Is Reviewing Decisions A Skill?

A look at Player Review records suggests that it is not.

Note: This short post considers how well different captains do with the Player Review option of cricket’s Decision Review System in Test cricket. To see how well different umpires do, see this post

Since 2017, ESPNCricinfo have been recording three types of player reviews in the match notes on their scorecards - struck down, upheld and umpire’s call. Before 2017, they did not record ‘umpire’s call’.

The review records discussed below are attached at the end of this post. On the face of it, the records since 2017 suggest that Tim Paine and Mushfiqur Rahim are uniquely bad. But this is not what the record actually says. When the fielding side reviews, and the result is ‘Umpire’s Call’, it means that review is unsuccessful (the batter stays not out).

Virat Kohli’s reviews as the fielding captain fail 83.1% of the time. Jason Holder’s 82.1%, Dinesh Chandimal 86.1%, Kane Williamson 82.8%, Tim Paine 85%. Faf du Plessis 78.5%, Joe Root 75.6% and Sarfaraz Ahmed 75.0% do slightly better. How much better is that in raw terms? Root has had 124 unsuccessful reviews in 164 attempts. Tim Paine has had 51 unsuccessful reviews in 60 attempts (or the equivalent of 139 in 164 attempts). A fielding side attempts, on average, 3 reviews per Test match (Root has attempted 164 in 50 Tests, Paine has attempted 60 in 23 Tests).

So, how much better is Root, compared to Paine? Over 10 Test matches, Root has 3 extra successful reviews compared to Paine. What’s the difference between Williamson (who has the equivalent of 135 unsuccessful reviews in 164 attempts?) - Williamson gets 4 extra reviews correct every 50 Tests.

This suggests the reviewing in the field is not a skill. All captains fail 75-85% of the time, usually depending on how many they have occasion to take when their team is behind in the game compared to when their team is ahead in the game. Teams tend to take desperate reviews more often when they are behind in the game compared to when they are ahead. The differences between the best and worst record is trivial.

Batters do significantly better than bowling captains on Player Reviews. Since 2017, 36.6% (303 out of 829) of reviews requested by batters have been successful compared to 20.7% (207 out of 1018) reviews requested by bowlers. Note that in these Tests 4431 dismissals which are caught or lbw have been recorded. This suggests that batters contest about 18.7% of reviewable dismissals, and are proved correct in 6.8% of reviewable dismissals. Bowlers don’t review every appeal which the umpire answers with a not out. Of the ones which they review, they are wrong 4 times out of 5.

Reviewing then, is not a skill. It is a matter of having enough information. This is why batters do better than bowlers on Player Reviews, while fielding sides do roughly equally poorly.

  1. Reviews by the bowling side 2017-2021

  1. Reviews by the bowling side 2009-2016

Player Reviews by the Bowling Side before 2017 (Note that Umpires Call existed before 2017, but was not recorded as a separate category in the scorecard.) Struck down, upheld and umpire’s call are given as percentage of total reviews.
  1. Reviews by batting and bowling sides since 2017

Player Reviews by batting and bowling sides since the start of 2017. “ur” - number unsuccessful reviews (struck_down + umps_call). Struck down, upheld and umpire’s call are given as percentage of total reviews. Batters are better are requesting reviews when compared to bowlers, mostly because they have better information a lot of the time and don’t need to speculate as much. The quality of reviewing is therefore a matter of information, rather than judgement.