There are half a dozen categories of bowler — leg spinner, off spinner, medium pacer, fast bowler, swing bowler... but today, we recognize just two types of batspersons: left handed and right handed. Anil Kumble wants to change all that.
The veteran bowler, coach and cricket administrator has founded a start-up — Spektacom — with the mission of harnessing technology to improve sport. Last week, with help from Microsoft, he unveiled their first product — Power Bat — a cool tool that measures the quality of a batsman's shot by capturing data, analyzing it in real time and creating a unique set of analytics — on the Cloud.
Spektacom's invention is a tiny Internet of Things (IoT), sticker, the size of a credit card, that you paste on the cricket bat that weighs less than 5g. It measures the speed, twist and swing of the bat as it contacts the ball and computes the power that is transmitted from bat to ball on impact. Using Bluetooth, it transmits this data live to a device called StumpBox buried behind the wicket. The data from the box is wirelessly sent to the Cloud where it is analysed by the Microsoft cloud service, Azure after applying Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. The result is captured by a phone app and displayed as four parameters: speed of bat in Kmph, twist in degrees, quality as a percentage — depending on how close the ball touched the bat's sweet spot — and the overall power of the stroke in units called Spek. 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 has come on board as the first entity to partner with Spektacom, for future Indian cricket series.
Launched in the familiar Star studio used as the "dugout" during IPL matches, Power Bat was launched with a hit for a six — literally - by Microsoft's Executive Vice President Peggy Johnson, who played to a spinner from Kumble. Why only cricket, we see promise in taking the Spektacom solution to other racket sports, golf etc, she says. And embedded in players' shoes, Star Sports is also weighing the option of introducing it to improve skills in kabaddi in India.
An 'immersive' stadium experience: Accenture's Bangalore engineers have created a compelling experience for fans of Cricket Australia
At an India Innovation Summit in Bangalore, a few weeks ago, engineers of Accenture's India Innovation Hub displayed an innovation in Extended Reality — Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, morphed with other immersive technologies. Wearing a VR headset and holding a specially instrumented cricket bat (in photo) , I suddenly found myself at the crease in the middle of a packed and cheering stadium. The operator with a tablet PC could conjure up just any kind of bowler — inswinger, googly, you name it. I was soon floored by the exact ball as bowled by the world's best players.
Accenture's India team had created the system for Cricket Australia, who are using it at experience zones on the sidelines of important matches to woo crowds and build up a fan base.
But there is a serious side to this too. If the world's greatest bowlers agree to have their action captured in a 3-D motion capture studio, the resulting library of bowling could be used to train a new generation of batspersons — who have 'virtually' played a Jaspreet Bumrah or a James Faulkner, long before facing them in the flesh.