Panchkula, Haryana: With all the scrutiny on the Indian Cricket League’s (ICL) first tournament—from fans, sponsors, even the competition—it might be said that Adrian Faccioni has the most exacting vantage point.
The managing director of GPSports Systems, a Canberra, Australia firm that uses technology to track athletic performance, came here to quantify the speeds of cricketers in real time—marking a first in India, he said.
So as the crowd roared at Friday night’s inaugural match over Hamish Marshall, a former New Zealand player turned “local” as a Chandigarh Lions fielder, Faccioni kept his eye on a set of numbers flashing on a console. Marshall had run 2,219m in 53.12 minutes of play. Faccioni’s verdict: “Hamish isn’t doing much in terms of fielding.”
His product, Wi Sports Performance Indicator, also known as WiSPI, applies modern technology to the century-old game of cricket. Its usage reflects the strategy of Essel Group’s Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd, the new league’s promoters: television viewers are hungry for immediate technical analysis that commentators often cannot provide.
GPSports Systems managing director Adrian Faccioni analyzing data picked up by tracking antenna in a glass-fronted cabin at the Panchkula stadium near Chandigarh
Technology will be vital to ICL’s success as the game increasingly moves into drawing rooms, according to Essel Group executive vice-president Ashish Kaul. “It’s all about enhancing viewer experience,” he said.
Faccioni was also upfront about wanting to leverage the existence of two warring cricket leagues into profit. Considered a rebel league, the ICL has been blacklisted by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the sport’s official administrators in the country.
BCCI also plans its own Twenty20 Indian Premier League next year.
Faccioni seems unfazed by the battle of one-upmanship between his client and the BCCI, saying both can benefit from more precise data on players. “I will see how it goes here, and hopefully, we’ll sit down with the BCCI later,” he said.
BCCI officials did not return calls or text messages for comment. Eventually, GPSports plans to relay the information to coaches, commentators and viewers. This weekend marked the first time it applied the WiSPI to cricket.
Back home, Faccioni says his technology is used by coaches in Australian rugby, a format of the sport that has 36 players on the pitch compared with the 13 in cricket. Data transmitted live during a game includes speed changes and direction changes of a player, maximum and average speed, distance travelled, and heart rate.
“Our technology is basically for coaches, to help them monitor a player’s training,” he said. “Nobody has measured a player real time before”. Players being tracked wear a mobile phone-like gadget that transmits the required data.
But ICL’s promoters are not looking to GPSports to help the coaches of the six teams in the league. Rather, they want fans to be able to instantly assess performance—thereby enhance viewing experiences. Data picked up by the tracking antenna in a glass-fronted cabin at the Panchkula stadium will be relayed to the television crew covering the games; interesting data such as the speed of a bowler during his run-up will be flashed on screen. “Commentators are excited,” Faccioni said.
Friday and Saturday matches did not include the information as Faccioni was still testing the programme.
Faccioni is also waiting for a special computer to arrive from Canberra; it’s needed to generate graphics for television.
Essel’s channel Zee Sports is beaming all matches; other channels in the Zee Telefilms Ltd network—except the film channels—also beamed the first half hour’s match on Friday to draw and maximize eyeballs.
“Zee reaches 125 countries, that’s the kind of numbers we are talking of,” Kaul said.