Technology in Cricket (The Definitive Guide): Economics & Cost of the Review System, DRS, Hawkeye, Ultraedge, LED Bails, and More!
Technology in cricket has often been an area of debate. Ten pieces of technology have fundamentally changed how the game is played:
- (1) The DRS, (2) Hawkeye, (3) Virtual Eye, (4) Snickometer, (5) Ultra-Edge, (6) Hotspot (7) LED stumps, (8) Spidercam, (9) Bushnell (sporting optics), and (10) Stump Mic.
Today, we look at several aspects of these technologies: Cost, impact, and history.
Why Do We Need Think About Technology in Cricket?
Let’s rewind our clocks to 21st March, 2018.
ICC World Cup Qualifiers in Zimbabwe. Scotland vs West Indies. A spot in the World Cup on the line.
Over 31.4, Ashley Nurse to Richie Berrington: Berrington is adjudged LBW out by the umpire, but it would have definitely gone down the leg side.
There was no DRS.
Couple of overs later, rain arrived. West Indies beat Scotland by 5 runs (DLS method). Heartbreak for Scotland.
Jason Holder later said in the post-match presentation:
“That’s beyond my control. I think it’s a question for the ICC. At the beginning of the tournament, they set up the rules, and those rules are the rules we played with. It’s cricket. Sometimes it goes for you, sometimes it goes against you.”– Jason Holder
Landscape of Cricket is Changing
In a tournament as important as the World Cup Qualifiers, there should be no excuse that technology is not used (not all games were televised either, but that is a separate issue).
So, why was DRS not used? It’s because implementing technology in cricket is expensive and not all cricket boards & broadcasters have that kind of money.
Cricket is going where the money is going. Franchise cricket is taking over the cricket calendar and players now have various choices in how to earn money (as they should).
Recently, in our Finances in Cricket section, we have explored:
- (1) The different pathways cricketers can now go about their playing careers, (2) how much money individual cricketers make (Virat Kohli Net Worth Case Study), (3) the salaries & match fees of the Full Members, (4) the richest cricket leagues, and (5) richest cricket boards.
We will now explore how money is utilized from the administration side of things. For example, how much money is needed to host a Test match as compared to limited over matches & franchise leagues?
However, in order to answer this question, we must first understand the economics of technology used. Let’s begin our exploration.
What Technologies are used in Cricket?
Technology in cricket is used predominantly for three reasons—Ball Tracking, Edge Detection, and Infrared Imaging.
The reason for the high costs for these technologies are as follows: (1) initial installation costs of the technology itself, (2) additional camera setup, (3) maintenance & staff costs to ensure the technologies run smoothly.
1. DRS (Decision Review System): $20,000-60,000 Per Day
What is the Full Form of DRS? What Does DRS Stand For?
DRS stands for Decision Review System.
The Decision Review System is the entire toolkit utilized via broadcasters to assist umpires during a cricket match. The DRS primarily helps in LBW decisions (ball tracking) & faint nicks (edge detection/hot spot).
How Much Does DRS Cost?
- Minimum Cost: $12,000-15,000 per day (4 camera system)
- Maximum Cost: $60,000-100,000 per day
- Test Match Estimate: $300,000-$500,000 per Test ($600,000 – $2.5 million for a Test series depending on the amount of Tests and the technologies used).
- World Cup 2023 Estimate: $2.8 million-$4.8 million (48 ODI matches)
Currently, a complete system of DRS costs approximately $100,000 per day. Hence, a full five-day Test match would cost around $500,000 and a five-match Ashes series will cost around $2.5 million. It was estimated that the 2021-22 full-package Big Bash league would cost around $2 million AUD ($1, 333, 600 USD) at an average of $32,787 AUD ($21,862 USD) per match for the 61 matches.
In the early days of the DRS, the system cost about $60,000.
According to a Cricbuzz report, the Bangladesh Premier League in 2019 bought a DRS package without Snicko, Ultra-edge, and Hotspot for $75,000 per match (Just the Ball-tracking technology and ultra motion replays) and a full-package would have cost them $100,000 per match.
Sources: Minimum $12-15,000 per day, BCCI has no money for DRS in Ranji Trophy Final, DRS to be used for BBL 2021-22, BCCI vice-president explaining the economics of DRS in 2011, BPL Using Cut-Price Version of DRS – The Cricketer, BCCI’s real case against the DRS: It’s Costly
How Does DRS Work?
- Currently, a team captain can review a decision up to two unsuccessful DRS decisions. In Test matches, the reviews are reset after 80 overs.
DRS has certainly impacted cricket for the positive. Although it has taken a few years to evolve, the DRS has definitely helped cricket in getting rid of the howlers (recall, 2008 Sydney Test).
It has also provided cricket yet another strategic aspect (think Headingly 2019 – Tim Paine Review). Finally, the DRS has changed the dynamics of the game. For example, spinners have drastically benefitted in LBW decisions since the beginning of the review system.Embed from Getty Images
Ball-Tracking: $50,000-$60,000 per day
The most common DRS technology used is for Ball-Tracking purposes. Hence, the majority of DRS costs goes in the implementation of Hawk-eye.
How Much Does Hawkeye Cost?
Hawkeye has been used in multiple sports—Tennis, Rugby, Gaelic Football, Soccer, NASCAR, etc.
In Gaelic Football, it was estimated that the installation cost of Hawkeye is 250,000 pounds ($317,600). It would take them a further 500,000 pounds ($635, 200) to run it the entire season.
The estimated cost for installation of Hawk-eye in tennis is reported to be between $60,000-100,000.
How Does Hawkeye Work?
Hawkeye Innovations employ three products for their cricket production: SMART (Synchronized Multi-Angle Replay Technology), TRACK (for ball tracking), and INSIGHT (data storage, visualizations, etc.).
The equipment used to make Hawkeye work is six high speed cameras at 340 fps (frames per second).
With Hawk-eye, cricket broadcasters have data like never before.
In 2013, ESPNCricinfo integrated Hawkeye data with their live score coverage. This included addition of features such as: (1) Pitch Map, (2) Ball Speeds, (3) Beehive (trajectory of the ball), (4) variable bounce, and (5) Wagon Wheel.Embed from Getty Images
3. Virtual Eye
Virtual Eye is the other ball-tracking company based in New Zealand.
How Does Virtual Eye Work?
According to Virtual Eye (also known as Eagle Eye), they utilize the “high-frame rate cameras” to “track the centre of the ball in every frame…[Their] software then calculates the precise ball track in 3D space and predicts the path once the release, bounce, and impact points are known.”
Similar to Hawkeye, Virtual Eye provides (1) Wagon Wheels, (2) Pitch Maps, (3) Six Distances, (4) 3D Flyovers, and (5) ball tracking.
Edge Detection: $15,000-$25,000 per match
In the BPL report, they paid for $75,000 instead of $100,000 and missed out on Hotspot, Snicko-meter, and Ultra-Edge.
It is known that Hotspot costs around $10,000. However, due to concerns with the technology (silicone tape/other bat coatings could fool the system), it has not been used unanimously in the DRS packages over the years.
4. Snicko-meter (Real-time Snicko – RTS)
How Much Does Snicko-meter Cost?
How Does Snicko-meter Work?
The snicko-meter utilizes the stump mic and measures sound waves (via an oscilloscope).
The technology is made effective with split-screen display (one showing the waves in the snicko-meter & the other displaying slow motion camera). This ensures the sound corresponds to the nick of the bat.
Also watch this Rahul Dravid dismissal in the 2011 tour (where the Snicko picked that the bat hit Dravid’s shoe lace and not the bat itself).
Invented by: Allan Plaskett
How Does Ultra-edge Work?
Ultra-edge is Hawkeye’s version of the Snicko. After the 2015 testing with MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in Boston, USA, it was accepted by the ICC. In particular, Ultra-edge can differentiate between the sounds of clothing, bat, and pad.
Ultra edge works similarly to Snicko.
Impact/Features:Embed from Getty Images
6. HotSpot – $10,000 per match
How Much Does Hotspot Cost?
Hotspot costs around $10,000 per match.
How Does Hotspot Work?
With a four-camera setup, Hotspot uses infrared thermal imaging technology to detect where the ball hits.
The pros of HotSpot was that it could catch even the faintest of edges. However, the inventor himself had doubts o the validity of the HotSpot during the 2013 Ashes since coating on bat can prevent HotSpot to be displayed.
Is one possible faint nick worth $10,000 per match?
Other Technologies in Cricket
There are other technologies that have enhanced the level of cricket broadcasting over the past decade: Helmet cameras, Stump Mics, LED Stumps, SpiderCam, etc. These technologies are not necessarily part of the DRS and, we may not have all the cost information.
7. LED Stumps & Zing Bails – $40,000
How Much Does LED Stumps Cost?
According to an IndiaTV report, when Arshdeep Singh broke the LED stumps in IPL 2023, it cost the BCCI around $40,000.
(For casual backyard purpose, one can find zing bails on Amazon for just about $100).
One thing to note is that unlike the DRS technologies used, LED stumps (and zing bails) only have a one-time installation cost.
How Do LED Stumps Work?
The zing bails (powered by batteries) light up once the ball hits the stumps. A microprocessor in each Zing bail detects when both bails have been dislodged.
The LED stumps & zing bails have removed doubts during close run-outs & stumpings. We now know almost exactly when the bails are completely dislodged.Embed from Getty Images
How Much Does Spidercam Cost?
Although I could not find the exact cost of the Spidercam, I bet this can cost the broadcasting companies upwards of hundreds of thousands or even a few million dollars.
How does the Spidercam Work?
The Spidercam tries to offer a ‘bird-eye’s view’ on the cricket ground. It is made possible with a cable suspended camera system. This helps the camera move in multiple directions.
There have been several instances of a dead-ball being called after the ball hits the Spidercam. Here is a clip of Glenn Maxwell hitting the ‘Flying Fox.’
Sources: Spidercam WebsiteEmbed from Getty Images
9. Bushnell Range Finder (Sporting Optics)
How Much Does Bushnell Cost?
On Amazon, Bushnell range finder for golf costs anywhere from $100-300. For professional sporting equipment, it may be a bit more expensive.
How does the Bushnell Work?
A range finder is used to measure distances of remote objects and has been used in the military and golf.
Watch this video of Simon Doull explaining in a Cricbuzz discussion that the range finder plots from the “middle of the ground to the grandstand and tiers of the grandstand. It’s not where the ball might have landed.”
With T20 cricket, displaying the distance of sixes has become central to broadcasting needs.
10. Stump Mic
Stump microphones are placed near the stumps and pick up sounds like edges (important for snicko & Ultra-edge to work) as well as sledges & Rishabh Pant singing spider man main theme song.
Their catch phrase is “technology used in the highest level of the game is now available for everyone to use.”
Microsoft and Anil Kumble came together to experiment with technology in bats that can capture real-time data.
Bowling Machine, Speed Guns, and More
Although we covered several areas of technology in cricket, there are several other advancements made over the years in cricket:
- Speed gun (to measure pace)
- Front-foot no-ball tracking (extra cameras)
- Bowling machines (and additional training/practice technology)
Source: Other Technologies in CricketEmbed from Getty Images
History of Technology in Cricket – A Timeline
- 1992 – Video assistance for run-outs & stumpings implemented (the third umpire comes into play)
- 2001 – Hawkeye Ball-Tracking used in Channel’s 4 coverage of the Ashes
- 2008 – Sydney Test controversy. Watch this video – 8 umpiring howlers made during that Test.
- 2008 – DRS is first experimented in the India-Sri Lanka Test series. Virtual Eye technology made an error in Virender Sehwag’s dismissal. Dilshan was given not out due to lack of evidence. Doubts crept in.
- 2009 – Review system started to be officially implemented in Test matches (with agreement from both teams)
- 2011 – Review system implemented in ODIs for the first time as a run up the 2011 ODI Cricket World Cup.
- 2012 – Spidercam comes into play
- 2013 – Rules tweaked: Reviews reset after 80 overs
- 2013 – Instant replays for third umpires begin
- 2014 – Umpire communication transparency established between Australia-South Africa ODI series.
- 2014 – LED bails used in the 2014 T20 World Cup (use began in the Big Bash earlier)
- 2015 – Hawkeye’s Ultra-edge approved to be part of DRS
- 2016 – Amendments made to the LBW umpire’s call rule (widen the frame in favor of the bowling side)
- 2016 – India say yes to the review system on a trial basis after years of opposition after improvements were made
- 2017 – Uniform DRS established after extensive testing of technology with MIT
- 2018 – ICC Women’s World Twenty20 first ICC T20 World Cup to feature the DRS
Who Pays for These Technologies?
In the early days of the DRS, the broadcasters of the home team used to take most of the responsibility of these costs.
Now, the payment is usual divided between the home team cricket board & the broadcasters. However, as the review system gets further uniformed around the world (especially with World Cups and major tournaments), the ICC has started to bear some of the responsibility and subsidize the overall cost.
Although cricket might not have as much broadcasting prowess as other sports like American football, but it is certainly in the right direction. I hope more independent companies can chime in as well, which may help reduce the costs. The competition may also drive better products.
I also hope that the ICC can make uniform regulations and can cover the costs, especially in major tournaments like the World Cup Qualifiers.
Also Read: Major League Cricket salary
Other Sources: HCL Technologies Selected by Cricket Australia
Frequently Asked Questions
Ultra-edge is Hawkeye’s version of the snicko.
DRS stands for Decision Review System.
HotSpot technology is not used in cricket anymore due to doubts about the validity of the technology. Bat coating & silicone tape can hide the image detection on Hot Spot.
The full form of DRS is Decision Review System.
© Copyright @Nitesh Mathur and Broken Cricket Dreams, LLC 2023. Originally published on 06/14/2023. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Broken Cricket Dreams with appropriate and specific direction to the original content (i.e. linked to the exact post/article).