How New Zealand (Not England) Would Have Won the Cricket World Cup If They Used AI
The ICC 2019 Cricket World Cup final was on 14th July and after 48 days of the contest, New Zealand and England battled it out to take the top spot. If you watched the match, you would have been on the edge of your seat, especially towards the end when the seemingly improbable overthrow occurred and the ball hit Ben Stokes' bat and rolled towards the boundary that gave England six runs that they desperately needed. Even though it was a shocking feat, it was completely legal, but there may have been a major umpiring fault that could have aided in ending New Zealand's chance at winning the cup. Law 19.8 of the ICC rules, pertaining to ‘Overthrow or wilful act of fielder’, states: “If the boundary results from an overthrow or from the wilful act of a fielder, the runs scored shall be any runs for penalties awarded to either side, and the allowance for the boundary, and the runs completed by the batsmen, together with the run in progress if they had already crossed at the instant of the throw or act.” Martin Guptill, who threw the ball that hit Stokes' bat, did so before the two English batsmen crossed for the second run. Therefore, England should have only been given five runs, but more importantly Stokes' would have not been on strike.
How can umpire faults like this be fixed? Using AI. The idea of robot umpires has been around for a while in baseball and has even been recently introduced in independent leagues. These umpires manage the home plate and use the TrackMan radar system to determine if a pitch is a strike or not. The information received by the robot is sent to a human for checking, as it is still in a trial phase, but in the future, it could be a viable option. The introduction of robot umpires will also lead to automated decisions that are not influenced by factors such as the intensity of the game, which could have come in useful for the final due to the overwhelming importance of the game where every umpiring decision should be correct. Players also will not be able to pressure the umpire because it is not a 'real' person.
In cricket, many technologies are used to influence and determine the outcome of an umpire's decision, such as the Hawkeye system. AI can be implemented to ensure that every decision is 100% the correct one, as the algorithm can be used to ensure everything was accounted for. Other than aiding the umpire, AI can be used to help players train and prepare for a match. This type of technology can be used to analyse what the players did wrong and can help them improve using predictive methods. Artificial intelligence can also be used to analyse and predict how the opposing team might play, so the team will have a better understanding of what they need to do to win; however, this is possibly crossing the line in terms of ethics and good sportsmanship, as AI is purposely being used to find the 'weak link' in the opposition.
The obvious reason for not using AI-powered robot umpires and in some training focused technology is because it will replace humans. Cricket, and sports, after all, are made to be played by people, so it makes sense to be refereed and managed by people. Adding robotic umpires will increase the chance of having umpire calls that are always correct, which is the point, but it takes away from the fact that there is no 'real' umpire. However, in the end, it does not matter whether robot umpires will be introduced, as there will surely always be some controversial moment that affects the outcome of a game, much like the now infamous Law 19.8.
Thumbnail Source: AFP