Human Error in Third Umpire Room is the Problem, not DRS

Michael Roberts

It is human error in the Third Umpire’s Room that has caused some critical mistakes in umpiring in recent cricket matches. First by Nigel Llong in Adelaide and now by Richard Ketleborough in Hamilton. Ian Smith stormed out of the TV commentary rooms telling the world [around him] that the Third Umpire’s error could cause the Kiwis the match. Well might Russel Arnold have climbed the walls in Hamilton in the same style! The error was worse in fact: Kettleborough overturned an on-field “NOT OUT” where Llong confirmed an on-field error.


While several years of DRS experience has sharpened on-field decisions by the world’s battery of umpires, it appears that certain paths//facets of the technology are still not understood by some umpires (and maybe by all of the umpiring fraternity). I am not a technological wizard, but two comments by ordinary blokes in ESPNcricinfo reveal wizards of the kind we need …. as instructors to the whole class of top-umpires. I quote them below, but add my two bits worth first.

What was the common factor in the two major errors under discussion, that in Adelaide and that in Hamilton? The decision went in favour of the home side. SO… is that coincidence or cause?

MRPACE’s Comment in Cricinfo: “The hotspot mark ”on the glove” was clearly just the ball passing the glove. The ball had a hotspot on it created when it bounced. You can see the same hotspot mark appearing in the next frame and the frame before it where the ball is. It really concerns me that the umpire, the commentators, and seemingly no one can understand this. This decision is far worse than Nigel Long’s because he overturned the original decision. In Nigel long’s case, DRS failed to correct the umpire…… but in this case, the correct decision was overturned. In Long’s case, had there been no DRS, the same incorrect decision would have been made, but in this case, DRS actually made the game more unfair. I should clarify that it is not the fault of the technology, it is the fault of the incompetent umpires who cannot seem to understand basic laws of thermodynamics and motion.”

HOTSPOTINVENTOR’s Comment on Cricinfo:MRPACE you are “spot” on. The small hot spot in this incident was on the ball and not the bat. My guys in the TV truck knew this instantly but were unable to relay this information to the 3rd umpire.

For me the biggest issue in this incident was the perceived deflection. By looking at the RTS screen you can clearly see that on the frame where the 3rd umpire believed there was a deflection the side-on camera angle showed the ball was well in front of the bat. All three cameras of RTS are perfectly synchronised so you can forensically figure things out in three dimensions.

This may all sound a little complex but not difficult if the core principles are applied correctly. Warren Brennan”

I would not be as harsh on the umpires as MRPACE–after all the thermodynamics remains Greek to me. In addition to lessons in thermodynamics ALL the umpires need to have sessions with the TV technicians and people like Warren Brennan.

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