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What the DRS is all about, and how it works? Photo Courtesy: Youtube’s cricket.com.au, jabir hilal & Nikhil Jose channels

After nearly four years of wait, BCCI has softened its stance on the popular Umpire’s Decision Review System aka DRS, as they are all set to use the system in the upcoming five-Test series against visitors England starting November 9. This would also mark the debut of the much-debated DRS to the Indian subcontinent. Although India have previously played under DRS away from home (in England and Sri Lanka), this will be the first time India would be playing under the system at home, if one leaves aside ICC Cricket World Cup 2011. As the teams get set to play the exciting series ahead, while the fans are also excited with DRS making its debut in India. Ayush Gupta explains what the DRS is all about, and how it works. Full Cricket Scorecard: India vs England 1st Test at Rajkot

The term DRS is a part of common jargon for hardcore cricket fans around the world, as they often hear during most international cricket series throughout the year. However, it may not be so popular in India. Although Indian cricket fans are just as enthusiastic about the sport as others, they might not be as acquainted with DRS, as it is hardly used in the Indian series thanks to BCCI s consistent refusal to use it: BCCI have always believed that the technologies used in the DRS are not 100 per cent foolproof.

Nevertheless, the good news is that times have changed, and BCCI have agreed to use DRS for the first time in a full-fledged manner in the upcoming Test series against England. The change comes after a detailed and successful presentation by ICC DRS representatives on the improved version of the system, backed by ICC Cricket Committee Chairman and current Indian coach Anil Kumble.

The wait, thus, is finally over. Many Indian cricketers including Test skipper Virat Kohli (who has backed DRS), along with the Indian fans, will able to enjoy some fair cricket. However, the debate still continues to burn strong on its reliability, especially following a few controversial decisions in the just-concluded first Test between Australia and South Africa at Perth, which saw the visitors winning by 177 runs. Nevertheless, it is still considered to be one of the safest ways to play cricket, and restrict a team or player from falling prey to the umpire error. England tour of India: All you need to know

Let us have a look and also discuss the challenges faced by the technologies used in the DRS:

Hawk-Eye (ball-tracking technology)

Hawk-Eye is one of the most basic technologies one needs to have in order to be eligible for the DRS. Hawk-Eye is considered the most basic and among the most inexpensive methods. Let us go by the Wikipedia definition: Hawk-Eye is a complex computer system used officially in numerous sports such as cricket, tennis, Gaelic football, badminton, hurling, association football and volleyball, to visually track the trajectory of the ball and display a record of its statistically most likely path as a moving image.

In other words, the speciality of the technology is to track the movement of the ball. Its use in cricket is basically to judge leg-before-wicket calls, where the ball is assumed to be hitting the wickets, with the leg being on the line or trajectory connecting the ball and the wicket. The technology uses a feature to actually track the ball, post the point of impact on the pads, and judge if the ball had gone on to hit the stumps or miss it.

To explain this better, here is an example: If a batsman is given out or not out, either side can challenge the umpire s call. Hawk-Eye then produces a trajectory of the ball post the point of impact on the pads. If the ball is found to be hitting the stumps by more than 50%, the decision is out; and if the ball is missing the stumps by more than 50%, it is generally termed not out.

However, in case just 25% of the ball is hitting the stumps, and the umpire has already ruled a batsman out, the decision remains in favour of the umpire, as the margin of error stays in favour of the umpires. This is termed as umpire’s call . India vs England, Test series: 5 Englishmen to watch out for

However, there have been criticisms regarding the technology and its reliability, as many experts say it is not 100% foolproof. It has been debated that the Hawk-Eye cannot accurately determine the exact point of impact, thus resulting in false trajectory of the patch of the ball post impact. Others have debated over the close calls made by the technology, where the projected path shows the ball to have just brushed or clipped the stumps, and have also termed umpire s call as absurd, as it defies the law written in the MCC rule-book.

There was also a debate regarding the distance of impact and the trajectory path of the ball hitting the stumps when a batsman stretches well forward. According to ICC rules and regulations for LBW, the point of impact has to be greater than 250 cm from the stumps and/or that the distance between the point of pitching and point of impact has to be less than 40 cm for a batsman to be ruled not out.

This is very complicated, and players who have fallen prey to this rule or have been denied being given out believe this rule needs to be rectified. However, the rule is pretty simple. If the batsman is down the track by more the 250 cm, he cannot be given out regardless of the ball hitting the stumps.

Hotspot (infrared thermal imaging)

This is one of the most advanced technologies in cricket. The speciality of this technology in to judge where exactly, or in which areas the the ball make an impact. It is determined through infrared thermal imaging, which is taken by special infrared cameras installed at the grounds.

Let us once again check the Wikipedia definition: Hot Spot is an infra-red imaging system used in cricket to determine whether the ball has struck the batsman, bat or pad. Hot Spot requires two infra-red cameras on opposite sides of the ground above the field of play that are continuously recording an image. Any suspected snick or bat/pad event can be verified by examining the infrared image, which usually shows a bright spot where contact friction from the ball has elevated the local temperature. Where referrals to an off-field third umpire are permitted, the technology is used to enhance the on-field umpire’s decision-making accuracy. Where referrals are not permitted, the technology is used primarily as an analysis aid for televised coverage.

The cameras are of high quality (military-grade, actually), which are used by army, navy, air force, and other military purposes, and are also very costly. Not everyone can afford this technology, and as of now, it is only limited to matches that are played in England and Australia and major ICC tournaments. As for the technology, the point of impact is determined by thermal imaging, which glows at the point of impact, be it on the bat or pad (or anywhere else), and it is mainly used to detect the slightest of contacts that can hardly be determined by normal cameras or naked eyes.

However, this technology too possesses limited reliabilities. The thermal imaging is not always accurate. It has also failed to sometimes pick up the thinnest of edges, which is a drawback of this technology, and was earlier debated as not completely reliable or foolproof.

Unfortunately, this technology will not be in action in the upcoming Test series between India and England due to the logistic challenges faced by BCCI. As discussed earlier, these are high-end military cameras, and in order for them to be shipped to the Indian subcontinent, BCCI needs to adopt special permission from the Australian Government. It is however expected that the technology would arrive by mid-February 2017, and will be in place as well as fully functional from the series thereon.

Real-time Snickometer (sound detection)

This is also one of the basic technologies in cricket, as the main job of this technology is to pick up any sound on the pitch, especially in the section where the batsman is batting. As per Wikipedia, A Snickometer, commonly known as Snicko, is used in televising cricket to graphically analyse sound and video, and show whether a fine noise, or snick, occurs as ball passes bat. It was invented by English computer scientist Allan Plaskett in the mid-1990s. The snickometer was introduced by Channel 4 in the UK, who also introduced the Hawk-Eye and the Red Zone, in 1999.

The main purpose of this technology is to detect the faintest of sounds produced during the impact of the ball on any section, and is especially used to detect the faintest of sound during an edge, as it can be used for a caught-behind appeal or to turn down a leg-before decision if the ball had taken a faint edge off the bat before hitting the pads. This is considered as one of the most reliable technologies used in cricket, as it rarely turns out to be incorrect, and there is hardly any controversy or debate surrounding this technology.

Unfortunately, this technology too will not be available in the upcoming series vs England. However, it will not matter much as a new technology, technically called the substitute of the Snickometer, and a more advanced technology in the from of ‘Ultra-Edge’ will be in action.

Ultra-Edge

This is the latest and most expensive technology in the sport till date. It is also referred to as the Hawk-Eye version of Snicko . Although it might sound same as that of Snicko, it is slightly different, as it can be used to distinguish sounds created by bat, pads and clothing more clearly, something not very clear in the Snickometer. The technology uses stump microphones, whose intelligent censors distinguish sounds made by bat, pad or clothing, and helps determine when the ball had impact with bat.

The India vs England series will be the second ever series to use this technology, and the reliability of the technology could well prompt BCCI to change its long stance on the DRS.

How does DRS work?

With the technologies being used in the DRS explained, it is now time to have a look at how DRS works in cricket. The process is simple. For example, if there is a leg-before appeal, the umpire can either give out or turn the decision down. Depending on the decision either captain can challenge it, appealing for a review by making a T sign with his hands. However, it needs to be done within 15 seconds after the umpire has given his decision.

As the umpire refers his decision to be reviewed, the third umpire, with access to all the technologies, assesses the decision by monitoring it. He first he checks for the no-ball, followed by multiple camera angles for viewing a possible deflection off the bat, before hitting pad. He will then check it with the Hotspot for an edge. To get a better view, he will use the Snickometer or the Ultra-Edge for a possible edge, in case the Hotspot fails to pick up the edge.

Following the clearance of these technologies, he will go for the Hawk-Eye to track the ball. Once everything is checked, he informs the on-field umpire about the outcome, following which the on-field umpire gives his final verdict. DRS is, of course, not just limited to lbw, but is also used to check for edges or to see if a catch has been taken cleanly.

As for the number of reviews awarded per team, it varies from format to format. In Test cricket, each team is awarded a maximum of two unsuccessful reviews per innings, while the teams can use unlimited number of successful reviews. After 80 overs of an innings the count is reset to two irrespective of the number of unsuccessful reviews remaining.

In ODIs, each team is allowed a maximum of one unsuccessful review per innings, while the unlimited number of successful reviews stands in the format. However, in T20Is, there are no reviews, as it is a fast-forward game, and implementing DRS in the format will probably allow the game to consume more time.

With that being said, and all the above technicalities being explained, I hope you have got a fair idea about DRS, on how it works, and how things are implemented. With the first Test between India and England all set to get underway from Wednesday at Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot, it will be interesting and exciting to see how things go in the first ever home series for India with the DRS and how the teams approach to the system.

England are already very familiar with DRS, as they mostly use it in every series they play. It will also be interesting to see if BCCI agree to implement and go ahead with the modern-day DRS in future matches as well, or some new restriction coming up can bar BCCI from dropping the implementation again. Only time will tell. Until then, enjoy the series, and the beautiful DRS.

(Ayush Gupta is a reporter at CricketCountry. A passionate supporter of Manchester United, he idolises Roger Federer and is also a World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) maniac. He can be followed on Twitter @Ayush24x7)