Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Technology in Cricket – A Boon or a Bane?

The modern human life has become flooded with technology. The astounding advancements made in the field of technology continue to enrich our daily lives and endear them to us but at the very same time they are the root causes of most of the daily stress that we encounter or the terrible new diseases that now mug mankind. Cricket, a sport that has profound long-established pedigree where the age old traditions are revered and worshipped, has not escaped the war and often finds itself torn between age-old customs and rapidly growing technology.

The additions made to the game of cricket have been manifold over the past few years, and the sport and its custodians in general, struggle sometimes to keep up with the pace at which changes are thrown at them. Let us look at some of the newer technology that has invaded the cricket pitch in recent years.

Hawk Eye

Perhaps the most controversial technology that the game of cricket has seen, it is used to predict the path that the ball is likely to traverse once it has left the bowlers hand. It is achieved by having 6-10 cameras track the trajectory of the ball from different angles and the videos are superimposed to create a 3D image to predict the path. This technology is also used to predict the paths during the launch of rockets. This is a part of the DRS (Decision Review System) being used in the 2015 Cricket World Cup which helps the 3rd umpire make an lbw decision if it is referred. The technology has its fair share of naysayers, primarily the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) as they are of the opinion that the path shown is predictive and can be manipulated and hence cannot be relied upon. I believe, that though there have been occasions where the use of Hawk Eye has fogged up the state of affairs even further rather than simplifying it, it still is a pretty reliable technology which helps in giving the correct decisions.

Hot Spot

This is possibly the most reliable of all the recent technologies to have crowded the sport of cricket. It uses the same technology used in military for fighter jets tracking and is accomplished by having 2 infra-red cameras at the 2 ends of the ground. It is mainly used to decipher if the ball has hit the edge of the bat or some part of the batsman’s body or if it has completely missed everything. The infrared image shows a bright white spot where the ball has made contact as the friction raises the temperature and provides a clear picture during caught behind’s or lbw’s where the bat and pad are close together. The technology though has a shortcoming as it occasionally fails to show thin edges from fast bowlers due to lack of friction between bat and ball. Overall, this is a great technology but is very very expensive and the cost for hosting it can run in to several thousands of dollars. It is also difficult from logistics point of view to get these cameras available across various grounds during a tournament like the World Cup and hence it is not a part of the DRS in the World Cup 2015.

Snickometer

This technology is used to detect the faint edges that might escape the umpire due to noise at the ground. Popularly identified as Snicko, it uses an ultra sensitive microphone placed near the stumps and it picks up the different sound frequencies that are produced when the ball passes the bat. It may fail to detect faint edges and also takes a bit of time to process which slows down the game. It is usually a safe tool to use and aid the 3rd umpire in the decision making process. This technology is being used as a part of the DRS in Cricket World Cup 2015.

Zing Bails

A very recent addition to cricket, they were used for the first time in international cricket during the ICC World T20 in Bangladesh held in 2014. They are currently being used in the ICC World Cup 2015. With the conventional cricket bails, it was sometimes difficult for the 3rd umpire to ascertain the exact time when the bails were out of their grooves and this often caused a controversy during close run out decisions. The zing bails have a microprocessor in each of the bail-ends which detect when the bail is completely dislodged from the stump grooves and the LED’s light up within a fraction of a second. Apart from assisting the umpires, they also provide a pretty spectacle as the flashing red LED lights makes for a dazzling sight when a fast bowler castles a batsman.

Spider Cam and Drone Cam

Spider Cam is a system which allows the camera to move in all the 3 dimensions, i.e., up-down, forward-backward and left-right. The Spider Cam is placed over the playing field and is supported by cables. It is used to give a bird’s eye view of the events on the field and provides the television audience with candid shots of either a player or of the shots when a ball is hit in the air. It is a superb addition and gives fresh perspective and unique viewing angles thus enhancing the user experience. The Spider Cam caused a controversy recently when it came in the eye line of Steve Smith and the Aussie skipper shelled a simple catch of Virat Kohli during the test series. The ball, if it hits the Spider Cam, is declared dead. The Drone Cam has not been used till now and will be used in the later stages of the ongoing ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 and it will be interesting to see what it brings to the plate.

Speed Gun and Ball Spin RPM

These two technologies involve giving the speed at which the ball is delivered by the bowler and the number of revolutions imparted by a spin bowler respectively. They involve the use of a Doppler radar which passes on the relevant information. These figures are used to make the TV viewing more knowledgeable and interesting. They are also used by the analysts of the teams to measure performance of the players.

Graphics on Television

Various graphics which show a lot of information like the strong zones of different batsmen, heat/ pitch map of the bowlers showing where they are landing their deliveries, wagon wheel showing the area of ground batsman has scored his runs, scoring worm showing the comparison of the teams scoring patterns, etc. These graphics supplement the viewing experience on TV and keeps the TV audience well informed and up to date with all the happenings of the match.

As we can see, just like everything else in this world, all the technologies have their own pros and cons. With increasing technology, everything that happens on the field of cricket is relayed to the audience within a few seconds. The Umpires are under a lot of pressure and stress to make correct decisions every time but they are humans at the end of the day and are prone to making mistakes. We must empower them as much as we can so that correct verdict can be reached the majority of the times. The sport has also become professional and a lot is riding on the international matches. We have seen in the past that a single bad decision can sometimes change the entire course of the match and hence embracing DRS seems to be the correct way forward. It can easily eliminate the howlers and presents a simple and presently the best solution to do so. Other technologies like Zing Bails and Spider Cam appreciably improve the overall experience and makes for compelling viewing.

Technology, since times immemorial, has always been a double edged sword; sometimes acting as a dear friend while at other times a bitter foe, sometimes a dangerous villain as also an audacious hero in other times, sometimes invigorating while it can also be suffocating in a matter of a few seconds… If used with care and if used correctly, it can lead to salvation else it has the potential to leave behind a trail of annihilation. Those in charge of being the guardians of our beloved sport must make it certain that Cricket is on the correct side of that dangerous blade!!

1 comment:

Maniparna Sengupta Majumder said...

I didn't know about the Zing Bells. Thanks for enlightening me.

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