Enhancing efficiency

Enhancing efficiency

Bat sensors, developed by a Bengaluru-based tech company, are set to make batting analysis easier

Enhancing efficiency

Technology in sports is an ever-growing phenomenon. Even as different games evolve, the influence of technology cannot be overlooked. Football, which embraced the goal-line technology in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, has made further progress on the scientific front with the adoption of Video Assistant Referees (VARs) in the ongoing Confederation Cup in Russia.

Tennis is not far behind. After the success of the Hawk-Eye system, which was first introduced at the 2007 Australian Open, the racquet sensors were a big hit with Rafael Nadal giving it a thumbs up.

Similar to the above mentioned sports, technology has revolutionised cricket as well. In fact, cricket is, in a way, has been a front runner in incorporating technology into the game. From TV referrals to decide run-outs to using Snickometer and Hawk-Eye systems to adjudge caught and lbw decisions, cricket has been setting example for other sports. The latest entrant in this direction is the bat sensor has drawn plenty off attention.

The recently concluded Champions Trophy in England grabbed eyeballs for the presence of new technology. Apart from drones – which helped in offering enhanced and detailed pitch-analysis­ -- and virtual reality system that gave the fans an opportunity to know what it is to face world class bowlers, some players from all eight teams used bat sensors and the response from them has been largely positive.
Not all batsmen are gifted with the bat-speed of a Virender Sehwag or a Brendon McCullum. Similarly, it’s a dream for many batsmen to dominate bowlers with a natural bat-swing like Adam Gilchrist or Sanath Jayasurya. While there are players whose technique is defined by an enviable instinct which makes them less dependent on technology, many fall back on video analysis to study their game.

Bat sensors have an edge over video analysis as far as user-friendliness is concerned. A video analysis, which calibrates different camera angles, requires more personnel whereas a bat sensor is just another equipment in cricket kit with which a player can learn in detail about bat movements with very little additional help.

So how did the idea arise? The sensor, known as ‘Bat Sense’, is a brain child of Specular, a smart wearables and cognitive computing company based in Bengaluru. “Our founder and managing director Atul Srivastava came up with this thought of a sensor for bats two years ago. Following a thorough research, we approached Intel Technologies, to develop the product,” says Raghavendra Patnaik, CEO of Specular.

Different types of data
The sensor, weighing 25 grams, is placed on top of the bat handle and the different types of data recorded could come in handy for the batsmen.

The bat speed, angle of bat lift, follow through of the bat, impact of the bat speed is measured through the sensor. Players can connect via Bluetooth to the application on their mobile to get these data.

“When we were designing the sensor, we decided that the bat handle is the right place to fix it as it doesn’t hinder the player during his innings. The size of the bat also need not be altered,” says Patnaik.

The Bat Sense was put to practice at the Champions Trophy, a first in a global event.

“How many times have we spoken about people having ‘fast hands’ or ‘great bat speed’? But what does that mean? We have never quantified. When I first played for England, I had never really seen myself on television. I remember playing in Jamaica, getting out and walking through the hotel lobby and Geoffrey Boycott shouting at me ‘Hussain, you’ll never get any runs with that open bat face’. Something like this (sensors) can show you the exact angle of your bat,” former England skipper Nasser Hussain had said after launching the technology at the tournament.

Alex Hales, Aaron Finch, Jason Roy, David Warner were some of the batsmen who used the sensor during the competition. 

Hussain went on to add that the use of sensors could play a role in helping players struggling with form.

The response at the Champions Trophy -- where the manufacturers received positive feedback from many popular players including Australian opener David Warner -- has resulted in increase in demand for the sensors, with Australia and UK, two of the biggest cricketing markets, keen on launching it. The bat sensor is expected to hit the Indian market in September.

While it is indeed a great sign that the international players are welcoming the technology, the aim is to reach the grassroot level of the game and create an impact, says Patnaik.

“The sensors could make a difference at the coaching-level. Earlier the player had to depend on just the coach’s observations to make changes in his game but now there is an option, for both coach and player, to see the result and work on different aspects,” he offers.

If the bat sensor is just a start, efforts on to develop sensor for pads, gloves and helmets. While the pad and gloves sensors could help in analysing different aspects of hand and feet movements, sensors on helmets could help the batsman know his head position and also study the level of concussion, in case such a scenario arises, claims Patnaik.