Sports is embracing technology like never before, be it the adoption of video assistant referee technology in the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League, or the use of Hawk Eye in Wimbledon. The International Cricket Council (ICC), in this regard, has always been ahead of its counterparts and has been using HawkEye, Hotspot, Snickometer and the ball speedometer for years now.
At the ICC Cricket World Cup, which started on 30 May, technology is playing an important role, both on and off the pitch. While the likes of HawkEye and Snickometer will determine the fate of players on the pitch, their post-match fitness levels will be evaluated using data captured by wearable GPS trackers this time.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India has reportedly roped in a UK-based sports tech company, STATSports, to track the fitness of Indian cricketers during the tournament, using a vest with in-built sensors to capture distance, speed, acceleration and dynamic stress load. The data will be available to coaches and analysts. STATSports’ GPS technology is already being used by major football clubs including Barcelona, Liverpool and Manchester United.
To capture the action from multiple angles, the ICC has deployed as many as 32 cameras, including eight ultra-motion HawkEye cameras, Spidercams, and front and reverse-view stump cameras. The feed captured from the cameras will be stitched together to produce 360° replays of matches that will be available on ICC TV.
The drone camera by Batcam, a UK-based live drone filming and broadcasting company, will be used at all the World Cup venues across England and Wales to capture an over-the-top view of the matches. For on-ground proceedings, a roving Buggy Cam will also be used. These cameras are remote-controlled and are basically installed on unmanned aerial vehicles. They are drizzle-proof and can fly up to an altitude of 400 metres.
Fans will have more tools and insights, too, at their disposal this time. A case in point is Cricket.com’s new weather-based match projections in partnership with IBM’s The Weather Co. The IBM platform will furnish data on atmospheric pressure, wind speed and temperature. All these will be triangulated by Cricket.com to figure out the impact of weather during a match. Aimed at the average fan, the weather-related analysis will go live from the middle of the World Cup.
“Weather data has been viewed separately. Similarly, ball-by-ball data are seen separately. We saw this as an opportunity to bring different sources of data together. Since the World Cup is being played in England, where the weather conditions are moody and different, we thought this was one of the better places to test our new models," said Kartik Kannan, principal product manager, Cricket.com.
ESPNCricinfo, in collaboration with IIT Madras, has introduced an artificial intelligence (AI)-based metric system called Superstats which uses algorithms trained on 10 years of cricket-related data available on the platform. It will be available under three subcategories—Smart Stats, Luck Index and Forecaster. Smart Stats not only includes factors, such as runs scored, or average, but also pitch conditions, the quality of opposition and the pressure on the team. Luck Index will tell how many times players were lucky. Forecaster is a prediction tool, which can tell how many runs a team will score, when a wicket may fall, or which team will win.
Cricket.com also has a similar pattern-based tool called Criclytics. It includes live score predictor, live player projections (how players are going to perform in the upcoming matches) and death over instructions (here users can pick a bowler and simulate possible outcomes in the last three overs of a match).
In addition to the millions of conversations that will be generated on Facebook and Twitter, a lot of action can be seen on new social media platforms as well. ICC has tied up with ByteDance, a Chinese technology company, to deliver campaigns and unique short-form videos on its social media platforms TikTok and Helo. For instance, the CheerforIndia campaign on Helo is encouraging users to post original content related to the World Cup. Users posting the most engaging and interactive videos will get a chance to watch India play at one of the venues in England.
“Cricket has more than a billion fans and TikTok can help us connect with an even wider audience in such a fun and engaging way. The multi-language format of Helo also allows us to increase our reach across India, bringing more fans closer to the event," Aarti Dabas, ICC head for media rights and digital, said in a press statement.
The adoption of technology is expected to extend to other areas of the game in the coming days, and we might see some of them at the next World Cup. We had a glimpse of some of those technologies at local level, in the form of SeeHow smart balls, which have in-built sensors to capture ball-related data like speed, swing and spin.
Former cricketer Anil Kumble’s tech startup Spektacom has designed a bat that uses sensor-based stickers to capture data on how the batsman was hitting the ball.
The data will be analysed by Microsoft Azure Cloud and AI services and the insights will be delivered on the mobile app.