This Bengaluru man's bowling machine not just for elite

Last Updated : 30 October 2018, 18:12 IST

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Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention. Pratheek Palanethra, a city-based cricketer, went to the US to pursue his entrepreneurship masters in engineering but ended up designing and developing a cricket ball thrower that has the potential to bridge the gap between, say, a throw-down specialist and a high-end bowling machine.

While studies were a priority, Pratheek, a mechanical engineering graduate from RV College, couldn’t completely give-up on cricket. In the US, however, there was no easy access to cricket facilities. The nearest one was about one-and-half-hour drive from his place, and after a two-hour practice, he would lose almost half a day which made little sense for someone who was doing his masters.

The 26-year-old then went looking for a bowling machine to fix it in his garage but found it hard to procure one because of its exorbitant price. That’s when his engineering brain hit upon the idea of devising a bowling machine.

“I had to do entrepreneurship thesis as part of my course, and I presented this idea of making a bowling machine that runs without electricity, that is portable and something which doesn’t leave a deep hole in your pocket.

“I was first funded by my University (Lehigh) and then Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation. After my project was over, I returned to India in July 2017, started a company named Freebowler and worked 3-4 months to sell the concept to prospective candidates. In March this year, I got a company – Matrix Sports and Fitness in Nayandahalli – that agreed to produce these machines,” recalls Pratheek.

In a cricket-mad country where academies are dime a dozen even in smaller cities, demand for structured coaching and infrastructure has been rising. And while the bigger coaching centres and academies run by the BCCI and its state bodies are furnished with all the modern equipment to aid an aspiring cricketer’s growth, many smaller academies, especially in places outside metros, still lack proper amenities due to lack of resources to procure expensive tools.

This is where, Pratheek feels, his product – called the “Freebowler Superthrower” -- solves some of the limitations with the existing ball throwing aids regarding cost, portability, use of machine balls and electricity.

The various bowling machines used by state and national teams or in the BCCI-run National Cricket Academy cost anywhere between Rs 1 lakh and 1.5 lakh. Plus, you need synthetic balls, heavy batteries, long cords and electricity ports for it to work.

“Superthrower, on the other hand, is simple in its design,” points out Pratheek. “It costs Rs 30,000 and is about 40” in length. It weighs around 25kgs and, more importantly, doesn’t need electricity. It can be folded up like a home gym equipment to carry around like a cricket kit,” says Pratheek.

The youngster hopes his low-tech training equipment will help all cricketers, especially women, by providing them with an opportunity to train like pros.

And in a small step towards success, Pratheek, apart from having received a order for 25 units already, has been getting hundreds of enquiries from across India, especially from the hinterland.

How the ball thrower works

The product is capable of throwing real cricket balls with natural variations of line and length. It has a throwing arm with the ball throwing cup on one end, where the ball is placed. The throwing arm is connected to a foot lever using a spring cable system. So the throwing arm is first pulled down and locked in place. Then the foot lever is pushed down and locked. This action activates the spring. The ball is then placed into the holding cup, and the throwing arm is released using a trigger handle which then fires the ball in the front simulating the real bowler’s bowling action towards the batsman.

Unlike the other electric bowling machine, that uses plastic-coated synthetic dimple balls, this machine enables the batsman to play real cricket balls. An electric bowling machine has rotating wheels which squeeze the ball before spitting it out of the hole. That’s why it cannot handle a sturdy cricket ball, lest it damages the threading of the ball. But Freebowler’s machine doesn’t squeeze and the ball but instead throws the ball from a throwing arm which simulates bowling action.

The ball in the cup can also be set at different angles and orientation using a knob that enables the batsman to play variations of length and swings.

Published 30 October 2018, 16:49 IST

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