Thursday, July 28, 2011

In Defence of the BCCI

Kilometres of newsprint, days of television, and millions and millions of kilobytes of material have been used up attacking the BCCI's "money-mindedness". The English press, former cricketers, all seem to be obsessed with talking about UDRS and the BCCI's staunch refusal to accept Hawkeye. Not a single person has bothered to counter argue. I shall now make an effort to do so.

The thing is nobody disagrees with the fact that the BCCI is indeed a money making enterprise, and nobody should, because that is a fact. What is also a fact (that the foreign media love to forget) is that the ICC and it's members are equally money-obsessed.

Fact number 1: The ICC has not bothered to stand up to the BCCI

Why do you think that is? The BCCI is like a white elephant. As much as the rest of the world's bodies might despise them, the BCCI are the ones that bring in the majority of the moolah. So when the world says so much about the BCCI's money power, it must also be pointed out that the world refuses to act.

Fact Number 2: T20 Internationals

When the matter of having international T20 games came up, the BCCI were dead set against it. Even in one or two games that they did play, they refused to take them seriously. When the voting came up to establish the T20 world cup, the voting went 8-1 for it. Who voted against it? The BCCI. It is amazing how the world seems to have forgotten this. The ones that established the T20 format, are the ones who are now calling it a death knell for cricket. Hypocrisy.

Fact Number 3: Domestic T20

One again most of the world displays a significant amount of selective amnesia. England created the T20 game at the county level to try and draw back the grounds and make money. The counties even had a handful of foreign players. The ICL, IPL all came later. But when the IPL boomed, the English Press were the first to express their disgust at it. The English who pretend to be high and mighty and most importantly abov and against leagues like the IPL created the 1st T20 league in the world. FACT.

Now lets come to UDRS, and more specifically Hawkeye. I am not going to spend any time talking about whether there are technical failings or not, because frankly, I have no idea. The problem with the majority of the people in support of Hawkeye, is that they either work for them, have a slight idea or have absolutely no idea.

The ICC Technical committee that approved UDRS and Hawkeye contains mostly former cricketers. No physicists. No mathematicians. Nobody who can truly grasp what the Hawkeye manufacturers are saying when they make their presentations. How can the ICC make a decision without understanding the finer details, and knowing what questions to ask, what errors could possibly occur.

Of course, to be fair, Hawkeye has been willing to undergo an independent assessment along with competitors like Virtual Eye. Has it been done? No. Has the ICC pushed for it? No. Tell me how can they be absolutely certain that Hawkeye is infallible.

Another problem with Hawkeye that not enough people talk about, is the nature of the errors that Hawkeye can potentially make. Even omitting to discuss the 2.5 m rule and the 40 cm rules. My problem isn't with the margin of error. Any system designed will always have a certain margin of error. To me the bigger concern is the massive goofs.

When Sachin escaped being out LBW Saeed Ajmal in the WC SemiFinal. India rejoiced. But to every fan's naked eye, that looked out. Except to Hawkeye. After the game Ajmal was astounded. He had bowled a doosra, yet Hawkeye showed it drifting away down leg. Now by I all means I am indeed willing to accept that maybe my eyes were deceiving me. Maybe Hawkeye was right. But when the majority of the cricketing world doubts that decision? What do you do?

Hence we come to what I feel is the main issue with Hawkeye. The trust factor. A scientifically unverified Hawkeye is an immense danger to the whole reliability of UDRS. We cannot trust a system that might make 1 massive mistake in even a million. As long as all mistake are within the 3mm range it's fine. But when there's even a miniscule chance of a mistake larger than that happening, everybody from players to umpires to fans will doubt every decision. Only we won't have anyway of conclusively saying if a decision was right or not. Why? Because all our eggs will be in Hawkeye's basket.

Would I be ok with a well verified and scientifically accepted HawkEye? Yes. And I am certain the BCCI will be too. Until then, I will remain as skeptical as ever. So dear English media, before you jealously pounce on the Board of Control for Cricket in India, and indeed anybody else who has taken a dig at them, please look up the facts, before you attack. Thank you.

EDIT: As @Chandan3 (on twitter) reminded me, The BCCI along with the SriLankan Board, were the first boards willing to trial the system.

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