...

I think the objective should be what Golandaaz is suggesting. But I believe UDRS is a good stop gap arrangement until we get there.

India is cutting it's nose to spite it's face.

Golandaaz said...

Vidooshak, there is no indication that there is a desire to protect the authority of the on-field umpire. The first step of UDRS was wrong, and future evolution is unlikely to correct course

Vidooshak said...

I think we are trying to protect an institution that has already been compromised. When the ICC put the leash on umpires calling for throwing, it started the trend of eroding their authority. So I think the modern day vision for umpires is already different from the throwback vision that you are proposing. I liked it that way when batsmen got the benefit of doubt and LBWs were rare. But let's face it, that era is not coming back. What can be done to protect what's left is what I think we need to champion. UDRS while heading in a direction that's different from our preference is still better than having a Bucknoor decide the result of a match rather than the players.

Golandaaz said...

Vidooshak, You may be right. Indeed the chucking incidents and if I can add the run out referrals were the first baby steps in eroding the authority and control of the umpire. Pretty soon we will have an umpire accompanying the players to the ground and coming back with them, because playing without an on-field umpire would look ungentlemanly