The Evolution of Modern Day Cricket From Third Umpire to Artificial Intelligence Powered Bats

By Sujith Vasudevan, Senior Correspondent, Siliconindia   |   Monday, 29 October 2018, 12:24 Hrs
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From Third Umpire to Artificial Intelligence Powered Bats 

“A historic moment in word cricket! Umpire Cyril Mitchley is not sure and indicating to the third umpire sitting in the room with a television monitor - all for the first time,” said the commentator, when the South African debutant Jonty Rhodes made a run out attempt in the first Test Match of India’s tour of South Africa (at Durban, 1992). It was a huge moment not only in India’s first innings, but also in the entire cricket history, as an intervention by third umpire using the television replies was being used for the first time in world cricket. Alas, when the red light was blazed on the television screen, the batsman who walked back to the dressing room was none other than Sachin Tendulkar!

The Power Bat & More

The Durban Test opened the door way for yet another revolution in cricket. Cut to the present, while living in a smart world of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Advanced Analytics, cricket can’t turn its face away. The omens of a new generation cricket bat was visible in 2017’s ICC Champions Trophy in the form of a bat sensor - a cap atop the bat handles, which was introduced by Speculur Technologies, powered by Intel. But incorporating a whole new world of novel technologies into the willow and making it a ‘Power Bat’ is Spektacom Technologies - a technology start-up incepted by the former Indian captain and the current Chairman of ICC’s Cricket Committee, Anil Kumble.

Imagine any shot played by a batsman during a live match. With this unique lightweight, Microsoft Azure Sphere-powered ‘sticker’ stuck on the shoulder of the bat, the broadcaster will be enabled to show various data such as speed on impact, twist on impact, and the quality of the shot — percentage proximity of the ball’s contact to the sweet spot of the willow. On the other hand, since this tool, which leverages AI, IoT & Advanced Analytics, is available through a mobile app, the cricketing coaches can study the batsman and given them clear instructions on where to improve .    

While power bat is just a new addition to the gentlemen’s game, let’s go back in time to when technology first became a part of the game.

The Commencement of Technology Era

In fact, ever since the technology revolution took off, the beautiful game of cricket has always been an ideal acceptor of novel innovations, making the live broadcast and the game itself more interesting and highly influential over the years. Let’s rewind a few decades and see how it all began and carried on.

Many of the technologies that made a way into the cricket field in the last two decades have prevailed over time and are still in use to power the latest Decision Review System (DRS). The technologies that make cricket almost a suspense thriller and an amazing television experience include Snickometer, Hawk Eye (UDSC), Stump Camera, LED Bails, SpiderCam, Drones, and appreciably more.

A micro-voice based technology invented by English computer scientist, Allan Plaskett in the mid-1990s, the Snickometer has become a key technology in terms of decision making. The variation in magnitude of sound waves helps the umpire to find out if the ball touched the bat on the way through to the wicketkeeper. While Snicko generally helps in keeper-catches and Leg Before Wicket (LBW) in some cases, the Hawk Eye (UDSC) - a technology that visually tracks the ball and displays a record of its statistical path, currently is the most important part of LBW decision making. Developed by Dr. Paul Hawkins from the UK, Hawk Eye makes the television broadcast more interactive. When it comes to the decision making on run outs and stumping, more often than not, Stump Camera & LED Bails together do the job. Developed by Bronte EcKermann, an Australian mechanical industrial designer, the LED Bails are an expensive solution to precisely spot falling of the bails.

The experience of watching cricket matches in television got better with every year passed, and the SpiderCam & Drone took it to a whole new level in the recent past. First used in the Indian Cricket League, SpiderCam became a fan-favorite, manifesting the aesthetic views of on-field actions from extraordinary angles. The Drone Camera, which was introduced by Intel at ICC Champions Trophy - 2017 for Advanced Pitch Analysis, now presents even more aesthetic panoramas. However, now it’s the turn of Power Bat, and hopefully, it will also prevail over time. 

The Fan Time is On

Besides the arrival of Power Bat, embedding sensors inside the ball to capture unprecedented bowling data, helmet to improve the safety of players using data, and electronic fan bands to enliven the entertainment are also well on the deck, thanks to miscellaneous technology companies. Though, this advanced technology revolution in cricket won’t be walk in the park as the game of cricket is interestingly known for the superstitions within players who often are unwilling to make alterations to their gears. It will be quite engrossing to witness this beautiful game transforming through these technologies.

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