Cricket is seeing a surge in technology-based predictions

Feb 10, 2016, 08:45 IST | Hassan M Kamal

Technology is changing the way we watch and play cricket. Predictions for the future, data from the past, real-life training modules, simulated stadiums and in-depth analysis accompany every ball bowled

Fans who have been adjusting schedules and itineraries in time for the ICC T20 World Cup that kicks off next month, will be thrilled to learn that the TV partner of the series has something special lined up. We are told, they will be introducing a new tool for a more intuitive match analysis and prediction.

Also read: ICC aiming to improve umpiring technology, says Simon Taufel

From the number of balls left to wagon wheels, interesting trivia like the number of spectators and situation-based analysis, cricket is seeing a surge in technology-based predictions that aim at making the most of all the big data available on the game. In picture, spectators at the quarter-final of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 between South Africa and New Zealand in Dhaka on March 25, 2011. Pic/AFP

Rating the cricketer
According to information with us, Star Sports will introduce a statistics-based system where players will be rated on their performances in real-life situations. So, players will be rated anywhere from zero to five based on their ability to perform under pressure, consistency, ability to get big hits, etc.

Young cricketers try out Pitch Vision’s technology in a training camp in New Delhi
Young cricketers try out Pitch Vision’s technology in a training camp in New Delhi

“This is just one of the several uses of technology that aims to make prediction more realistic. It is expected to add several more parameters as it gathers effective data on cricketers over a period of time,” says Mario Fernandes, senior associate, digital content, SportzInteractive, a company that specialises in creating content for online services like ESPNCricInfo, and CricketNext among others.

“While traditional factors like run rate, number of balls left, and wickets in hand remain important, it’ll be interesting to see how the new rating system plays out this season,” adds Fernandes.

Training the hi-tech way
But is the use of technology limited only to live matches? Not really. At a time when machine learning is gaining popularity, it’s natural for cricket to have a system that learns about a player with each ball bowled and shot played. A London-based company, Pitch Vision, has set up shop in India to help players, coaches and teams add a statistics-driven approach to training.

Technology has been used in the past to predict results  like in this case with help from Hawk-Eye. Now, it’s used to predict player performances too. PIC/Getty Images
Technology has been used in the past to predict results like in this case with help from Hawk-Eye. Now, it’s used to predict player performances too. PIC/Getty Images

The company offers three training products — PV1, Pitch Vision + and Pitch Vision Batting Studio — to help players and coaches review their performances, and share with each other for guidance. “All these technologies capture real time data on a player using a hardware setup that combines videos and sensors placed strategically in a practice net, to generate a detailed player report. The hardware setup captures real-time data such as speed at which a bowler bowls a delivery, its movement and angle of throw. For batsmen, it will capture details about action, shot selection, stance and more,” says Rohan Timblo, CEO, Pitch Vision (Asia and South Africa).

The data stored is then made available to players and their coaches on its online platform and app (Android and iOS), which can be used to review performance, as well as share it with others. The company’s services are currently installed in Centre of Excellence (Pretoria, South Africa), MCC Club (Lords), ICC (Dubai) as well as at Doon School and Karnataka Cricket Association, among others. “We have analysed 12 to 12.5 million deliveries till now,” shares Timblo. Adding fun to cricket learning, it also offers Pitch Vision Powerplay, an entertainment simulator that creates a live stadium-like environment, created especially for cricket fans.

But Pitch Vision is not the only player in this fast-growing field. A few years ago, when the Indian Cricket League (ICL) had surfaced, it made news not just as a rival cricket league, but also how a new kid on the block wanted to make the best use of technology — from GPS tags to measure distances covered by players, to vests that would track their heartbeats — the ICL in many ways, was way ahead of its time.

Also read: Sachin Tendulkar had initial reservations about technology in the dressing room

But while ICL faltered, the use of technology didn’t. Over the last few years, several international cricketing companies and academies have begun using sensor-based technologies to train, and prepare for matches. Some of the major players in India are Sportsmechanics and Sportingmindz. “We offer analytics support for several IPL teams including Kings XI Punjab and Kolkata Knight Riders,” shares Sandeep Kannambadi, CTO, SportingMindz.

Going mobile
For those of you on the move, you can catch the T20 World Cup on your smartphone via the app, HotStar. Others who prefer to follow the action via live feeds, there are apps which offer live analysis, live scores, news updates and more. “Services like Hotstar have picked up in the last few years, especially because of its unique contextual visual content along with live streaming. As for those users who face the curse of slow Internet speeds, several popular websites like Yahoo Cricket, CricBuzz and ESPN Cricinfo are available as websites and apps. They are good to stay updated during a match,” assures Fernandes.

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