What a flat six that was… the batsman has nailed the shot… seeing some serious power hitting, today…
Power hitting in cricket is often associated more with brute force, and less with the technical parameters of the shot. It is a well-known fact that timing the ball to perfection is the best way to get maximum outcome from a cricketing shot. Bat speed, ball impact location, downswing, launch angle, and bat twist during impact play a very important role in perfecting a shot.
The bat twist on the hand during the ball impact occurs due to a number of reasons, such as the speed of the incoming ball, impact of the ball away from the sweet spot region, grip on the handle, body weight balance, footwork, etc. The batsman may be well aware of the gaps in the field, but if the bat twists in the hand during ball impact, the ball may very well take an unintended trajectory – straight to the opposition fielders.
Sometimes, bat twist is incorrectly referenced to the intentional off-slice or leg flick from the batsman.
The gap: Intent vs. actual trajectory of the ball
Bat twist during the ball impact is less spoken in analysis as it is difficult to perceive when the twist is not large enough to be apparent for the viewers and commentators. So, the twist is not often noticed in the fast-paced motion of the game.
While the slow-mo cameras give some idea to the viewers on the twist, it is challenged by other factors like effectiveness, availability, and the angle of the camera with respect to the shot. Also, the natural reaction of the batsman to rectify the twist immediately after the impact makes it even harder to diagnose the effect of the twist on the shot. The parameter comes into a greater effect in power hitting, when the batsman plays a lofted shot and it often ends up being caught by the fielder due to the bat twist.
Before we begin to find solutions to overcome the bat twist, let us look at the main cause for why the bat turns in the hand while playing a shot.
The sweet spot region on the bat produces the least vibration during the ball impact and hence the least twist on the bat. Any impact away from the sweet spot or the mid-line region of the bat increases the overall vibration. This causes reduction in the ball speed and a decrease in the accuracy of the shot placement due the effect of the twist in the hand. The same is amplified during a power hitting.
While the emphasis on timing can never be overstated, training academies also advocate arm strengthening exercises and using a firm hand grip to reduce the effect of twist in the event of not middling the ball. Oval shaped batting handle grips also help in reducing the gaps between the gloves and the handle. Having proper body balance and footwork will further help in reducing the effect of the vibration.
Measuring bat twist:
Understanding the level of bat twist will help in determining the necessary corrective action plan to reduce the effect. The negative or positive twist will also help in adjusting the batting stance and the bat face angle against bowlers. When the parameter is calibrated over a period of time, it will help in bench-marking and personalizing the technique for different bowlers and bowling conditions. Spektacom’s PowerBat uses smart sensor technology that provides real-time information on the bat twist, speed, ball impact location, and the power generated for every shot played. The aggregated data can then be sliced & diced and compared & contrasted against time, sessions, and bowlers.
This post was originally published on https://spektacom.com/blog/bat-twist-in-power-hitting-the-most-underrated-factor/
Every cricket match is a story about the battle between two playing teams and between two key elements of the game – bat and ball.
Cricket fans throng the stadiums, like movie theatres, to view & anticipate the gameplay and watch their stars in action. While the nature of the outcomes are limited (win, tie, abandoned, lost), the live gameplay is filled with many intricate nuances that continuously engages a fan throughout the game.
The narration of a live cricket story to mass audiences began way back when radios started broadcasting matches. Then came television and the story took on a visual form. With every new generation, the display canvas has been evolving continuously and the game is also adapting. With the advent of the social media and OTT app platforms, the narration of the game is not limited to the stadium audience and commentators alone, but also from the fans who co-create their perspectives on the digital platform.
Over the years, the nature of the story also got expanded from live match scripts to pre & post-match screenplays. The emergence & popularity of the cricket clubs like the Indian Premier League (IPL) teams provided regional flavour and emotional connect to the local fan base. Events, melas, fan meets, merchandises, social causes, etc. became a regular part of fan engagement, something that goes beyond the actual game.
From being primarily about the pros and performance, Cricket, today, has become more personal and personalized for fans.
Cricket lovers are mad about data:
From the days when cricket statistics were referred to in newspapers and playing cards (aka Cricket Trump Cards in India) to viewing pre & post-match analysis on television screens and becoming accessible online via scoring websites, data have always been an integral part of the storytelling for cricket fans.
Since the proliferation of mobile phones and social media, performance analysis has also moved from being a one-way consumption by fans to two-way interaction between the fans and the stakeholders of the game.
Data transition from statistics to analytics, post-match to real-time:
Cricket is filled with a variety of statistical data at different levels – match and player performance (batting, bowling, and fielding) statistics. To delve deeper into the game and its story, mere absolutes and averages seemed not enough. It has to answer the contextual questions posed by fans.
“How does Rohit Sharma pace his innings in a T20 game? Does he score runs at a faster pace in power play as against death overs?”
Statistics allowed a way for analytics to answer such questions on the key moments of the game. Today, data is sliced & diced, back and forth, providing insights and comparisons on the match, format, toss, time, players, pitch, weather, seasons, umpires, … the list is endless!
“What was the swing on the last ball from Mohammed Shami? How much was the gap between the bat and ball?”
Insights also evolved into a more real-time analysis, from the erstwhile post-match only analysis. Today, we have technologies like pitch map, wagon wheel, Hawk-eye, etc. that provide real-time data on every moment of the game.
One of the recent innovations in this space is PowerBat technology – a smart sticker for cricket bats. It helps to analyze the real-time batting performance of the players, by taking the viewers behind the scenes.
“What is the bat speed of KL Rahul? Was there any twist observed while playing his shot?” https://www.youtube.com/embed/ev8XKce-Q5g
PowerBat & fan engagement:
PowerBat technology allows fans to compare their favourite player’s batting techniques with other batters, and also against bowlers and bowling types, on metrics such as bat power, bat speed, twist on the bat, impact location of the ball on the bat, etc. It provides unique and contextual insights, enabling never seen before player stories – setting a new benchmark in fan engagement on broadcaster platforms.
“What is the bat power of Smriti Mandhana against fast bowlers? How many shots were played from the sweet spot of the bat?”
The technology uses an ultra-lightweight credit card-sized sticker that can be easily pasted on the back of the bat, which provides real time feedback on batting performance. It also empowers any cricket enthusiast to not only improve their game, but also brings in an element of fun. Fans can measure, compare, and contrast their PowerBat metrics with peers as well as with their favourite superstars of the game – bringing them closer to their stars and the game.
The post was originally published on https://spektacom.com/blog/powerbat-fan-engagement-cricket/
So, when did training / coaching actually became a norm in Cricket?
Was it when the game of cricket was played with sticks, similar to hockey? Or when the first international cricket match happened? Or was it when the West Indies won the first Cricket world cup?
There is no definitive answer to this timeframe question. One thing is certain, though: When the sport moved from being played just for fun, to competing at the professional level, coaching progressively became an integral part of the game.
If Cricket has millions of followers in India, it is not merely because of the popularity of the superstars, but also the development of the coaching ecosystem in India that helped the sport grow at the grassroot levels. It has also evolved as a bridge for the budding cricketers to realize their aspirations to become the next stars of the game. Today, cricket training academies are seen as the pathways by students and parents to learn, enhance, connect, and progress through the levels in the cricket zonal hierarchy.
Coaching systems have evolved over the years, with the changing demands of the format, infrastructure growth, competitive landscape, technology interventions, and the overall business of cricket. The role of a coach & the styles of coaching have also had their own share of evolution.
What will the future of Cricket training / coaching look like then? Before that, let’s take a sneak peek into the past and present.
1) Rule-book based coaching
In the days of radio commentary and the following decade of television broadcasting, Cricket coaching remained largely rule-book based. Many coaches during this period followed a command style coaching with strict adherence to the techniques for bowling and batting. Training drills in regional coaching academies followed a regular routine and were conducted usually in large batches. These were the days when legends like Sunil Gavaskar conducted pre-match shows with batting tips on television broadcast.
2) Enhancing natural style
With the advent of the internet age, on-demand match replays and endless online coaching videos enabled cricket enthusiasts to self-coach the techniques. The focus then shifted from mastering the rule-book based techniques to differentiating themselves from the rest, with their own natural styles. Coaching also moved to more collaborative-style with personalized enhancement techniques for their students. The newer age formats like T20 demanded agility & variations in bowling and shot making. The batsman needs to master variety, and at times unique shots, for the same types of ball length and speed. The coaching also evolved to focusing more on the holistic development of the player. Physical fitness, dieting, mental toughness, etc. became central to a player development.
3) Data-driven cricket training
Statistical data have given way for more real-time on-field data to immediately assess, analyze, and enhance the play. Today, many regional cricket training academies use smart sensors, analytics, and computer vision solutions, which, in the past, used to be privy to international teams & broadcasters. The technologies are equipped to provide insights into every aspect of batting, bowling, and fielding. New-age technologies like ball tracking and player tracking help in analyzing bowling lengths and release mechanisms during drills. Smart wearables and vests provide analytics on player wellness, speeds on sprints, linear & rotational forces, etc. to prevent injuries, and enhance the performance of the bowlers and fielders. Smart Cricket bat technologies provide analysis on parameters required for effective shot making. These player-based metrics averaged over periods of time help in objectively analyzing the improvements made through coaching techniques.
With smart sensors, videos, and app-based cricket solutions, coaching also broke the boundaries of distance & time.
For example, Cricket Australia, under John Buchanan as the coach, built “Cricket Athlete Management System” in 2006 – covers all aspects of player preparation and performance. Today, the system uses many varieties of data – from match vision of players to fitness & strength tests to profiling & GPS data of the players. In England’s training sessions, players typically wear a micro-sensor that helps ECB to quantify the number of bowler deliveries, speeds, forces on foot contact, etc. – to analyze and minimize the chance of an injury. [Source: ESPN CricInfo]
Future of cricket training
While the fundamentals of cricket coaching will remain true, the key for the success of a coach in the digital age would lie in effectively embracing the new-age technologies in Cricket. Coaching is set to become more personalized, rigorous, efficient, and effective in the learning methods
Is too much data good for cricket coaching?
When the necessity for data shift from being a decision-support tool to becoming the decision-making tool, the game will become more mechanized and loses its human ingenuity. So, the answer lies in not the quantity of data, but on how the data is married into the coaching outcomes. The modern-day cricket coach should look to maximize the player performance by fusing & balancing the insights from tech with instincts from the coaching experience.
THE BAT Law 5.71 & 5.7.2: The bat should not be more than 38 inches / 96.52 cm in length; 4.25 inches / 10.8 cm in width; 2.64 inches / 6.7 cm in depth; 1.56 inches / 4.0 cm at the edges (Source: MCC Law 5)
Cricket, similar to the English language, is the Lingua Franca equivalent of sports in India. It is very hard to cross a town without noticing a cricket match played by kids on the streets. While cricket balls in local tournaments vary largely from soft tennis balls to leather balls, depending on where & who plays the game, the material aspect of Cricket bat largely remained as wood and has been consistent in the last 3 decades – except in a few rural locations, coconut tree branches are at times used as alternates to wooden bats.
Cricket, unlike many other sports, is governed by Laws (not mere rules!) of the game. These laws, controlled by a private club called Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) in London, had been codified and existed since 1700s. While there are 42 laws of Cricket that exist today, law 5 defines the precise specifications of the bat, including the material, purpose, measurement, and the grading to be considered while designing and using a Cricket bat.
The idea of codifying the specifications of the cricket bat largely stemmed from the need for preserving the spirit of the game – to allow a fair play between the opposing teams. Despite the restrictions on the material and the physical dimension of the bat, the story of Cricket bat has been filled with plenty of adaptation to the evolving needs and with no dirt of innovation spirit.
Trivia: The law for the bat dimensions came into existence after the year 1771, when a batsman playing in the local English tournament came to the pitch with a bat that was wide enough to cover all the stumps.
Cricket bat design:
The oldest Cricket bat that is on display at the Oval in London traces back to 1729, and has very close resemblance to that of a hockey stick. It is believed that the games were first played amongst the Shepherds community in England and hence the initial bats could have actually taken its form from the Shepherd’s crook. The bowling was understood to be underarm and the ball was rolled along the ground and hence the design proved sufficient to play the ball close to the ground.
When the bowling moved from underarm rolling to looping the ball in the air and allowing it to bounce on the pitch, the bat blades started getting wider at the bottom to accommodate the bounce.
When the game moved to more roundarm bowling in the early 1800s, the bats started evolving with broader blades, higher swell, and lighter weights to allow more freedom in the movement and to react quickly to the speed and bounce of the ball. The batting techniques also evolved from horizontal sweeping of the ball on the pitch to playing the ball upright with wider shoulders.
Cricket bats were traditionally made from English willow woods, as they were considered to be lighter, tougher, and more shock resistant to ball impact. The earlier bats were made from the heartwood of the English willow and comparatively weighed a lot heavier than the modern-day bats. In the late 19th century, the manufacturers started to use the sapwood of the English willow to design lighter bats for better manoeuvrability in shot making. The modern cricket bats by international players typically weigh between 1.1 to 1.4 kgs.
Trivia: While the seeking for lighter yet powerful bat continues, Sachin Tendulkar used to play with a bat that weighed 1.47 kgs. Some of the other players in the recent past who likes to play with heavier bats include David Warner (~1.24 kgs), MS Dhoni (~1.27 kgs), Virender Sehwag (~1.35 kgs), and Chris Gayle (~1.36 kgs).
Single piece to two pieces: To avoid breakages and to have better weight & shock distribution, the bats were restructured from a single piece willow design to allow bat handles as a separate splice into the bat blade.
Today, majority of cricket bats are typically made from 2 types of willow wood: English willow and Kashmir willow. The handle, usually designed as rounded or oval, is made up of materials like cane, wood, or twine, and integrated with a tiny portion of rubber “springs” to reduce the vibration on the bat handle.
Tweaks & innovations in the bat design:
A few tweaks and innovations in the bat design were experimented since the second half of 1900s. Some of it created extensive debates in the cricketing community, a few just made noise, and while others found its way to reality. The below are some of the significant experiments tried on the bat design.
Aluminum bats: In 1979, Dennis Lillee used a bat which was made from aluminum for a test match against England at the WACA ground. The England captain complained about the impact of the bat on the ball and the incident prompted a widespread discussion in the cricketing committee on the usage of non-wooden bats. Subsequently, the laws of cricket were amended with the statement that bat blade should be made only from wood.
Graphite bats: Kookaburra introduced a carbon-fiber reinforced polymer on the spine of the bat in 2005 to enhance the bat’s longevity. The bat was used by a few international players, including Ricky Ponting, before it was revoked on request from the ICC and MCC.
Shoulderless bats: Slazenger introduced the concept of shoulderless blades in 1960s for lighter pick-up and better weight redistribution to the sweet spot.
Mongoose bat: Mongoose MMi3 bats have short blades and long handles. It was primarily designed for more six hitting, and less for defensive shots, in the T20 format. Mathew Hayden used the bat in the 2010 IPL season. The bat is lighter than a conventional bat with 3 times more wood at the bottom of the bat, expected to enhance the sweet spot by 120%.
Scoop bat: Gary Nicolls introduced the concept of “Super Scoop” bat, which involved scooping of a portion of the wood from the backside of the bat and allocating more wood on the edges. It helped in bats becoming lighter and increased the ‘Sweet Spot’ region on the bat.
Camel bat: Rashid Khan, Afghanistan player, used a double hump bat during the big bash league in 2019 – famously quoted as “The Camel” by Cricket Australia.
Making the Cricket bat smarter:
In the digital age, it is possible to understand the data behind every shot played on the cricket bat. This data can then be then analyzed to understand the nuances that would be required for effective shot making against different bowlers and bowling conditions. Spektacom’s Power bat technology involves a smart sticker sensor that can be glued on the backside of any normal cricket bat. It helps the batsman to understand and analyze the metrics that powers a proper cricketing shot, including bat speed, twist on the bat, ball impact location on the bat, and power generated on the shot.
This article was originally published at https://spektacom.com/blog/the-age-for-smart-cricket-bats/
Every cricketer, be it a kid playing in the narrow streets of Mumbai to an international cricketer playing in the IPL, loves hitting boundaries. The idea of “Speed” and “Power” brings a new excitement to the game, and has penetrated into all aspects of cricket – starting from the evolution of the format (Test -> ODI -> T20) to bowling speeds of over 140 km/hr to recording 100+ strike rate from the batsman.
Today, power hitting has become an integral part of the team’s game strategy. Many coaching academies, across the world, also conduct separate modules on power hitting techniques for their students.
Trivia: When the first sixer in international cricket was hit by an Australian batsman Joe Darling in 1898, he had to clear the ground as hitting just over the boundary was considered as five runs then . From occasional six hitting, the game has now progressed to having it as an essential factor of the game. In the recently concluded IPL, the tournament recorded an average of 14 sixers per game .
Power hitting skill is not just about smacking the ball as hard as you can; it is about mastering the physics in using the kinetic energy of the bat to exert the right force in reversing the direction of the incoming ball and lofting it over the boundary line.
While having the right physical fitness, bat weight, batting grip, hand-eye coordination, head, body, & leg movements, etc. are key elements in the classical coaching books, let us look at dissecting the parameters that come into action while playing a power shot.
Typically, a higher back lift allows a batter to have a longer downswing angle and can be used to generate more power on the shot. The bat face angle during the back lift also helps the batter to position for leg, straight, or off-side shot making. Using wrist movements along with arm direction will help in creating additional back lift for the batter. The down-swing or the bat speed need to be optimized to time the ball in the right direction. Knowing the right amount of back lift and the angle for different shot making will allow the batter to fine tune the batting skills.
Bat speed is often the most discussed factor in playing a power shot, except for shots played to deflect the ball behind the stumps. The faster the bat hits the ball, higher the probability in clearing the boundary as the force applied to the ball will increase with speed.
For power hitting, the force applied on the ball should be able to stop the ball at the time of impact and then direct it to travel at speeds greater than the ball speed at the time of impact. Full or checked follow through also helps in adjusting the acceleration required for the shot. Bat speed alone will not help in power hitting, but plays an important factor along with other elements like incoming ball speed, the timing-impact of the ball on the bat, angle of contact with the bat, etc. Being aware of the speed of the bat will help in adjusting the technique to different bowling types and pitch conditions.
Bat twist determines the deviation of the actual shot from the intended direction. The twist during the ball impact is caused by a combination of factors, including the bat grip, ball speed, arc and trajectory of the ball, bat swing arc, impact location of the ball, etc. The lesser the twist that happens on the bat during impact, the better is the outcome of the shot. Understanding the angle of twist (+ve or -ve) will help in determining the type & intensity of the batting grip to adjust for different bowling conditions.
Timing the ball (aka middling the ball) is the most important aspect in any shot making. It is often the key factor between hitting the ball for a six or getting out. When a ball hits the bat, the impact occurs for a tiny fraction of a second and the vibration travels through the length of the bat. The vibration observed during an impact on the sweet spot is the least/zero across all the 3 dimensions of the bat, and hence it allows for maximum energy transfer back to the ball. The quality of the shot will greatly vary on how well the batter can time the swing of his bat and get the ball to impact closer to the sweet spot region of the bat.
Power Bat Technology:
Spektacom’s power bat technology allows a player to leverage the science of power hitting by helping them to analyze the parameters like bat speed, the quality of the shot, the twist that happens during the impact, etc.
It is an ultra-light weight smart sticker, placed on the back side of the bat. It uses machine learning algorithms to decode the shot parameters to provide real-time insights to the users. Players can also compare and contrast performance parameters to continuously evolve their art of power hitting.
This article was originally published at https://spektacom.com/blog/the-science-of-power-hitting-in-cricket/
The technological demands for Cricket in the 21st century are vastly different from that of the previous era. In the 20th century, the focus for tech companies was primarily on broadcasting and in enhancing the reach of the game – more countries, more players, more matches, more audience…
The first-ever radio commentary for cricket happened in 1922 in Australia, covering a domestic game at the Sydney Cricket Ground . The television broadcasting happened in 1938, for the test match played at the Lord’s cricket ground between England and Australia  – the broadcast transmission happened from Alexandra Palace in North England and the signal was available only for 20 km range. The growth was exponential from thereon. Around 1.6 billion people were estimated to have watched the live coverage of ICC’s Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019 .
Trivia: The first one day international game was played in 1971 between England and Australia as an experiment to engage the audience, after the first 3 days of the test match were washed out due to rain. The audience loved the format and so the limited-overs came into play .
Today, cricket became one of the most watched sports in the world, only next to soccer. The technology focus for cricket in the 21st century has shifted towards enhancing the fan engagement of the game – enabling a better experience by making the game more credible, connected, and enjoyable for the audience.
Let us look at a few innovative technologies involved in enhancing the experience of the fan
Making the game more credible:
Credibility plays a key link in retaining the engagement of the fan. Any umpiring errors ,especially howlers, often undergo heavy criticism from both players and fans, in both physical and online mediums. Some can even change the complexion of the game completely. The Umpire Decision Review System (DRS), often used as a combination of technologies mentioned below, was brought to address some of the gaps in the real-time decision making of the umpires.
1) Snicko or Edge detection: Realtime Snicko (from BBG Sports) or UltraEdge (from Hawk-Eye innovations) works on the principle of sound frequencies to detect whether the ball touched the bat before being caught by the fielding team. It uses a sensitive stump microphone connected to an oscilloscope for sound wave measurement. The sound waves are then filtered for ambient noise, synchronized with video signals, and played along with the slow-mo video for the third umpire to make a call.
2) Hot Spot: The technology introduced by BBG sports to Cricket in the 2006 Ashes series uses 2 infrared cameras placed on opposite sides of the ground, near the sight screen, with a clear view of the batsman. When the ball hits any equipment of the batsman, it creates localized heat due to friction between the objects and the region is then displayed as a white spot on the infrared image. Based on the analysis of the infrared image, the third umpire makes a verdict – Out / Not Out!
3) Ball Tracking: Ball tracking by Hawk-eye innovations uses six cameras placed around the ground in specific locations to cover the entire trajectory of the ball – from the bowler’s hand to stop at intervals of every 1/100th of a second. The ball is identified in the images, its position from the ground is calculated through a triangulation method, and the images are then synchronized to create a 3D visualization with ball path prediction, to be used in the analysis by the umpires and viewers. Close LBW calls are better judged through Hawk-eye visualizations. The images from the camera are also used to present the ball pitch map and wagon wheel information.
4) Smart Bails: LED bails were introduced to cricket by a company called Zing bails in 2013. The concept was designed to make the bails glow on being successfully dislodged from the stumps. The bails have a microprocessor that detects when the contact is lost between the stumps and the bails. The bails are powered by a low voltage battery that gets illuminated within 1/1000th of a second. Run-outs & stumpings are now analyzed quickly by the 3rd umpire, while the LED lights also provide an element of fun to the viewers, especially during games played during the night. With advanced cameras and availability of stump LEDs, there is also a growing debate on the necessity of bails in the game.
Making the game more connected and enjoyable:
1) Birds-eye view: Spidercam designed by a company called Spidercam GmbH uses cameras that can move in all the 3 axes – horizontal, vertical, and in the rotary axis. It allows for a birds-eye view of the game and in angles that were never witnessed through regular broadcasting cameras. The camera is suspended from an array of Kevlar cables operated through motorized winches positioned in four roof corners of the stadium. A Spidercam pilot operates the camera through a software and the commands to-and-fro are communicated to the camera through fibre optic cable attached along with the Kevlar cables. With Spidercam, even the normal routines like bowler’s run-up, batsman taking guard, fielders aligning to the positions, etc. are spiced-up for audience viewing & commentary discussions.
2) Flying Cameras: Drone camera by the company Batcam was used in the ICC Men’s World Cup 2019. These cameras had 360 degree viewing angle and was used to capture shots from near ground level to skyline view. The camera was remotely controlled and equipped with automatic collision avoidance systems.
3) Player & Game Graphics: 3D graphics and animations have added fun quotient to the way data can be analyzed and presented to the audiences. There are quite a handful of companies that operate in both the analytics and graphic space. 3D player models presented during the game and during post-match commentaries provide interesting ways to visualize the skill, tactics, and performance of the players and teams.
4) Power Shot Analysis:Power Bat technology, by Spektacom, provides real time feedback on the batting performance, including data on bat speed, impact location, twist, launch angle, and the power behind every shot. It uses ultra-lightweight unobtrusive sensors, placed behind the bat, to compute the batting metrics using machine learning algorithms, which are then shared in real-time for broadcasting – the audience can now understand the science behind power hitting.
This article was originally published at https://spektacom.com/blog/cricket-technologies-for-21st-century-fans/
COVID-19 has disrupted not only the healthcare systems of the world, but also the economies of both the developed and developing nations. A proper recovery from the COVID-19 can be expected only after the wide-spread availability of a vaccine, until then, the battle with the pandemic & its effect on the economy is expected to continue for a long timeframe.
Economies, typically, are expected to recover from a downturn in any of the 3 following ways, depending on the severity and the duration of the crisis: 1) V Shaped – rapid recovery 2) U shaped – a long drawn recovery 3) L shaped – a new normal.
While many analysts are pointing towards either U or L shaped curves for India, there is a need for immediate steps to restore the health of the economy and align it to the growth trajectory (similar to a V shaped recovery) – to protect the welfare of the large sections of the population in the unorganized sectors. The task force should also include representatives from all ministries and evaluate the outcomes against the set expectations for every quarter of FY20-21, from Q2 to Q4.
The stimulus package from the Govt. should address the following 3 broad measures:
Enhancing and ensuring the healthcare system preparedness
Economic Relief to the affected industries and workers
Economic Stimulus to set the wheels of growth in motion
The pandemic effect of COVID-19 on the economy:
India has taken a tough choice of opting for a lockdown in an effort to flatten the pandemic curve, while protecting the healthcare systems from congestion effect and allowing time for enhancing healthcare capacity. In a lockdown, India is estimated to have lost around Rs 32,000 crore on a daily basis  – to be around Rs 8-11 lakh crore for the full lockdown period of 26 days (since April 20 it was a diluted lockdown with a few services being reopened). Hence, the situation warrants a large fiscal stimulus package to address the economic loss and revoke the economy from the downturn, while keeping the rise in the fiscal deficit to as minimal as possible.
COVID-19 brought in a unique scenario in which both supply-side and demand-side economies and both local and global value chains are affected. With very little movement happening, except for healthcare and essential services, many industries are facing a huge impact on the supply side. Sectors like aviation, auto, hotel & restaurants, real estate, tourism, etc. have virtually come to a stand-still and in the brink of collapsing if the effect sustains for longer durations.
With more than 90% of the workforce in India under unorganized sector , without any kind of social security and minimum wages, the lockdown and social distancing measures lead to a potential loss of livelihood for large sections of the society. The lockdown also expected to lead to changes in the consumer behavioural patterns, as people will tend to focus more on wellness and financial savings as against travel or discretionary spending, in the short to medium term basis – leading to further downturn and lesser demand in certain industrial sectors like tourism, auto, hospitality, etc. The twin demand reduction effect, reduction in the domestic consumption and the near-term discontinuity in the global demand, will have a potential for large jobs losses in the system.
Options for funding a fiscal package without printing money:
India has budgeted a fiscal deficit target of 3.5% for the current year. While the efforts to reduce the fiscal deficit will be a tough ask in the wake of increased funding requirement for overcoming the pandemic effect on the economy, it is essential to ensure fiscal prudence while making expenditures. The Govt. can set across a minimum fiscal stimulus package of Rs 5.5 lakh crore for FY20-21 to restore the health of the economy by Q4. On the monetary policy front, RBI should enhance the liquidity in the system to allow for larger play from the financial systems – which was initiated in the recent economic package announced by the Government.
Major large-scale fiscal funding can be raised through the below means:
Standard 10% reduction in budget for all ministries: Rs 3 lakh crore
Foreign Sovereign bonds: Rs 1.5 lakh crore
Subsidies rationalization: Rs 1 lakh crore
Additional funding raised through PM Cares fund, National Disaster Response Funds, and other relief funds circulated at the central and state levels can be used for the program as well.
1) Budget revision:
Since the pandemic effect is across industries, a 10% standard cut in the budget estimates for FY20-21 for all the ministries will provide a fund of around Rs 3 lakh crores. It is the time when fiscal prudence needs to exhibited, especially for new projects that does not lead to extra job creation – must be postponed for the further years. Since the actual spending were lower than the budgeted (more than 10% difference) in the previous years, this option of 10% reduction can be accommodated as it will allow for the plans to continue, while exhibiting caution on overspending in any of the planned programs. It will be considered as an equitable solution, as it includes all ministries and will ensure more accountability from the ministries.
2) Foreign Sovereign bonds:
The Govt. can issue sovereign bonds in international markets and raise around Rs 1.5 lakh crore. Since the sovereign external debt to GDP is at 5% and one of the lowest in the world, there is a lot of room to play. Raising externally will also allow the government to not crowd the borrowings for private players in the domestic market. While operating in foreign sovereign bonds, the Govt. must exhibit caution on preventing any downgrade in credit ratings. The other catch is that any borrowings will add to the already burgeoning fiscal deficit problem.
3) Subsidies rationalization:
Subsidies rationalization is a long-discussed reform measure that finds its opportune time during a crisis like COVID-19. The total subsidies, including food, fertilizer, and petroleum, adds up to Rs. 2.28 lakh crores. The unintended consequence of the Fertilizer subsidies (Rs 0.7 lakh crores) resulted in distortion of the fertilizer market instead of helping it – making India the largest importer of fertilizers in the world  – a moral hazard. Economic Survey of India 2019-20 also points to the inefficiencies in food subsidy programs, its increasing debt burden, crowding out of private trade, and its long-term distortions in the agriculture market . A large portion of food subsidies are diverted to Food Corporation of India (FCI) which primarily addresses the price gap between procurement and selling prices of the agricultural output. It can be easily used for better schemes like Direct Cash Transfers (DCT) to the farmers using the JAM (Jan Dhan – Aadhar – Mobile) infrastructure – allowing better utilization of funds. The rationalization of the subsidies will provide the much-needed reform for the agriculture market while allowing a large portion of funds to address the relief measures. It is estimated that around Rs. 1-1.5 lakh crores can be redirected away from the subsidies . It will also not increase the fiscal deficit of the economy.
Enhancing and ensuring the healthcare system preparedness:
Since the effects of COVID-19 are expected to linger longer in both the domestic and international scenario, it is essential to improve the healthcare system preparedness to arrest the spread of the virus – to prevent prolonged ill effects on health and wealth of the country. A fund of around Rs 0.5 lakh crore should be allocated to address the healthcare system readiness. The implementation should be tasked primarily under the ministry for health and ministry for home affairs.
Health workers: There are over 21 lakh health workers in India . In order to protect the health workers family, an insurance of Rs 50 lakh was essential and was duly proposed by the government. With a premium of Rs 5K, it is estimated to cost around Rs. 1K crores.
Facility improvement: Doctors and health workers need to be provided with Personal protective equipment (PPE) and hospitals need to be supplied with adequate ventilators and other required medicines. The Government should also need to bear the cost of the treatment for the affected patients without an insurance cover. Around Rs. 0.25 lakh crore can be allocated for facility improvement at hospitals.
Testing & Tracing: Mass deployment of testing kits has to be ensured. Distribution of masks & temperature measurement kits to industries and companies for regular monitoring. Since it involves a lot of personnel and for longer durations it would be wise to set aside Rs. 0.24 lakh crores for testing & tracing.
Economic relief to the affected industries & workers:
Industrial sectors: A lot of industries are facing working capital crunch and many are on the brink of collapsing. The Govt. needs to initially classify all the industries into vulnerable, pressurized, and healthier sectors. Major relief packages and stimulus should be focussed on pulling up the vulnerable sectors from collapsing. All the following measures can be treated as temporary arrangements with a timeframe till Q4 FY20-21. A fiscal package of Rs 2 lakh crores can be used for the programs. Some of the initiatives can be
Compensating from 1 month to a max 3-month salaries for workers in these sectors, depending on the severity impact index for the sectors. Maximum caps or percentage caps can be set for payments
Allowing for a maximum of 6-month moratorium on loans for these sectors
GST slabs can be lowered for these industries – to a minimum level of 5% for the vulnerable sectors and a reduction in one grade level for pressurized sectors
Government to bear 50% of the interests till Q4 for any additional loans taken by the companies in the vulnerable sector (min 3-year loans)
Corporate tax can be cut by around 15-30% for these sectors (proposal similar to Indonesia)
Compensating 1-month salary for the laid off workers (contract & permanent) in pressurized and healthy sectors
Affected workers: While the compensation for salaries in the affected industries will cover primarily organized sector workforce, a larger portion of the Indian workforce is from the unorganized sector. A fiscal budget of Rs. 2.5 lakh crores should be allocated to provide relief measures for the affected workers in the unorganized sector. Some of the measures can be
A temporary ration card or Aadhar to bring the unorganized workforce , who are not yet part of JAM trinity, for Food distribution & Direct Cash Transfers (DCT) benefits – can be treated as a reform measure
Ration for 3 months to be provided to all the migrant workers. Since FCI holds large additional stocks, some of it can be easily used for this purpose
Ex-gratia of Rs 1,000 to 3 crore poor senior citizen, poor widows and poor disabled 
Gas cylinders to be provided to 8 crore poor families for the next three months 
DCT of Rs 2500 as a one-time payment to be made to all the workers in the unorganized sector (~450 million), including agriculture – will cost around Rs. 1 lakh crore
Economic stimulus to set the wheels of growth in motion
The COVID-19 crisis provides an opportune time for the Govt. to make some bold reforms that can provide long-term benefits. Given the sentiments around global business value chain restructuring, the international scenario presents an opportunity for India to become a primary player in export markets, in the medium to long-term – promoting growth & more employment in domestic markets. While the stimulus programs primarily involve monetary policies, a fiscal package of Rs. 0.5 lakh crore can be allocated to allow for any losses due to reduction in tax rates. Some of the measures can be
Reduce the import duties for raw materials and promote Made / Assemble in India programs with quick disbursal of loans for export programs
Additional 10-20% increase in antidumping duties – to allow increased domestic market production
Allow quick credit support for MSMEs without extensive documentation & collaterals
Quick clearance of GST refunds and pending payments in Govt. departments
Allow for an additional one-time 25% increase in existing loans without the need for any further collaterals 
RBI to reduce the repo rate by 150 basis points to increase liquidity for the financial systems
Advise banking and financial institutions to reduce the interest rate by 1% in both deposits (to promote consumption rather than savings) and loans (to lesser interest burden for corporates)
Belt and Road initiative (BRI), launched in 2013, is often debated in diplomatic circles as China’s grand strategy to challenge the US hegemony, established post the cold war period, and its dream of positioning China as the benevolent neighbour in the region. The grand design and its synergies between the internal and external objectives also bring to forefront the discussions around China’s soft-power diplomacy, aka Marshall plan by the critics, to fashion a Sinocentric world order (or the least Sinocentric Asian order).
Sinocentric world view – a continuum from the past: Chinese empires have always embraced on the idea of “tianxia” (all under the heaven) with China as the centre of the civilized world, often perceived as middle kingdom approach or Sinocentric world order. For its neighbours, tianxia is considered as a soft power approach by the empire, as a symbolic acceptance of Chinese emperor as supreme to engage in trade relations with the empire. The acceptance and adoption of the Chinese norms & values and the geographical proximity of the peripheral kingdoms to the Chinese empire defines the power circles within the Sinocentric world order.
Building BRI as a Grand Strategy under Xi Jinping: A Grand Strategy is often considered as a long-term vision of the country, encompassing the policies and plans for military, political, diplomatic, and economic relations to align & advance in the interests of the nation. It provides a clear vision and a synergy to manage both the internal and external aspirations of its people.
Under Xi Jinping’s presidency, China is increasingly seen as an assertive power on the world stage. The raising economic stature of China and the losing hegemony of the USA in the world order, enabled Xi to call for action towards rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, also referred as Chinese Dream. It is within this context the idea of BRI took the centre stage as a soft-power approach, by rejuvenating the idea of the ancient silk road and correlating it with the current theme of BRI.
BRI – a tool for Peripheral Diplomacy: The October 2013 conference on Peripheral diplomacy paved the guidelines for China’s diplomatic relationship with its neighbours. It recommends China involvement in ensuring stability of the region, in the economic integration, accelerate the infrastructure capacity and connectivity, and to promote Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road as a means for creating a new Economic order .
BRI – Political, Military, Economics & Foreign diplomacy implications: On October 2017 at CPC’s 19th Congress meeting, BRI was written into the constitution – signifying its importance in the foreign policy and ensuring the long-term validity of the grand plan.
On the priority front, BRI aims for 1) Policy Coordination 2) Facilitates Connectivity 3) Unimpeded Trade 4) Financial Integration 5) People-to-people bonds as the main goals for development with the participating nations . It is also seen as a plan to promote Xi’s idea of “community with a shared future for mankind” – projecting Confucian values. It positions China as an alternative leader to the USA, and allows Xi to pursue his power diplomacy and greater participation in conflict management with countries in Asia, Europe, and Africa.
The Gwadar port, a flagship project of BRI, under the China-Pakistan Economic corridor provides options for People’s Liberation Army to conduct anti-piracy missions in the Arabian sea along with providing easy access to Central Asia. In 2017, China also launched its overseas military base in Dijibouti. Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port which is surrendered to China’s Merchant Ports handling as a part of 99-year lease provides easy access to China’s naval base to the Indian Ocean Region – raising arguments in favour of “String of Pearls” theory and suspicions around China’s growing geopolitical influence in the region.
In an attempt to promote economic integration and prosperity among BRI countries, China sets up a multi-lateral bank called Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and Silk Road Fund (China’s finances) to finance projects for improving infrastructure capacity & connectivity across Asia, Europe, and Africa. It allowed the Chinese’ State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) to invest and implement grand scale economic corridor projects, which would otherwise have invoked lesser interest from institutions like IMF due to the high risk involved – allowing China to be at the centre of investments, manufacturing, and standards setting in the BRI countries, and positioning its investments as a win-win cooperation among BRI countries. In the 2017 BRF meet, BRI was expanded to include new type of economic initiatives like Green Belt Road, Digital Belt Road, and Polar Belt Road.
Under Xi, China reversed the earlier policy of low-profile approach and calls greater participation of China in global governance. BRI serves to project China’s status as a dominant player, while promoting the idea of “good neighbour” theory and allowing China to lead the discussions in the neighbourhood diplomacy. The investments and infrastructure projects helped to initiate large scale economic drives in the BRI countries, tilting the diplomatic preference towards China over the USA as a benefactor and champion of free trade in these regions.
All roads lead to China – China’s dream: While BRI started as a means to overcome the problem of China’s overcapacity issues, it soon became a strategic tool to Xi’s China dream of creating a Sinocentric world order by engaging its neighbours in economic, political, cultural, and security relations. It is expected to complete by 2049, which is also the 100th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. With more than 60 countries – accounting for more than 60% of the world’s population  included the BRI, it is the largest network of China-centric relationship, connecting many countries from Asia, Europe, and Africa to mainland China.
Systems on fire… indicators in red… vitals down… trending downward drastically… hold your breath for a harsh landing!!!!
If the stock market has a pilot announcement, this is how it
might sound, today.
The Coronavirus pandemic has not only exposed the lacuna in
the global healthcare systems and its preparedness, but also opened the Pandora’s
box in the global stock markets. Stock exchanges, globally, are going red every
day and the trend for recovery seems very bleak for the next few weeks/months.
Stock markets often take pride in operating in an
environment of market equilibrium. The constant ups and downs in the price of indexes
to adjust to the internal and external factors of the business environment
keeps the ecosystem ticking. Investor confidence is also proportional to their
ability to understand the business environment, operate in an environment of
market stability, and the availability of information to address their
Are the markets prepared for the long-term Pandemic?
Many stock markets use circuit breakers, stopping the trade after the fall in index reaches a certain limit, to address any of the short-term volatility in the system. This was invoked multiple times in the past few weeks by various governments, including India and the USA. This has not yielded the necessary results to keep the confidence of the investors going. Federal rate cuts don’t seem to cut the market panic too. Despite the best efforts of the central banking institutions, globally, the virus has exposed the systemic gap in the preparedness of the stock market to handle a pandemic like COVID-19.
Borders closed, schools closed, events closed…. Should stock markets close
Markets thrive on the idea of expanding consumption and
supply, but with the closing of institutions and placing restriction on the movement
of people & goods, the circle of markets is contracting day by day. The
prices of stocks are marching towards the floor, taking away huge chunks of
liquidity in the market. Investor confidence is also low, as the revival of
markets to the normal levels would take a longer time frame. With very little
control to overcome this uncertainty the market is clearly in panic mode,
globally. The herd mentality of the markets allows for the chain reaction to
expand quickly from one market to another.
On the government front, the highest priority would &
should be to control the spread of the virus. The stock market crashes on the
other hand will bring-in more distractions as it would require constant
intervention of the Govt. & central banking systems. There is very little
chance for the markets to operate in equilibrium until the flattening of the
pandemic curve happens.
USA had shut the markets for a week in 2001, post the 9/11
incident. Though the approach was not rated as successful, it prevented the
panic selling from the traders as the worse sell-off was at 13%. Unlike 2001, COVID-19
pandemic is tougher as the duration of impact is longer and more widespread
across countries. This unique situation throws us more questions and moral
For (closure): Can the stock markets be closed indefinitely
till the flattening of the pandemic curve?
Against: Shouldn’t market be allowed to operate on its own?
Can’t it not recover after hitting the floor?
For: By then… Aren’t we losing all the liquidity in the
market? Isn’t the market revival a distant dream now?
Against: If you expect to close the stock market during
downfall, will you also close the market when it is on a high run? Otherwise,
isn’t it immoral?
For: How else can you prevent panic selling? Isn’t it the Govt.
duty to focus on economic welfare as well?
Against: Don’t we have circuit breakers to prolong the bad
For: Aren’t circuit breakers for short-term? How will we
stop when the pandemic occurs for a longer duration?
Against: Can’t we not work on improving the liquidity in the
For: When the investor confidence is very low, how will it
shift the curve?
Against: Don’t you think closing the stock market will have
a ripple effect globally?
For: Won’t it not, if it still remains open?
While it is evident that there is no clear winner on either side, the situation demands an affirmative and quick action from the governments. The decision making should tip towards exercising the option that has the potential to yield better levels of control on the outcomes, even while the situation is highly uncertain.
Narratives, often used as a technical term for storytelling, plays an important role in mass communications. The advent of print medium, shifted the narrative style from connected individuals & communities (in oral form) to a large society of strangers. While the adoption of tech helped many fields in mass communication, one field that greatly impacts our regular day-to-day life is political narratives.
One of the common misconceptions in understanding political narrative is that media, a.k.a traditional media, is the important facilitator in the discourse of the narrative to the larger public. While this is majorly true in a mainstream communication, there are many other mediums, other than traditional media, that plays a greater role in our discovery, consumption, assimilation, affirmation, and propagation of narratives.
Elections are the best examples to see how political
narratives were distributed through mediums, over a period of time. No matter
how strong an advocate of privacy you can be, you will still be a target and
victim of the political campaign during elections.
While we begin classifying and dissecting the mediums, there
is one thing to keep a note of.
A medium for a political narrative, however old it is, will exist until it provides an opportunity to segment and target
Before you read further: The below subtopics are neither a linear transformation nor an exhaustive list of technologies, and definitely not a critic of any technology or narrative. It is to show how the mediums come into play in our day-to-day life, how it will keep evolving, and how you can become an informed victim.
Mediums – Before & Now
From Newspapers To TV News: Newspapers have been the long-standing mainstream medium in running the show of Public narratives – political opinions and ads. TV news provided the visual aspect with an additional scope for continuous coverage and debate on the news. Largely seen as independent mediums, in its early beginnings, these quickly caught the attention of the politicians and parties (India and globally as well), and today many newspapers and TV channels have acquired considerable financial and political backings from parties. Interestingly, in India, a lot of political parties actually own and control regional TV channels and Newspapers. What you read and view as news, especially around an election time, might actually be a propaganda from a party.
From Radios To Podcasts: Radios provided a personal touch, compared to newspapers, as it had the voice of the narrator. From a simple news to govt. narratives to declaring wars, we have heard a lot through this medium. Radio allows for regional and demographic segmentation and hence provides an effective propaganda tool during elections. More significantly, it also allows for targeting rural and remote communities, where radio is still the means of regular discourse (picture tea stalls with the radio playing in the background). Podcasts are a newer age medium, providing a transformational shift in segmenting the interest parameter – from interest on the channel to interest on the topic. It is still in the early stages, with predominantly younger age audiences as consumers, and hence only a few parties have latched on to it. You will see more of it in the years to come…
From Books & Magazines To Movies & TV series: Have you noticed books related to political biographies and historical incidents released around election time? We even had books that helped to spread a new ideology through the masses over a long period of time (Example: a little red book – in China). Movies on personalities have helped in building an aura around the political leaders. Many political leaders have emerged from an acting career as well. With the new age fad around web series, political biographies have an option to become a TV series. You will see more of it coming during the election times.
From Flyers To Tweets & Live broadcasting: Flyers that are painstakingly distributed through newspapers and door-to-door campaigns have found a new and easy form with twitter tweets – directly circulated from the leader or party handles to the followers and lists. Leave aside TV channels, propaganda campaigns, today, are broadcasted live through twitter for the masses.
From Banners To Online Ads: When an election happens, one thing that can never miss the eye of the general public are the banners placed around the town. Those are meant to be outside the home of the target. So how to target the folks inside the homes and offices – Online Ads! From social media communities to magazines, it is easier for parties to target the folks through online mediums. Echo chambers in social media help to conveniently affirm anything you believe in.
Opinions morph as Facts in Social Media
*Similar to banners, we also have cut-out of leaders displayed on the streets. With the increasing restriction on the cut-outs, we have an option to display holograms of leaders. It is still in the nascent stage, and will see more of it in the coming years.
From Phone & SMS campaigns To WhatsApp & Mobile Apps: There was a time when IVRs and SMS were used to be the propaganda machine. While those are increasing seen as spam, WhatsApp & Mobile Apps have started taking over that narrative market. Connect – Engage – Propagate – Refer – Expand can be treated as the value chain in these app. With the option to sell merchandises it has all the potential to turn into a self-funded campaign medium. How about a freebie phone provided by the govt. with the govt. (pseudo party) app mandatorily installed? Economists will have a hard time arguing against it.
Future Episodes in Public Narratives:
Voice Bots: Voice searches are becoming popular and
voice bots are creeping into our living space. Until an independent agency
creeps in, we treat the answer from voice bots as facts. What if the companies
involved in voice bots have a collaboration with political parties? Political
tunes from the device can be easily justified as data biases from the machine
learning algorithms – who can we blame here?
Augmented Reality: For simplicity sake, augmented
reality is the display of holograms in your living room environment. In a
country like India, where there are diverse languages, a political leader can
use augmented reality, coupled with natural language processing algorithms, to
reach any interested audience and communicate in their language as the leader
narrates in his/her language of comfort. Consider this playing out during elections….
Virtual Reality: Being a part of a community gives a
sense of social standing for any individual. With virtual reality, political
campaigns can be played with any number of participants without the necessity
to be physically present – both the leader and participant. The narrative can
be designed in any grandeur form (example: backdrop of the setup as a royal
palace) – even the leader can be anyone playing the avatar in the online space.
Is there anything that the party cannot do here?
The Way Forward:
While the nation is the largest addressable market for a large political party, it is often segmented into different audiences, based on demographics, geographies, interest, ideologies, etc., and the narratives are distributed via a multitude of mediums for customization and effective adoption. The idea of multisensory (primarily visual, audio, and touch) assimilation + ease of access to information will propel the search and adoption of new age platforms. Whether we like it or not, we cannot avoid it being played out on us – in one form or another. Rejecting all political narratives is in itself a narrative. As consumers, we being cognizant will differentiate us between a normal victim and an informed victim in political narratives arena.