Leg before wicket (LBW) is one of the many ways, in which a batsman can be dismissed by the bowler. Wicket refers to the stumps that the batsman guards. If the batman’s legs are right in front of the stumps when the ball hits his pads directly, the batsman is considered out. So is that all? No!
Leg before wicket has many elements that has led to various controversies in the history of cricket. It often proves to be a great test for the umpire’s decision making skills. The decision to rule a batsman out by leg before wicket has increased in its accuracy due to technological advancements. Back in the day it was purely based on the umpire’s instincts and what he said was the final word. It is no longer the case, as the hawk-eye technology, edge detector and hotspot detector are regularly used to refine LBW decisions. Let us now breakdown the LBW mode of getting out.
Let us assume a bowler has bowled in a way that the ball pitches and goes on to strike the batman’s pads. The bowler appeals. What does the umpire now consider to come to a decision? First and foremost, he will see the pitch of the ball. It is crucial for the ball to pitch in the path of the stumps or on the off-side (the side where the batman’s bat is pointed at during his stance at the time of the bowler’s run-up) of the stumps. Secondly, he will see how much the ball has bounced while going on to hit the pads. Thirdly, he will see if at all the ball touched the bat first before going on to hit the pads. Let us hypothesize that in our case the umpire has given his decision in favour of the batsman (not out). If the bowler is not convinced, he can go on to “challenge” the umpire’s decision.
Challenging was not present in the past. It was only after the development of hawk-eye and edge detection technology that this term was introduced. The umpire on field will now ask the third umpire to look into the matter. The third umpire is not present on the field. He is present in a room with a monitor in front of him that will replay the trajectory of the ball. The third umpire will first check if there is any hint of the ball edging the bat before hitting the pads. If yes, then the decision would stand and the batsman will be deemed not out. But if there is no involvement of the bat, the umpire will now go for the hawk-eye.
Hawk-eye will showcase an animated trajectory of the bowler right from the moment the bowler released the ball from his hand till it hit the pads. But the trajectory doesn’t stop here. The real fun begins now. Hawk-eye further extends this trajectory based on the way the bowl was bowled (swing, spin, etc) and adjusts it to the height that it might carry in case the bowl was to travel further to the stumps. If this extended trajectory hits the stumps, the decision has to be reverted. The batsman is considered out. But so is not the case each time.
As mentioned previously, the first thing that the umpire will see is if the bowl is pitched in the line of stumps or on the off-side of the stumps. Hawk-eye is no different. In case the ball is pitched outside the line of the leg stump, the decision stands. The batsman is not out.
Controversies do exist despite such fine advances in technology. Many a times the ball-tracing goes on to hit the top of the stumps on the region of the bails. It almost confuses the hawk-eye as well, as the message displayed is “umpire’s decision.”
LBW has been the most controversial form of cricketing dismissal. When even the most advanced science has not completely usurped a thorough decision making in the sport, it becomes crucial to stay updated with the advances on LBW.