It was a replay that rang around the world. Sachin Tendulkar is given out on the field to Saeed Ajmal, reviews it after a long discussion with his partner, and is reinstated by a Hawk-Eye projection that says the ball is missing leg. Tendulkar goes on to score a match-winning 85.
The replay was subject of conspiracy theories with many YouTube videos showing what the correct prediction path should have been. There is one difference between fans’ rants and this replay: quite a few neutral experts found the prediction incredulous. Umpire Ian Gould, a man known for his humour and even temper on the field, was seen shaking his head when he saw the replay. Moments later, Mark Nicholas came on air and said, “It seemed inconceivable that that ball could miss the leg stump.” Sunil Gavaskar observed the ball had hit the inside of Tendulkar’s shin, which is traditionally considered incriminating in such cases.
All these years later, keeping in mind what we have learnt from technology, we asked experts – and one participant – their considered view of the prediction.
This is a ball the whole world will remember. There has been a lot of debate over it already. Once Ian Gould gave it out, I was sure it would stay out because all it needed to do was clip the leg stump. And I overheard Sachin tell Gautam Gambhir, “Let me take a chance. Who knows it might save me?” Gambhir advised him against it because he felt he was out, but Sachin insisted.
The time taken in the review made me suspect something, but I can’t say there was any foul play for sure. Even when I see the replay today, that looks 100% out. Even if it had been an umpire’s call, it was given out on the field. You have to remember it was the straighter ball, but they showed a big break on it. I think they missed a frame in between; that’s how it appears to me when I watch it again.
This was all new for us. This is Hawk-Eye and DRS, and we were not as experienced watching Hawk-Eye predictions and everything but when I watch it now, I think today as a commentator I would have said probably missing leg stump. Because you see where it pitched and where the impact is. So it turned big. If you watch the keeper Kamran Akmal, he has already moved down the leg side and then when it hits him [Tendulkar] on the pad, he comes back towards the stumps to appeal. So because we didn’t understand angles as well as we do today, I don’t think it is as controversial as it seemed at the time.
When I saw that Ajmal delivery thudding into Sachin’s pad, my hand went up in the air because it was quite apparent that the ball would go on to hit middle and leg stump. It wasn’t a ball that would’ve turned enough to miss the leg stump, and it was definitely not going the other way as much either. Tendulkar’s decision to review the decision was, perhaps, more in hope than in belief. The Hawk-Eye trajectory taking the ball down the leg side – missing the three stumps – was quite astonishing. You knew that it was an error but an error that couldn’t be reversed. My mind went back to another such dismissal in Sri Lanka where the ball was an offbreak but the Hawk-Eye trajectory showed it as a carrom ball turning the other way after pitching and, therefore, missing the stumps. It was a further reiteration of the fact that DRS wasn’t foolproof yet; in fact, far from it.
My assessment is that the Hawk-Eye got it right. It was at best clipping the leg stump. Don’t get me wrong, it was an extremely close call. It’ll fall under the realm of Protagoras Paradox, in that both sides have convincing arguments. Saeed Ajmal is not a big turner, neither was the pitch a rank turner. The impact was within the stumps and post impact the ball landed on the off side, which means it hit the inside of the shin.
I have three pieces of evidence to make the call.
Ajmal bowled fairly from the top of the box, almost from the wide ball mark on the crease, which is 35 inches from the middle stump. That is bound to create an angle.
The ball pitched on the fourth stump, and hit Sachin in front of the middle stump.
At the point of impact, Sachin was on the front foot, albeit “half-cock”, let’s say seven feet from the stumps.
Keeping these three in mind, I’d say the angle of the ball would have missed the stump, maybe clipped the leg stump at best. If we add a hint of turn, which I reckon it did, I’d say Hawk-Eye got it right.
Absolutely plumb. That is my observation. Sachin’s stride wasn’t big. Yes, he was on front foot, but he didn’t get a big stride in. If you see the trajectory of the ball, it is not loopy. It tells you it was bowled fast. Saeed Ajmal has himself said he didn’t try to turn the ball. He bowled from mid-crease so he had an angle on it, but no turn. Because of the trajectory, it stayed low, so height is out of question. And it hit the inside of his shin, in front of middle after pitching just outside off. It would have hit the stumps. I can’t say how the mistake was made.
The final word: Hawk-Eye
Hawk-eye doesn’t feel the need to clarify further after it made an explanation back in the day. There were two discrepancies that were popularly observed then. Firstly, the point of impact on the predictive-path replay was different from the last time the ball was seen in the replay. Hawk-Eye said the frame rate on TV cameras was 50 frames per second, and that they didn’t capture the actual point of impact. Hawk-Eye cameras used the run-out camera too to calibrate and determine the actual interception point, the explanation said.
The other point of contention was the predictive track appeared to have moved to the right of what it would have been had it been a straight extension of the trajectory of the ball. The explanation pointed to gravity, and how the ball had already started veering off a straight line even before hitting the pad.
“For each ball bowled the Hawk-Eye system outputs a screen-shot showing our raw data,” the explanation said. “For reviewed LBWs this is sent to the ICC so that there is an independent check verifying the integrity of what is seen on TV for any DRS LBW decision. The ICC were happy with the outcome of this review.”