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Get it right with a virtual coach

Get it right with a virtual coach
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First Published: Sat, Feb 19 2011. 12 49 AM IST

Online training: Ramakrishnan’s Sports Mechanics has developed packages for Indian as well as international teams.
Online training: Ramakrishnan’s Sports Mechanics has developed packages for Indian as well as international teams.
Updated: Sat, Feb 19 2011. 12 49 AM IST
Bangalore: S. Ramakrishnan, known as Ramky, recalls two moments from his association with the Indian cricket team as a resident technical analyst since 2003.
One: when Sachin Tendulkar called him in the middle of the night for old videos of him hammering the Australians. The demand came a night before the beginning of a home series against the Australians in 2008.
Two: in 2003, when India coach John Wright, having seen some of his work at the MRF Pace Foundation in Chennai, called him for a cricket coaches’ conference in Bangalore. He was asked to give a 30-minute talk on how audio-visual analysis worked. When he finished his presentation, Wright asked him to continue for two more hours.
Online training: Ramakrishnan’s Sports Mechanics has developed packages for Indian as well as international teams.
“I did not realize that through my talk, Wright was testing me,” says Ramakrishnan. “He even made me show the clips to players and observed me explain it to them. A few days later, Wright asked me if I would like to work with them. ‘The money isn’t great though,’ he said. I told him, ‘It’s a job no Indian can refuse.’”
Now the managing director of Chennai-based Sports Mechanics, a sports technology company, Ramakrishnan has formed a Web portal, www.cricketmentor.tv, to coach budding cricketers. The site, launched on 14 February, will give coaching tips on batting, bowling and fielding. Players will have to upload videos, and they will receive feedback from coaches on the website’s expert panel. The panel’s members have not been disclosed.
“Researchers have suggested that retention level of information gathered from audio-visual mediums is greater than that from human interaction,” says Ramakrishnan, who played junior-level cricket in Tamil Nadu.
His plan is to get people to record how they play sports and upload clips. Even a basic camera that can record videos clearly is good enough for him.
“Most coaches have too many things to deal with at any given point,” he says. “On an average, a coach attends to 20 players at once. He will watch eight bowlers and two batsmen over 80 balls, and also organize the nets. It is impossible for him to concentrate on just one player. We aim to change all that.”
Also, “some coaches may not be great communicators”, says Ramakrishnan.
Former India off-spinner E.A.S. Prasanna sounds a note of caution. “You can have these methods to analyse a cricketer’s bowling or batting technique, but the inputs to a player must come from someone who has a solid amount of top-class cricketing experience,” he says. “The fundamental challenges for a coach will remain—identify a player’s flaw and recommend a cogent solution.”
Apart from the national team, Sports Mechanics has worked with cricket boards in Tamil Nadu, Haryana and Delhi, as well as the Asian Cricket Council, the International Cricket Council and Sri Lanka Cricket.
The firm has developed software and analytical tools to ascertain a player’s strengths and weaknesses. It develops these packages for Indian and international teams, as well as for teams playing domestic competitions such as the Ranji Trophy, as and when there is demand.
The grading criteria for players is a business secret, Ramakrishnan says. Though most of the material available online is free, special coaching packages will be a paid-for service. “The entire exercise is to help people and sportspersons cultivate the habit of keeping a digital record of the sports they play,” he says.
rahul.j@livemint.com
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First Published: Sat, Feb 19 2011. 12 49 AM IST