Technology in cricket

I have been warming up for the cricket World Cup to be held from February 14 to March 29 by watching more games, so as to get up to speed on what the teams are like and what changes have occurred in the game since my youthful days of addiction to the game, and one thing that struck me was the increased use of technology, much of it for the better.

For example, the umpires in cricket have a very difficult task. The most important one is to adjudicate whether a batsman is out or not out. In cricket, the fielders must make an appeal if they think the batsman is out in order to have the umpire make a decision. Of the ten ways in which a batsman can be out, the five most common are bowled, caught, run out, stumped, and leg before wicket (lbw).

Only the first one of being bowled is straightforward in almost all cases since the wicket behind the batsman gets actually disturbed. As to the others, while catches are usually straightforward, there can be situations when it is difficult to know, as when the ball is caught very close to the ground so that it might have touched the ground before being caught or it is not clear if the bat touched the ball ever so slightly before the wicket keeper caught it. Run outs and stumpings are rarely clear cut and the lbw decision is almost always very difficult to make since many factors have to be taken into account.

Now that I have started watching again, I have been impressed with the technology that is available to umpires to judge close decisions and new rules enabling the players to appeal a decision that they think was erroneous and went against them.

The most used piece of technology consists of multiple cameras so that replays can be viewed in slow motion from different perspectives. This is valuable for catches, run-outs, and stumpings. It is also be used to predict the future trajectory of the ball, to see if it might have gone on to hit the wicket if it had not hit the batsman’s body, a key point in lbw decisions. Another is the use of infrared cameras to detect the minute amounts of heat generated when the ball just grazes the bat or body of the batsman, creating a visible ‘hot spot’. The final one is the microphone (called the Snickometer) implanted in the wickets that picks up noises and displays it as an oscilloscope signal. By seeing if a noise exists and corresponds with the hot spot, one can be pretty sure if the ball hit the bat or not.

I have a lot of sympathy for umpires. They have a tricky job and they used to get a lot of grief from people who question their vision, judgment, and even their honesty when a decision does not go to their liking. This technology seems to have reduced much of the acrimony aimed at them. I find it remarkable how often they get close calls right, a tribute to their skill and professionalism.

Cricket is also a statistician’s dream since one can spend an entire lifetime gathering and analyzing the reams of data that are generated. The TV screen displays in real time not only the run rate of the batting side, but also the speed of the bowler’s deliveries, and a whole host of other data. The one that intrigues me the most is the WASP (Winning And Score Predictor) used in single-inning, limited over games. It uses a massive database of all previous games to estimate, at any given point during the first innings, what that team’s likely final score will be. Then when the other team is batting, it gives at each moment the probability that they will overtake the opponent’s score and win the game. I find that fascinating. It enables one to give a reasonable answer to someone who arrives in the middle of a game and asks “So, who’s winning?”

Watching cricket, a slow game, can be addictive to the aficionado and I think that all these new things have added to its appeal, since it enables one to be engaged even during the times when nothing is actually happening on the field.


  1. Rob Grigjanis says

    Another is the use of infrared cameras…

    OMG. Maybe I’m just an old fart, but I’ve always seen dodgy calls as part of the game (any game). If corruption is rife, I could see it, but otherwise it just makes everything unnecessarily complicated. Bitter complaints about refereeing are part of the game, dammit!

  2. Mano Singham says


    I would agree with you that “dodgy calls” should be considered part of the game but only when they are unavoidable. I take that sentiment to mean that one should not give the umpires a hard time when they make a call that one disagrees with. But those decisions are hard. I don’t see why dodgy calls are a virtue in and of themselves. When the technology exists to aid the umpires in their job in real time, why not spare them (and the players and fans) the grief that comes from getting the call wrong, even if it is an honest mistake?

  3. Steve Lion says

    Mano, I was just sort of trying to make a little joke about the fact that most of us probably don’t really know much (anything?) about cricket and likely see it as an anachronism at best. Had we been shoulder to shoulder in a pub you may have seen my smiley face. It may have been mishandled. I certainly didn’t intend to offend you. Perhaps I should keep my “cleverness” to myself.

  4. machintelligence says

    Watching cricket, a slow game, can be addictive to the aficionado

    In this it very much like baseball, which I long ago decided was very subtle or supremely boring. I went with boring, but tastes vary. (I am not a big fan of any sport.)

  5. Rob Grigjanis says

    Holms: with a passion.

    Mano: the virtue is not in the bad call, but in that sports are a human endeavour, with imperfect players and imperfect officials. Refs, umps, linespersons, etc, largely get it right, and sometimes get it wrong, sometimes spectacularly wrong. So what? Let them do their job without a bloody camera over their shoulder. And those damn kids should get off my lawn as well 🙂

  6. Mano Singham says


    I was not at all offended so there is no cause at all to apologize! I just had the impression that there was a joke somewhere in what you wrote that I was not getting, and I was curious as to what it was.

  7. atheistblog says

    Let me guess, you are watching the game after very very long time ?
    There is a joke in Tamil Nadu, South India for those who are out of touch for long time, where have you been all these days ? In Jail ?

  8. Mano Singham says


    What happened was this. I followed cricket closely when I lived in Sri Lanka. After I came to the US in 1983, I stopped following it because there was no internet and it was hard to get any cricket news without going to the library and reading the foreign press, which was a pain and also out of date. So I lost touch with what was happening and thus also lost interest.

    Once the internet was available, I could follow the scores but it was only fairly recently that I found out that some of the games are live-streamed and have started watching them again. So, no I was not in jail, but I was out of touch.

  9. jockmcdock says


    I know the feeling. I’m an Aussie and moved to the Netherlands many years ago. Getting information on Aussie cricket was difficult unless Oz was playing in England. And even that source largely dried up when the BBC lost the right to televise test matches.

    With the internet, I can keep up with the latest scores. I also have a couple of sites where i can watch live action. Unfortunately, most if not all the action from the WC will be televised when it’s well past my bedtime. You’re in the US, so maybe your viewing times are more favourable.

    Even with technology, the umpires can stuff it up. Here’s Khawaja being ruled out against our Pommie friends a couple of years ago

  10. Mano Singham says


    Wow, that was a bad decision! What did the third umpire see that we couldn’t? Was there ever an explanation?

  11. jockmcdock says


    there was never a reason given for the decision as far as I know. What could the umpire say?

    Let’s hope for a great World Cup. Hopefully Afghanistan, Scotland and the UAE can pull of a shock or two.

  12. Nate says

    I must admit, and I’m not sure if it’s a trick of the eye, but it looks to me as though the ball deviates when viewed from the front camera angle…

    One thing I’ve never understood, especially in this technological age, why a ball has to pitch inline before it can be given LBW… if it’s going on to hit the stumps it should be out no matter where it pitches surely?

  13. Mano Singham says


    That is why a purely visual system is likely not enough. Now that they have the hotspot and the snickometer, you should be able to get consistent results from all three. The commentator said that the snickometer was not in use in that game but the hotspot was and it came out negative. I think in such cases, the benefit of the doubt should be to give a verdict of not out.

    As for the lbw rule, it is that is only at the point where the ball hits the pad that it should be inline. It can pitch outside the off stump or inline, but if it pitches outside the leg stump, you cannot be out lbw. The reasons for this asymmetry seem to be lost in time. One suggestion I have heard is that it was done to discourage bowlers from bowling too much on the leg side as a defensive move.

  14. jockmcdock says

    The LBW rule has changed remarkably over the years. Originally, there was no LBW rule. Then it was “in line” with the wicket. Then pitching outside off stump was included. Pitching on or outside leg stump still remains a no-no. It is regarded (rightly or wrongly) as a negative bowling tactic.

    But it did give us this classic piece of cricket…

  15. Nate says

    Don’t get me wrong, from every angle other than the front on extreme close-up, and from hotspot, it was obviously not out. I think you’re right though, the benefit of the doubt is not given enough to the batsman. IMHO, if it takes more than a few replays, it should be not out.

    It amazes me just how close a lot of the referred decisions are… the amount of run outs or stumpings where there’s less than a video frame in it is astounding.

    Thanks for the info re. leg side lbw… learn something new every day!

  16. Nate says

    Here’s another amazing one of Warney, again technology shows it as not out… but still an incredible ball!

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