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The roots of Cricket trace back to the 16th century and since then, the game of glorious uncertainties as we know it, has spread to cover 3 formats ranging from 5 Day tests, to the the exciting 50 over format one dayers and the swashbuckling 20 over format, where a game can change within 1 over. While the number of full members had still not reached double digits; the game has cast its wings across various countries that play under the associate nations tag.
Cricket is a true test of mind, skill and fitness in equal measure, be it over a test match or the limited overs versions of the game, not only for the players but for the umpires as well, the stakes are higher than ever before with T20 franchise based cricket with billions of pounds at stake and hence getting the right decisions is imperative, television has taken the game to a new level garnering a large global audience and with the advent of the internet, a live game can be viewed across a range of portable devices.
With so much riding on each game, technology has paid a huge role in making sure cricket as a sport has captured the imagination and allured the global audience. Although cricket and the powers to be have not always been proactively drawn towards adopting technology, especially when compared to other sports like tennis or athletics to name a few. While the purists still continue to have a sceptical view on the use of technology, the demands of the viewers seems to have forced their hand.
The first real injection of technology and a departure from tradition came with dawn of World Series Cricket by Kerry Packer in 1977, the Australian television magnet who married the sport with his television business and since then the game has just gotten bigger and bigger and more colourful to boot.
It was in the 1990’s that television replay’s were introduced to adjudicate on run-outs, Sachin Tendulkar being the first batsmen to have waited and walked on the dreaded red light back in the day.
The system gradually evolved from merely a square shaped signal to the third umpire to a full-fledged Decision Review System or DRS as it is called. After being initialled tested out in 2008 during an India Srilanka test match; the system came into the game officially when the International Cricket Council launched it in the New Zealand Pakistan test series.
The entire process encapsulated how technology has made firm strides in the game and is certainly here to stay. DRS use’s various tools like square cameras to check the validity of the ball bowled and ensure it’s a legal delivery, Snickometer confirms if the bat made contact with the ball at any stage which could be decisive in adjudicating a leg before decision or a catch thus graphically depicting the noise, once that’s ascertained Hawkeye comes in to predict the probable path of the ball and whether it would hit the batsmen in line with the stumps and whether the ball is hitting the stumps of going above.
Hawkeye was developed by Paul Hawkins in the United Kingdom and has been extensively used in Tennis, Rugby, Badminton and Volleyball before its full fledged foray into Cricket. It has had it fair share of controversy and acceptance across all quarters has been slow but with constant upgrades it now closure to a full proof system as compared to the past where admittedly there were issues that needed to be addressed.
Benefits of hawk-eye are not merely restricted to getting the right decisions on the field of play but also help batsmen and bowlers alike in analysing their performances and helping them over coming technical deficiencies.
A further upgrade on Snicko, is Hot Spot where infrared technology is used to ascertain the exact spot the ball hits the bat if at all hence critical part of DRS. Hot Spot also is a useful analysis tool for commentators to substantiate the claim on a batsmen hitting the ball on sweet spot of the bat for a towering six or flourishing drive.
While technically the Hot Spot and Snicko are competitors, but what sets Hot Spot apart is its ability to show where the bat has struck unlike the Snicko where being a sound detecting system the results could be faulty as well since the sound could be bat hitting the pad instead of the bat, however using them both in tandem produces conclusive results which is ultimately what the players and fans want.
While these tools have helped umpires immensely to make the right decision on field, some other gadgets have brought in a bit of panache to the game, improving its quality to the viewer immensely.
The Super Slow motion just enhances the visual appeal of the Hot Spot as well as the overall game considering the frantic speed at which it is played.
The Speed gun for example gets crowds going when a fast bowler is on song and coming in full tilt and works well in terms of variations like recording data and analysing the slower ball and speed variations for a bowler. To make sure the spinners don’t feel left out, the Ball Revs tracker as the name suggest calculated the extent of spin depending on revs imparted.
The Stump camera and Stump mic have added a sense of being actually on the pitch for a viewer whether at the ground or in the comforts of their home, and in some instances lent an ear to some very interesting banter or mind games that go on between the batsmen and bowler as well as close-in fielders.
Relatively new inventions into the game have been the LED Bails and Spider Cam, where in case of the LED bails, the bail glows when the ball strikes the wickets and bail comes out its groove which also aids in getting those close stumping and run outs decisions right.
The spider cam is more from an enhanced visual delight perspective for the view at home and gives a unique insight into field placing and catching in particular, some players though call it a distraction and are not happy when a well timed six is obstructed in its patch with the Spider web.
Technology has not merely impacted the way the game is played on the field but also for its viewers where the thirst for TRP’s has made the game more accessible over devises like a mobile phone or tablet through mobile applications.
The evolution from being a game prone to human error and waiting for the 10pm news to know the result and key highlights, cricket has moved swiftly and in no less measure has technology been a critical clog in its wheel catapulting it to a world-wide audience and the way forward can only be more of the same please.