Explained: What Is Umpire’s Call In DRS

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Explained: What Is Umpire’s Call In DRS


First introduced and used in international cricket in 2008, the Decision Review System (DRS) is one of the most controversial aspect of the game since, which even the commentators have, at times, failed to understood and unable to explain it to the viewers.

A few commentators have been heard bluntly saying that they just don’t understand DRS - in particular, the ‘Umpire’s Call’ (which made me wonder for what they are being paid so handsomely!)

So what is this Umpire’s Call that has befuddled the fans and experts? And why is it so confusing? And what are the questions raised on it?

The Umpire’s Call was introduced in 2016 by the ICC. Before that, it was either ‘Hitting’ or ‘Missing’ on Hawk-eye. Umpire’s Call is a way of saying that there is not a “clear mistake” by the umpire, giving the benefit of doubt to the on-field umpire. Hence, the on-field decision stays, but the review is also retained by the team because the on-field call could have gone either way.

Image Source - Hindustan Times

How is the Umpire’s call judged by Hawk-eye?

‘Hitting’ is when at least 50 percent of the ball should be hitting the stumps. Umpire’s call is when if Hawk-eye shows less than 50 percent of the ball hitting the outside of off or leg stump or top of the stumps. Before April 2021, at least half the ball had to hit the bails, but then the Anil Kumble-led ICC panel inreased the height of what we call the ‘Wicket Zone’ to the entire top of the bails, this indeed helps the bowlers a bit giving them more ‘Wicket Zone’ in height terms.

So why so much controversy then?

What we have heard some commentators and fans say: “If it’s hitting the stumps and the bails are flying away, then it should be out - then why the Umpire’s call.” Well, it’s not direct as that, but it is also possible to understand.

The caveat here is that the Hawk-eye - which is the ball-tracking technology that plots the trajectory of the ball that’s been interrupted by the batsman’s pad or body - is not a 100 percent accurate technology, because in this technology the ball is being predicted/projected after it has hit the pad/body part of the batsman.

Image Source - Cricket Australia

In layman's terms, the Umpire’s Call you see would have gone in favour of either the bowler or the batsman - which is ‘hitting’ or missing the stumps completely - if the batsman wasn’t there.

Further, to not take all the powers away from the umpire, the ICC kept the Umpire’s call in their modifications in 2021, while the air also remained that the ICC knows the technology isn’t 100 percent accurate, making it imperative to keep the ‘Umpire’s Call’.

“The principle underpinning DRS was to correct clear errors in the game whilst ensuring the role of the umpire as the decision-maker on the field of play was preserved, bearing in mind the element of prediction involved with the technology. Umpire’s Call allows that to happen, which is why it is important it remains,” Kumble said.