Cricket Coaching Technologies

Coaching is not about expecting miracles in a player’s performance. It is the enduring process of elevating the talent of the player to achieve and perceive miracles as mere moments on the field

Cricket has evolved from the time it was a gentleman’s game that was played for leisure. Today, it has become a highly competitive sport with teams and players battling it out to cross the winning line. 

The business of cricket has also seen a massive boost since the dawn of this century. From being a part-time profession, Cricket, today, has become the main or the only profession for several players – creating celebrities and superstars, who even surpass the stardom of many in the entertainment industry. Consequently, the demands and expectation from a player are high. So, decreasing margin for error in a player’s performance has pushed the entire cricket coaching ecosystem to continuously innovate and personalize training techniques and drills for their players.

In order to keep up with the dynamic needs of the cricketing format, coaching is no more restricted to devising plans based on instincts & experience. Today, many leading coaches marry their instincts with the insights derived from digital technology to develop outcome-based plans.

Apart from the physical and mental aspects of player coaching, here is a list (not exhaustive) of some of the tools and technologies that are used to improve the performance of the player. 

Stage 1: Cricket Equipment

Batting equipment: Many coaches use cones and tees to enhance batting technique. It helps the players to improve their stance and adjust their shot direction for different bowling lengths. Hanging balls or rebound machines are used to improve hand-eye coordination and to understand the impact force from the batsman. Some coaches also use smaller sized or thinner training bats to improve batting accuracy. 

Bowling equipment: Bowling machines are commonly used in many cricket academies to continuously bowl at different lines and lengths to the batsman. They are available in various types – mechanical, pneumatic, and programmable bowling machines. Some coaches prefer to use ball thrower tools instead of the bowling machines – to bring that human aspect to bowling. Coaches also place cones and markers on pitches to perfect the bowling lengths.

Did you know? In the Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2020-21 test series between India and Australia, Ravichandran Ashwin helped the Indian batsmen prepare for short pitch bowling by smashing a series of soft balls on the pitch from the tennis racket. 

Fielding and Wicketkeeping equipment: To improve catching, coaches at times use rebound nets to better the hand-eye coordination of players. The coaches also often wear baseball gloves for easy ball retrieval from the fielders. Catch bats are used to emulate the shots in catch practice drills. A single stump (or a spring-based rebound stump) is often used to perfect the fielding throws. Cones and catching slip boards are at times used as ball deflectors for wicketkeeping and slip catching drills. 

Image courtesy: Ram Cricket

Stage 2: Data & Statistics

With the proliferation of scoring apps, be it in practice games or tournaments, match data is available ubiquitously for easy analysis. Individual stats can be aggregated and presented in averages, percentages, trend lines, wagon wheels, and even as comparative match-ups against other players – helps in analysing the form, strengths, and weakness of the player. It also helps to profile a player’s performance against a session, time, opponent, playing conditions, etc. 

Image courtesy: Tableau Public

Slice and dice of match data has become a common parlance in game analysis. Coaches often use this data to devise specific training drills and to draft the gameplan against the specific opponents. 

Stage 3: Video Analysis

Video based technologies have brought a paradigm shift in cricket analysis. With the ability to annotate on the video feeds, it has also become a great tool for coaches to back their visual intuition with match video feeds and present the training plan to players. It also helps the coaches and players in not just evaluating their own execution plans, but also in identifying the tactics and strategies from the opponent players. In batting, coaches often use video recordings to identify and correct technical flaws in batsman stance, backlift, timing, footwork, follow-through, etc. In bowling, it helps to analyse the bowler run-up line, run-up speed, ball gripping, release positions, ball swing & spin, etc. 

Image courtesy: Daniel Vorndran | Wikimedia.org

On the fielding front, it allows coaches to understand the player preparedness, reaction time, body alignment, injuries, etc.

Ball tracking technology allows for advanced insights into bowling plans. A bowler pitchmap helps in analysing precisely the lengths targeted for a batsman by a bowler – allowing coaches to define specific gameplans and matchups for their players. Ball speed measurements at the bowler’s release point, impact on the pitch, and on the bat are also identified using this technology.  

Stage 4: Sensor Tech

Speed guns have been in use for a long time, allowing the coaches to keep a track of the ball speed at the time of release from the bowler. Smart cricket balls, with built-in sensor boards, have been developed to analyse ball speed in the air, number of revolutions, swing, spin, etc. in real-time – potential to throw advanced insights into bowling characteristics. It will allow coaches to compare and contrast different bowlers to understand the pitch conditions and gaps in player technique. 

On the batting front, smart batting sensors like Spektacom PowerBat help in decoding the shot parameters, including swing profiles like backlift angle, downswing angle, bat speed, follow-through angle, etc. and impact profiles like bat twist on impact, impact force, ball impact location, etc. in real-time. This will allow the coaches to precisely measure, analyse, and monitor the progress of the player’s batting performance.

Spektacom PowerBat App

Sensor based tech for cricket is still a new and emerging field that is set to drive the next wave of analytics in cricket.

What’s next?

The democratization of digital tech, through internet, mobile, and cloud computing, ensures that the access to tech is not just restricted to elite players alone. With newer cutting-edge technologies like Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) peeking into sports, it will only further elevate the performance and game preparedness of the players. For example: A combination of VR and haptic sensors will allow a domestic player in Bangalore to play and practice the same bouncers Pat Cummins bowled to Cheteshwar Pujara at the Gabba in the Border-Gavaskar 2020-21 test series in Australia. Welcome to stage 5 in cricket coaching!

It is Time to Draw the Pitchmap on Your Cricket Bat

Any moving element in the game can be tracked. Anything that is tracked can be measured, analysed, and improved upon

The introduction of Ball tracking brought a paradigm shift in the way cricket is analysed and played. Until then, the scoreboard is the primary source of data for any analysis. The concept of ball tracking also allowed for increased acceptance and adoption of video and data analyst roles in professional cricket. In modern-day cricket, the moving ball is tracked in all possible manner on the cricket field – release from the bowler (ball speed and release points), its landing on the pitch (pitchmap), its impact in the batsman corridor (beehive map), its predicted direction to stumps (DRS), the trajectory on and above the field (wagon wheel), etc. When the individual ball data is aggregated and presented in comparison with another parameter (pitch, session, batsman, team, etc.), it becomes a cricketing story.

Bowler Pitchmap – Its Artist, Canvas, and the Story

A bowler’s pitchmap is like a painting that invokes multitude thoughts and potential for analysis. If we assume the bowler to be an artist, the pitch becomes the canvas for the bowler to paint his bowling story. 

Let us now dissect the elements of the pitchmap art and the way the story is told to the viewers. 

Zone the pitch: A ball impact point on the pitch will only inform the viewers of where the bowler had bowled. When you draw and colour the zones (like short, good, full, and yorker), the story evolves into depicting the quality of bowling and the ability of the bowler to execute the plan. For example: If a batsman is understood to have weakness in handling the short pitch ball, the pitchmap will convey how well the bowler had bowled to the plan. Suppose you add the strike rate against these zones, you have the batting performance scorecard right in front of you. 

Image courtesy: Sportskeeda.com

Colour the ball outcomes: While the coloured zones portrays the quality of bowling, colour coding the balls (example: red – dot balls; blue – runs; yellow – boundaries; white – wickets) portrays the effectiveness of the bowling. The bowler knows which line and length get the wickets and which are dispatched to the boundaries.

Thus, when the elements are added and presented on the pitchmap, it transfers the narrative from the ball to match-ups between the bowler and the batsman.  

Ball tracking is more for batsman than bowlers:

Contrary to the natural assumption on the use of ball tracking, the system had benefited the batsman marginally more than the bowlers. While ball tracking helped the bowlers understand the zones to bowl against the batsman, it equally allowed the batsman to prepare for such bowling. In the days prior to ball tracking, this analysis was done purely on instincts and experiential wisdom of the coaching unit and players. Today, an analyst or a coach can clearly identify the weakness of a batsman against a specific length or to a bowler. While the batsman’s skill can be analyzed by the bowler, any tactic of the bowling team can be easily decoded and better prepared. For example: If Steve Smith struggled against Ravichandran Ashwin in a match, he can use the bowler pitchmap to identify the zones and come prepared to tackle the length and line from him in the next innings.

The increased preparation allowed for reduced error margin in the game. The batsman can no longer complain about good bowling lengths and lines from the opposing team – he is expected to be prepared for it, rather than anticipating it during the game. The analysis and storytelling also have evolved from individual skills to focusing more on match-ups – who against whom and how well they delivered on their game. 

Cricket bat Pitchmap (or Impactmap):

Unlike the ball on the field, the movement of the cricket bat is limited and hence skipped in the video analytics revolution. Except Hotspot, which is used only during the decision review, there is hardly a tech today that can provide data on how well the shot is played. The story of a shot still resides in the way the viewers perceive the shot from the video feeds.

With the emergence of smart cricket bat sensors like PowerBat, it is now possible to depict the ball impact points on the bat. This data can then be aggregated against and presented and compared against other parameters (session, bowlers, bowling types, lengths, etc.). It can be then used for any further analysis by the batsman and bowlers.  

Spektacom PowerBat Impactmap

For example, assume the bat Impactmap depicts this: In this match, Rohit Sharma played 85% of his shots against Pat Cummins from the sweet spot region of the bat. Oh boy! We know he is in great touch. Like the bowler pitchmap, we now have a canvas and artist to tell the story on how well a shot is played. Or rather, similar to what happened to bowler pitchmap and its cricket coaching use case, it can actually reveal more about how well a bowler tackled a batsman.

Smart Sensors for Cricket Analytics

Cricket is not solely judged by the outcomes of the game anymore; nor is the connection with its audience solely limited to what happens on the cricket field, it is more about how the viewers and fans perceive and feel for the game. An Indian cricket fan may view a match between India and Australia very differently from an Australian fan, or for the matter a neutral South African fan, even though the moments and result of the game might be the same.

Image courtesy: Unsplash / Aksh Yadav

In the days of radio, the story of a cricket match depended largely on how a commentator narrated the action on the field. What you perceived was greatly influenced by what you heard. If a commentator had said Kapil Dev was in an aggressive mood – there was no debating that observation (period!). When television broadcasting opened up, the narration also broadened. Commentators were no more the only storytellers of the game. You saw, you heard, and perceived the story from what you understood. Even during this period, the perception of the game was still limited to what happened during the game. The availability of data, other than the scorecard, was limited and hence restricted any thoughts for further analysis and interpretation. For players and captains then, instincts dominated the gameplay. Strategy and tactics were determined mostly on the skill and memory of the player.

The acceptance of data analytics by different cricketing bodies opened-up for insight-driven decision making, on and off the field. Today, data and video analytics play key roles in the way the game is played and match-ups strategized between players and teams.

With the arrival of Decision Review System (DRS) in the global stage, there is a new entrant on the scene – the next wave of analytics through sensors, which is set to take the players, broadcasters, and fans closer to the place where the real action happens.

Image courtesy: Pixabay / Andreas Lischka

Statistics on outcomes:

Every ball that is bowled and every shot that is played or fielded is recorded on a scorecard. This data is then aggregated and sliced & diced to analyse the records for batsmen, bowlers, fielders, and even for Umpires. The analysis is used by players to enhance their game and strategize against the opposition and by commentators to build the narration of the events. It also extends to match-ups by fans to compare & contrast with other players, by brands for advertising, etc.

Today, there are statistics at every level of the game – match outcomes, match type, teams, players, stadiums, toss, weather conditions, and sometimes to unrelated events of the game or superstitions like commentators’ luck, player jerseys, audience count, match dates, etc.

Analysis from video feeds: 

Video based analysis primarily started as a training tool, for the analysts in the team to understand the bowling, batting, and fielding techniques of their players. When the broadcasting feeds became available, it also became a tool to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition players and to chart game strategies. 

Ball tracking provided a new way for commentators and viewers to look at the movements of the ball on the pitch and the ability of the batsman to adapt to the bowling. Visualizations like Wagon wheel and pitch maps provided unique insights into the strengths / weaknesses of the players and techniques adapted against the opposition’s tactics. With more computer vision techniques getting deployed in the game, we are likely to see many more innovative solutions in cricket, around player tracking, event analysis, etc. 

Sensor based analytics: 

With insights complementing the instincts of the players on the field, the need for data has also evolved from “What & Who” (outcomes) to other questions like “Why & How” (diagnosis) and “When & Where” (moments). 

Players use smart vests during training to understand their energy levels and fitness. On the DRS front, we have sensor-based technologies like Snickometer, Hotspot, and LED bails that help in understanding the cause of an event and to make a proper judgment. On the bowling front, Speed Gun measures the release speed of the ball from the bowler. There were also attempts to use sensors inside a cricket ball to understand the seam and spin movement on the ball.

One of the recent innovations on the batting side is to use smart sensors to help the batsman to understand the data and insights behind a cricket shot. Spektacom’s PowerBat technology uses sensors in the cricket bat to understand pertinent parameters like bat speed, twist, impact of the ball on the bat, etc. A batsman may use this data to understand the effectiveness of his/her batting technique against a particular bowler. It helps players and viewers to not just look at an outcome of the shot, but also to diagnose and understand why the outcome happened. 

It is time for the Cricket Bat to talk to you

Image courtesy: Unsplash / Michael Weir

While the usage of smart sensors in cricket is still at an early stage, it is bound to drive the next wave of storytelling in cricket. The nexus of sensors, machine learning, vision-based solutions and analytics will add an interesting dimension to the game and its story. It will provide a new viewpoint beyond the regular outcomes we have analysed so far, and is set to enhance the way the game will be perceived and analysed by the stakeholders of the game.

4 Ways to Generate Cricket Bat Speed for Six Hitting

England won the Cricket World Cup 2019 not by outscoring, but by outnumbering New Zealand on the boundary count. While the rules of winning the Super Over were modified later, one thing is evident – the concept of boundaries continues to remain the key Cricketainment factor in the shorter formats of the game. 

How best can a batsman ensure that he or she can make sure their shot goes the distance? One of the factors that this comes down to is bat speed. In other words, the speed at which you swing your bat plays an important role in generating the necessary thrust to loft the ball for a four or six. Once you perfect the art of gripping and middling the ball, bat speed becomes a vital differentiator in how far you can hit the ball. 

From the physics stand-point, here are some of the ways to increase bat speed.

1. Having a high Backlift: 

Having a high backlift allows for increased angular acceleration to be generated during the impact with the ball. Back lift allows for a downswing arc, thereby providing adequate time for your batting arm to generate the required bat speed. You can also use your wrist, along with your arm positions, to give more back lift. Players like Yuvraj Singh and AB de Villiers use a high backlight to full effect during power-hitting

2. Playing with a Backswing:

While backlift happens during the batting stance, backswing is the backward movement of the bat when the ball is released from the bowler. Backswing may be used as a complement or supplement to a backlift. With allowance for some rotary motion from your wrist, the backswing and the subsequent downswing can be performed as a continuous action (creating a loop). When used effectively, backswing can allow for greater downswing acceleration than backlift, as the bat is already set in motion. Players like Ben Stokes and Steve Smith use backswing to a good advantage in their shots.

Batsman using a backswing while playing a shot | Image courtesy: PDPics / Pixabay

3. Aligning the Body:  

The downswing arc can also be increased by moving your body towards the ball. Strengthening your forearms may allow for faster swing of the bat. To increase the arc of the bat, you can also move the front foot and bring your leading shoulder forward, allowing for more control from the top hand to play the shot. Opening up the foot and rotating the body along the direction of the shot also allows for increased circular rotation of the bat. Players like Hardik Pandya and Glen Maxwell use the body arc to enhance the bat speed while deploying the power shots. 

Batsman coming forward to play a power shot | Image courtesy: PDPics / Pixabay

4. Optimizing Bat Weight: 

While heavier bats allow for more force on the shot, it might slightly decrease the potential speed that can be generated during the downswing. On the contrary, very light bats may not carry enough energy and momentum as a heavier bat, and thus may not help you in lofting the ball beyond the boundary line. Since the length of swing directly correlates to the arm movement, using the right bat weight that does not make a difference in the swinging speed would greatly improve the effectiveness of the shot. Players like David Warner (~1.24 kgs), MS Dhoni (~1.27 kgs), Virender Sehwag (~1.35 kgs), and Chris Gayle (~1.36 kgs) have all played with heavier bats.

Measuring Bat Speed: 

Unlike bowling speeds, the speed of the bat played by the batsman is still anybody’s guess, even in international cricket matches. With power-hitting becoming an essential feature of the game, measuring bat speed becomes critical to the analysis-improvement cycle. Spektacom’s PowerBat sticker (PowerSticker) has smart sensors that will allow you to measure the speed of the bat at the time of impact with the ball in real-time. This data can help you to adjust the batting technique to different bowling conditions and against different types of bowlers. 

Anil Kumble playing with Spektacom PowerBat
PowerBat Metrics

Bat Twist in Power Hitting – The Most Underrated Factor in Cricket

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.

Bat twist in Power hitting
Image courtesy: PDPics from Pixabay

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/

Smart Sensors in Cricket – Next-Gen Fan Engagement

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.

Image source: fashionchandigarh.com (Cricket Trump Cards in 1990s)

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.

Image source: digianalysys.com (Cricket in Hotstar app)

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/

Data-driven Cricket Training Using Smart Tech

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.

Spektacom Power Bat
Batsman perfecting the straight drive

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.

Image source: thecricketmonthly.com

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.

Spektacom Power Bat | Smart Sticker for Cricket Bats
Real-time shot information from the smart sticker

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 Age for Smart Cricket Bats Has Begun

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.

Image Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDyTzeZiCmI

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.

Image Source: CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=300223

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 willow:

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. 

Image Source: Cricvision

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. 

Bat material:

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.

Bat blade:

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%. 

Image Source: Mongoose Inclusive Cricket

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.

Image Source: The Guardian

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.

Image Source: CricTracker

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/

References:

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cricket_bat 
  • https://www.cricketdirect.co.uk/Additional-Departments/Essential-Guides/Cricket-Bat-History
  • https://www.lords.org/mcc/the-laws-of-cricket 
  • https://cricketmost.weebly.com/history-of-cricket-bats.html
  • https://www.espncricinfo.com/story/_/id/23018554
  • https://cricshots.com/5-heaviest-bats-cricketers/
  • https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-what-came-before-rashid-khans-camel-bat-mongoose-kaboom-aluminium-6193514/
  • https://www.timesnownews.com/sports/article/what-is-mongoose-bat-and-why-did-its-use-fade-away/589751

Power Hitting In Cricket – The Science Behind It

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 [1]. 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 [2].

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. 

Image source: Star Sports

Back Lift: 

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. 

Image source: quintic.com

Bat Speed: 

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.  

Image source: Star Sports

Bat Twist:

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. 

Image source: wikimedia.org

Impact location: 

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.  

Image source: cricketcentre.com.au

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/

References:

1) https://english.newsnationtv.com/sports/cricket/do-you-know-who-hit-the-first-six-in-international-cricket-211396.html
2) https://sportzwiki.com/cricket/number-of-6s-hit-in-each-season-of-ipl

Technologies for 21st Century Cricket Fans

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 [1]. The television broadcasting happened in 1938, for the test match played at the Lord’s cricket ground between England and Australia [2] – 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 [3]. 

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 [4].

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. 

Image source: Hawk-Eye innovations

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!

Image source: BBGSports

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.

Image source: Hawk-eye innovations

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.

Image source: icc-cricket.com

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. 

Operator controlling drone camera | Image source: twitter.com/batcam

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.

Image source: ICC TV

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.

Image source: Star sports

This article was originally published at https://spektacom.com/blog/cricket-technologies-for-21st-century-fans/

References:

1. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Which-was-the-first-cricket-match-broadcast-on-the-radio/articleshow/7797208.cms
2. https://www.espncricinfo.com/story/_/id/22571917/first-television-broadcast
3. https://www.icc-cricket.com/media-releases/1346930
4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_Day_International