Why is the 'Hot Spot' causing controversy?

8/10/13 in Cricket   |   Shaumik   |   3 respect

Cricket Umpire standing in front of packed stadiumThe Hot Spot, a component of the Umpire DRS (Decision Review System), is an infrared imaging system which is used to determine whether the ball has hit the bat, the body or the pad of the batsmen. Upon review, the area of contact is visible as a bright spot on the image of the infrared camera. That helps the umpires to review their decisions and come up at a correct one.

How does it work?
The infrared camera assigns different color values to the areas in the image with different temperatures. When the ball hits any part of the batsman, bat, glove or pads, the local temperature of the area of contact is momentarily elevated due to the friction generated by the collision, showing as a bright white spot on the image! Usually, there are two infrared cameras positioned at the two extreme ends of the ground.

What is the use of Hot Spot?
In cricket, there are a lot of close decisions. Take for example an LBW, or a catch by a nearby fielder. It is often difficult to determine if the ball hit the pads only, or the bat and then the pads. The Hot Spot is very instrumental in figuring out the truth at such crucial points of time. Also, when the ball is caught off a faint edge, the Hot Spot usually proves beyond doubt if the ball hit the bat.

Advantage over old technology:
The previous technology used to detect faint edges was the snickometer, which was a sound detection system based on the sound detection by the camera at the stumps. However, those results were largely inconclusive as the sound could have been generated by a variety of factors like the foot hitting the ground, or the bat hitting the pad. Hot Spot has proven to give better results in these circumstances.

In 2011, in an ODI series between India and England, Rahul Dravid was given out in spite of Hot Spot reviews proving inconclusive! In the 2013 Ashes, Kevin Pieterson's dismissal when the umpire seemed to have totally ignored the Hot Spot results started the debate yet again on the functionality of the Hot Spot! Not only that, in the same series, the Hot Spot failed to confirm seven such nicks!

Can batsmen really trick the Hot Spot?
Kevin Pieterson, in the same 2013 Ashes, came out to bat with silicone tape. Australia's Channel Nine was quick to come out with an allegation that Pieterson used the silicone tape to fool the Hot Spot technology! That led to a lot of controversies, and Pieterson took to Twitter to voice his anger.

Silicone tapes may enable the heat of the friction to be dissipated rather fast, but chances are that the heat signature would still be picked up by the infrared cameras. Batsmen may use any amount of tape they want, but the infrared cameras would most probably detect even faint nicks.

What remains to be seen is how the ICC reacts to the allegations in the Ashes and whether the Hot Spot remains as a part of the DRS.
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