As one ICC World Cup climaxes, technology to enhance viewer-appeal of next season is being crafted

19th November 2023
As one ICC World Cup climaxes, technology to enhance viewer-appeal of next season is being crafted
The winning team StumpEye with Hackathon Ambassador Anil Kumble and ICC Head of Digital Finn Bradshaw

By Anand Parthasarathy
November 19, 2023: Soon after the 2023 World Cup got underway,  the International Cricket Council (ICC)  announced that it had  taken on board    the Bengaluru-headquartered , Indian Information Technology solutions provider  as its Digital Consulting Partner  to deliver an  enhanced digital experience for cricket fans around the world.
Said Finn Bradshaw, ICC Head of Digital:  “Together, we are focused on fans and their digital journey through this World Cup. It’s set to be one of the most followed sporting events with a truly global audience.
The fans, whether in the stadium or  watching the games on television sets at home – or increasingly on their mobile phones –are central to the success of  every cricket competition, at technology is ploughed at enormous expense to ensure their loyalty.   This is a moving window and half way through the current World Cup which climaxes on Sunday,  ICC had already identified technology that might well  be ploughed  the next time around
The second edition of the Next In Hackathon that ICC sponsors along with  Nium, the global platform for on-demand money movement,  had drawn a  record 22,000 entries from 119 countries, all  vying to develop the winning idea across three key areas: fan experience, grassroots cricket and performance analytics
At a function at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium just before  the semi-final,  the winning team  -- StumpEye – from India was  announced.
Their entry was a wireless stump camera system with some unique features: including bringing Decision Review System (DRS) technology to the lower levels of cricket, Coach Connect which will bridge the gap between offsite coaches and players/parents in grassroots cricket and Umpire's Mate which logs important elements of what happens in games. The solution also offers in-depth batting and bowling analysis.
Will the technology fuel the next  Men’s World Cup cricket series? That at any rate is the idea:  continuous refinement of the technologies that  eliminate decision uncertainties and  provide viewers  with  up-close views of the action that would have been unimaginable even a decade ago.
High tech tools for  enhanced viewer experience
A small number of  high tech tools  are already being deployed  with great effect, at all cricket – both one day 50 over  international games and  the T20-format IPL:
Hawk-Eye, a computer vision system harnesses up to six high-performance cameras, which track the ball from different angles. The video from the cameras is then triangulated and combined to create a three-dimensional representation of the ball's trajectory as well as its statistically most likely path as a moving image. Now owned by Sony, Hawk-Eye was developed in the UK by a team led by Paul Hawkins and was first used by TV companies to cover in cricket over two decades ago in 2000. It has become an invaluable aid for Third Umpires to make accurate decisions especially   when  teams challenge an LBW under the Decision Review System or DRS. The system has been improved and refined over the years.
The SpiderCam system  that is a familiar fixture at every match venue  has dramatically   enhanced the TV camera crew’s ability to  provide a view of the entire stadium or to zoom in to the action, as no other system can. It is suspended on four cables with winches that navigate a camera dolly in 3-dimensional  space to provide High Definition (4K)-quality video.
It was developed around the same time as Haw-Eye by Jens C. Peters, the founder of the Austrian company,  CC Sytems
India was the first to deploy a SpiderCam for cricket: It was  used in the Indian Cricket League (ICL), the short lived predecessor of  Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2008-09 and  later   at the semi-finals of the 2010 IPL in Mumbai  after which it became a  regular fixture
The Zing system of flashing stumps and bails was developed by an Australian company of the same name in 2012. ICC approved the Zing electronic cricket wicket that same year and IPL brought it to India in 2016. A microprocessor detects when both bails  have become dislodged from the stump grooves and the Zing illuminates within 1/1000th of a second. The Zing stumps can withstand a ball impact at up to 160 km/hr.
Player performance enhancements
Beyond   solutions to enhance TV camera performance or to support on-ground   umpire decisions,  the other area where technology has been  harnessed to great effect is in the area of player performance analytics.  At least three  solutions compete   to help batters  analyse their own games to improve their performance:
Around 2018, Anil Kumble  started a  sports technology company – Spektacom. Its flagship product was a lightweight credit-card sized  sensor that can be stuck to the bat to pinpoint the ball’s exact impact location. Using a “stump box” positioned behind the wicket, it securely uploads the data to the cloud service of Microsoft -- Azure.
AI algorithms  then crunch the data to analyze the power of the shot based on how close it was to the bat’s sweet spot, where the maximum impact and most powerful shots could be delivered. as well as the speed of the bat, the twist of the bat, and the power of the shot. The bat is now a PowerBat
All this information can be analyzed in real time across different platforms, both desktop and mobile, to give the “Spek” score of that shot.
Such data, can help teams with insights that will improve player performance, as well as fan engagement, says Kumble. Broadcasters can use these insights in real time and can rate a batsman — which is why Star Sports  came on board as the first entity to partner with Spektacom. Indeed the launch  of Spektacom was organised in the familiar Star studio used as the "dugout" during IPL matches,  The Spektacom PowerBat was launched with a hit for a six by Microsoft's Executive Vice President Peggy Johnson, who played to a spinner from Kumble.
The idea of sensors embedded in the bat to analyse the batter, has  come from other products
The StanceBeam cricket bat sensor comes from a Bengaluru startup of the same, founded in 2017 by  Arminder Thind  and Ishwinderpal Singh.  It fits  on top of any cricket bat and connect wirelessly to a mobile app.  The StanceBeam Striker provides real-time feedback and insights on  Bat Swing, Bat Speed, Bat Angles Power and Shot Efficiency. The data collected by the sensor can be viewed on the StanceBeam app in real-time and is stored on the cloud. It comes with Replaceable Bat Mounts for easy installation on any cricket bat and a locking key to make sure that the Striker remains locked securely inside the Bat Mount. Shikhar Dhawan came on board as mentor and brand ambassador of StanceBeam.
The UK-based  has launched BatSense, a motion-sensing  IoT device. When fitted onto a bat and synced with the app, the sensor captures multiple performance parameters such as Bat Speed, Back Lift Angle, and Follow Through. It boasts features such as 3D analysis of shots and bat path tracking and enables players to analyse and improve their batting with data-centric insights.
As players hone their individual skills and managers  digest  such data to create the best team for every match, technology marches on, harnessing new tools like AI and exploring  new solutions like Metaverse in the never ending quest to create yet more compelling experiences every time bat meets ball, fielders dive for that perfect catch or bowlers send  LEDs aglow as stumps fly.
May  the best team ( and technology) win!
Images to illustrate this article here
This article has appeared in Swarajya