Cricket: Review scandal questions accuracy of Hawk-Eye technology

By Tyson Otto

South African cricket team captain AB de Villiers is clean bowled off Australian bowler Josh Hazlewood during their Tri-nation series One Day International match. Photo / Getty Images
South African cricket team captain AB de Villiers is clean bowled off Australian bowler Josh Hazlewood during their Tri-nation series One Day International match. Photo / Getty Images

Cricket's DRS system has taken a beating following an extraordinary failure of the Hawk-Eye technology during Australia's win over South Africa on Sunday (NZT).

Stunning video footage of the controversial moment reveals an almighty failure from the Hawk-Eye ball-tracking path-predictor.

South African star AB de Villiers was clean bowled by Aussie quick Josh Hazlewood during the Aussies' 36-run win in St Kitts - but the Hawk-Eye ball-tracker predicted a very different result.

Hawk-Eye uses six high speed cameras that capture 340 frames per second to track and predict the trajectory of the cricket ball in flight.

The technology predicted Hazlewood's jaffer would have jumped up too high and sailed over the stumps.

It's particularly damning footage for Hawk-Eye, considering video replays clearly show de Villiers did not get any bat on the ball or impact the flight of the Duke.

The incident has again cast doubts surrounding the ongoing use of the Hawk-Eye technology, with the organisation behind the technology never hiding away from the simple fact the technology is only accurate to within 5mm when used as it currently is in international cricket fixtures.

The system's shortcomings are part of the reason the ICC mandates that more than half the ball must be hitting the stumps for an umpire's not-out ruling to be overturned - accommodating for Hawk-Eye's margin for error.

Hawk-Eye founder Dr Paul Hawkins recently defended the technology, insisting inaccuracies like the system's apparent failure during Hazlewood's delivery don't just happen.

In a response to a recent article critical of the technology, Dr Hawkins said the technology has only made four inaccurate rulings since an upgraded version of the technology was introduced eight years ago.

He conceded testing has shown there are some scenarios where the technology has a margin for error of up to 1cm.

"Some people will not be able to understand how it works, and there is not much I can do about that," Hawkins wrote in an official response last year.

"Those that site examples where they feel it was wrong, we are able to show conclusively that we were right in all instances apart from in four occasions over seven years of DRS where we have held our hands up and said we were wrong (over 99.5%)."

When questioned about an incident similar to the one where the DRS inaccurately predicted Hazlewood's delivery travelling over the stumps, Hawkins said: "I can guarantee what you describe did not happen".

"Is it possible that the batsman was not clean bowled, but instead played on to
his stumps. There have been many examples of this - where we show it missing
because we predict a path assuming the batsman had not hit the ball."

The Hawk-Eye system appears to have the full support of the ICC, however, with the "50 per cent of the ball" rule expected to be scrapped by the governing body this year after Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene, who now sits on the ICC's cricket committee, revealed a change to the rule will likely be recommended shortly.

"We've decided that the 50 per cent rule should be reduced to 25 per cent," he told Cricinfo on Thursday.

"Even the MCC rule book says if it hits any part of the wicket it should be given out, so you are going away from all that with the 50 per cent rule."

Meanwhile, one of cricket's other key DRS technologies, Hot Spot, has also been heavily criticised recently following claims silicone tape wrapped around bats can trick the Hot Spot readings.

The Telegraph in London has reported that researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology spent six months testing the technology and are believed to have informed the ICC that the thermal imaging technology can be deceived by using tape on bats.

The ICC will now have to decide whether to ban the use of silicone tape at international level.

Warren Brennan, the inventor of Hot Spot, has previously urged the ICC to ban the use of silicone tape, which is used by batsmen to protect their bats.


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