Monday, August 05, 2013

A little light relief

I'm conscious things have been terribly serious in this little corner of the Internet for a while now, so I thought I'd share with you a couple of songs, sketches, jokes old and new, with us around, you won't feel blue, so meet the gang... sorry, sidetracked there for a minute.

Ahem. Anyway, for your delectation may I first present...

Theresa (to the tune of "Delilah" by Tom Jones)

I saw your van every night as it passed by my window
I saw the words telling me to pick up the phone
You want me out of your country
But all I want is for you to just leave me alone

My, my, my Theresa.
Why, why, why Theresa?
Can’t you see, you may be Home Secretary
I’ve applied for asylum so why can’t you just let me be?

I get why you want rid of Hamza and Abu Qatada
You don’t want them here preaching their sermons of hate
I just came to escape persecution
So why do you treat me like an enemy of the state?

My, my, my Theresa.
Why, why, why Theresa?
Hear my song, no wonder feelings are strong
No matter the motive you couldn’t have got it more wrong

I see your men every morning at Kensal Rise station
Demanding the papers of anyone Asian or black
You claim to be guarding your borders
UKIP must have you worried so you’re going on the attack

My, my, my Theresa.
Why, why, why Theresa?
You’re too far right, it’s time to put up a fight
Forgive me Theresa, but you’re clearly not very bright

Forgive me Theresa, but you’re clearly not very bright.

Second on the bill, may I present as a tribute to the late Mel Smith...

I Believe (2013) - if you don't know the tune then the original can be found here

I believe Obama is trying to do his best.
I believe Bruce Willis still looks good in a vest
I believe Zimmerman's as innocent as Fred West
I believe, yes I believe

I believe the royal baby is going to be black
I believe Abu Qatada will be coming back
I believe Piers Morgan isn't a talentless hack
I believe, yes I believe

I believe we love our weather
That Bruce Forsyth will live for ever
And that Walford's a bit dull without...

I believe that there is beef in Findus pancakes
I believe that Tony Blair admits to his mistakes
I believe that Ed Milliband is better than Dave
And that even the Mexicans love that bloody wave

I believe everyone likes a vuvuzela
I believe that Simon Cowell's a lovely fella
I believe that nobody really knew about Savile
I believe Ed Snowden really hates air travel
And I believe the NHS is safe with Jeremy Hunt
But I can't believe David Cameron's not a ....

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Saturday, August 03, 2013

Time to make a decision...

There has been some terrific cricket played, mainly by England, so far in this Ashes series.

The focus however has been less on the quality of the play, and more on the umpiring. In particular, the Decision Review System (DRS) has come in for some criticism.

For those who don't follow the sport, DRS is a system which permits the players to challenge umpiring decisions that they believe might be wrong. Each side gets a maximum of two reviews per innings, the incident being referred to an off-field umpire who can use technology to examine whether the on-field call was correct. If the review goes your way, it doesn't count as one of your two for the innings.

It's not a novel idea, a similar system exists in professional tennis. Both codes of rugby have a process where the on-field referee can ask for incidents to be reviewed to determine the correct decision. The main difference however, and where cricket stands alone, is that these sports use it to establish the correct decision. In cricket, there is a presumption that the on-field decision was correct unless there is overriding evidence to the contrary.

Therein, lies cricket's problem with technology. Other sports have been able to embrace the concept that sometimes their officials need help in getting it right, and that a game where officials get most of their decisions correct is a better one for players, spectators and sponsors alike.

Cricket however remains stuck in a bygone age of gentlemen and players, where the umpire's decision is always correct, even when it isn't. That it operates in this presumption is causing it untold problems, as is the insistence on no more than two unsuccessful referrals per innings.

The Australian first innings in the 3rd Test at Old Trafford provides a perfect example.

Australian batsman Usman Khawaja was given out caught behind. Khawaja asked for a review, believing he'd not hit it. The thermal imaging system known as "Hot Spot" showed no evidence of the ball striking the edge of the bat. There was a noise, but it was some way after the ball had passed the bat. So there was no evidence to suggest that Khawaja had hit the ball.

However, as the original decision was that Khawaja was out, in order for this to be overturned there needed to be clear evidence that he hadn't hit the ball, not clear evidence that he had. Result, the original decision was upheld and he was given out by the off-field umpire.

How was Khawaja meant to prove that he hadn't done something? The only thing that could possibly have saved him would have been if the ball had been shown to hit something else other than his bat. So a clearly incorrect decision was allowed to stand because of the presumption that the on-field umpire was correct.

The knock-on effect could be seen in England's innings. Tim Bresnan was given out caught behind off a ball that brushed the clothing rather than the edge of the bat. Yet Bresnan chose not to review. Was he influenced by the difficulty Khawaja had in trying to prove a negative and thought better of potentially wasting a review?

Later in the Australian innings, England appealed for an lbw decision against Steve Smith. The on-field decision was not out, and was clearly shown to be incorrect by subsequent replays. However, England had already used their two unsuccessful reviews in that innings on other marginal decisions, so they couldn't ask the off-field umpire to review and overturn the on-field decision. 

So what's the solution to the problems that DRS is creating? In my opinion, it isn't to scrap it. It picks up and corrects too many poor decisions to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The solution is two-fold. 

An automatic review of every dismissal. If a batsman is given out on the field, he shouldn't be limited by whether his team-mates have already used all the side's reviews earlier in the innings.

The second part of the solution may not be as palatable to cricket's administrators. It's time to end the automatic presumption that the on-field call was correct. Review each decision on its merits from first principles. Remove the "umpire's call" element on leg before wicket decisions, so that if a ball meets all the criteria in the laws for it to be given out, then it's out whether it is  a marginal call or plumb in front.

In other words, use technology in the way other sports have embraced it. To provide the correct decision. It may be too much for cricket's Corinthian attitudes, but it's the only way the game can take DRS forward with any confidence.