Anil Kumble’s Spektacom unveils power bat to track batting analytics
The data will help analyse shots and break them into measurable parameters such as quality, swing, power, and twist
Mumbai: Anil Kumble believes a tiny sticker, the size of a credit card and weighing less than 5 grams, will change the way cricket is watched, played and learnt in the future.
The former national cricket team captain and coach, who trained as an engineer, has come up with the concept of a “power bat”, which will carry this chip on its shoulder. The data from the sticker-chip will be fed into a stump box, and captured and processed using Microsoft’s Azure Sphere to be available to the broadcaster of the match real time and for the player to mull over later.
The data will help analyse shots and break them into measurable parameters such as quality (of the shot), swing (of the bat), power, and twist. It will help batsmen, to give an example, find out how often they hit the ball from the “sweet spot”.
Kumble’s start-up Spektacom Technologies has already experimented with the concept in the Tamil Nadu Premier League on a limited basis and is now ready to scale up through broadcast partner Star Sports.
The quality of the shot is calculated in percentages, the speed of bat in kmph, the power in specs while the twist happens in degrees. In a live demonstration of the bat’s abilities at a Star Sports studio in Mumbai on Thursday, data from a shot showed up on screens in a few seconds.
While the broadcaster would have access to this sticker initially for their commentators to then analyse a batsman during a match, the technology would later be available commercially for anyone to buy the sticker, download an app and access their data. Kumble added that the gadget—which charges in 90 minutes and lasts two days on it—would be affordable.
Considering most international batsmen are extremely finicky about their bats—Rahul Dravid’s wife Vijeta had once written that if the weight of his bat was off by a gram he would notice it—Kumble insisted that the chip is non-intrusive and a batsman wouldn’t feel it. “Form factor was the most critical aspect of the thing,” said the 47-year-old told Mint.
“If it’s intrusive, you wouldn’t want to use it no matter what valuable data is thrown at you. It doesn’t change the balance (of the bat) or pick-up. The data that comes out will only enhance the performance and skill,” he said, explaining why the technology will not take away the basic intuitiveness involved in playing the sport.
The makers of the gadget believe it could be used in other sports as well. Versions of data collection are used in Formula One and NASCAR racing, National (American) Football League and Spanish football’s La Liga, according to Peggy Johnson, executive vice-president, business development, Microsoft. Adding more “parameters” to the four existing ones are also under consideration.
It is surprising that a bowler who took 619 wickets from 132 Test matches would develop a system that seemingly helps only batsman. But, as Kumble says, “the sooner you accept this is a batsman’s game, the better you will bowl”.
“If you look at the game, lots of attention is on the batsman. That’s the skill you want to understand. Also, in bowling, you have a left-arm spinner, right-arm fast bowler or a right-arm swing bowler, while batting is only left or right-arm. That intrigued me,” he said, adding that this data could help categorize batsmen better and help bowlers understand batsmen’s weaknesses.
The genesis of Spektacom and Microsoft happened when Kumble met the company’s chief executive officer and cricket lover Satya Nadella last year at an event. Since then, it took less than a year to get the project into broadcast.
Considered the first person to bring a computer into an Indian dressing room in 1997 to analyse data and compute ball-by-ball scoring, Kumble said, “We use a lot more tech in our day-to-day life than what sport does. All innovations have happened in cricket because of the broadcaster’s influence on the game rather than the game itself innovating and adapting. Whether it’s the decision review system (DRS) or lighting up the stumps, they have come from broadcasters. We are still behind but cricket has come a long way.”