Cricket in the 21st century is a brave new world, where the gentleman’s game has adopted a wide range of technologies. What are those and how they impact the popular sport?
There was a time when the major discussion at roadside tea stalls and public transport during an ongoing Test match was whether a batsman was actually out or not the previous day. While many will argue that the ball would have missed the leg-stump, others will feel it was plumb in front. Much of that war of words was put to rest with the introduction of the Decision Review System (DRS).
The system almost changed the face of the game of cricket as the technology provides opportunities for umpires to track the path of a ball and predict what it would have done. It employs slow-motion replays, ball-tracking technology, audio sensors — the ‘Snickometer’ — and even heat-sensing, known as Hot Spot, to check whether the ball hit the bat.
It uses microphones to detect minute sounds made as the ball hits bat or pad, and infra-red imaging to detect temperature changes when the ball touches the willow, gloves, or pad.
Now even the third umpire, who is not positioned on the ground, calls a no-ball taking the help of technology.
All these have opened the floodgates as both the guardians of the game as well the players started to depend more and more on technologies. Every team, often from club level to international ones, now has video analysts who collect as much data as possible on their own as well as rival team members. Even they work on the data about playing conditions like the weather and pitch at different venues which often dictates the team selection process these days.
In a move that might even make the cricket coaches obsolete, Spektacom, a sports tech company founded by former Indian cricketer Anil Kumble, unveiled Power Bat that will help batsmen analyse their games on their own.
Sensors in a lightweight sticker attached to the back of the bat capture various parameters of a shot. The parameters captured by the Power Bat are speed off the bat, the twist of the bat after the shot is played and quality of the shot (measured via how much of the ball hits the sweet spot of the bat). Spektacom has introduced a new unit called Speks which measures the power of a shot. The greater the number of Speks, the more powerful is the shot.
Even a cricketer’s food requirement is now decided based on his workload which is monitored by a programme.
The sensors on the sticker are connected via Bluetooth to a mobile app where shots can be analysed during or after a practice session.
Even a cricketer’s food requirement is now decided based on his workload which is monitored by a programme. Players now have to pass a Yo-Yo test, which is also technology-driven, to be eligible for selection to state or national sides.
What’s really important to me is that we (need to) keep a good balance of human endeavours and skills together with technology.Simon Taufel, Former ICC Elite Panel umpire
However, the question remains whether technology can give birth to more Bradmans or Tendulkars. Perhaps not. Technology in sports, like in all other fields, remains a tool to assist in one’s progress. One can have all the data to work on to take the next step in world sport. But at the end of the day, it will be human qualities that will decide how much one was able to absorb those traits and implement those in reality. Sports will always remain an on-the-ground activity and all backroom issues will have no impact there.
Former International Cricket Council (ICC) Elite Panel umpire Simon Taufel perhaps said it right when he said “What’s really important to me is that we (need to) keep a good balance of human endeavours and skills together with technology.”
(Archie Little has been a sports journalist for over a decade now. He has worked with leading media houses of India like The Indian Express, Hindustan Times, and The Times of India. He has done talk shows on All India Radio and has travelled to different parts of the world on work assignments.)
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