Smartening up the game: How Intel is bringing cricket into the future

The ICC Champions Trophy brings VR, drones, bat sensors and more
Intel is bringing cricket into the future

Tracking the action of professional sportspeople is nothing new — players in the NBA and MLB use the Whoop Strap, while NFL players and footballers routinely pull on a Captapult vest.

Cricket, though, despite its ability to welcome tech in the form of Hawk Eye, the Snickometer and a Decision Review System, has yet to fully embrace the wearable space.

That is, until now, with tech giant Intel partnering with both the International Cricket Council and startup Specular in order to bring new insights and analysis to viewers of the ICC Champions Trophy, which has just kicked off.

Read this: How professional sports feel about wearables

The biggest innovation comes in the form of a small sensor powered by Intel's Curie chipset, known as BatSense, which will fit onto the top of the bat handle and give broadcasters and fans an insight into data such as bat speed, impact angles and backlift motion.

Intel is also set to bring a VR experience to fans attending games at The Oval and Birmingham's Edgbaston, which can be used in conjunction with the BatSense tech, and provide pitch analysis through drones.

"Our long term aim is to make cricket the world's favourite sport, and, really, there's only one way to achieve this: keep the fans engaged and interested in the game," said David Richardson, CEO of the ICC. "We're trying to make this the first smart cricket tournament, and some of the innovations we've been working on with Intel haven't been seen in the sport before."

Anuj Dua, director of marketing for Intel's New Technology Group, also indicated why the company has decided to invest into the sport.

"Cricket is a numbers game. It's a 360-degree sport with angles, speed, strike rates and run rates, and that in itself links it to measurement and analysis. Batting techniques have evolved with the pace of the game and the nature of the competition, and of course formats like 20/20, but I don't think there's an appreciation for how hard it is to execute a particular shot.

"Now, with the help of Intel's Curie technology, some Bluetooth capabilities, storage and sensors, we're able to put it into Specular's BatSense. [The metrics] are all things that people have thought about, have subjectively discussed, but never really had a chance to quantify."

Curie at the crease

Intel is bringing cricket into the future

Also on hand to talk about the new technology was former England captain turned Sky Sports broadcaster Nasser Hussain, who indicated the BatSense will bring changes for commentators describing the technicalities to fans.

"It's going to be hugely beneficial across the board," he said. "In broadcasting, we speak about fast hands and bat speed — but what does that really mean? I was commentating a county game last year when Ben Duckett scored a hundred, and I had to stop myself from repeating myself and pointing out his hands.

"Take the one-day international series against South Africa as another example. The players on both sides play in so many different ways. You've got Hashim Amla who has a bat twirl over his head, you've got Quinton De Kock with a closed bat face - how do they do it, and why do they do it? Hopefully by the end of the tournament we can compare and look at all these things, but it will take time because you need context."

Hussain also pointed out that BatSense could be crucial for coaches and players.

"As a coaching tool, it could be absolutely vital," he explained. "When I first played for England, I hadn't really watched myself on television and got told early on I had an open bat face — I didn't even realise I did. If this technology had been in place for a few years, I could have had a net and looked at my bat face and previous data and figured out if that was a problem."

Intel is bringing cricket into the future

And while Specular and Intel's collaborative effort is set to bring BatSense to the elite level, it's also set to roll out to the likes of the UK, India, Australia and even the US this August for $150, meaning amateur cricketers can also take advantage of the tech to improve their game.

A dip into this area is long-awaited, but whether its adopted by players over the long-term remains to be seen. In a space where teams hunt furiously to find a winning edge, this could potentially provide a platform to amplify weaknesses. Intel, though, will no doubt be hoping that teams and players are willing to accept the data trade-off in the quest for personal insights.


The ICC, meanwhile, wouldn't reveal the exact number of players who will be adopting the technology through the tournament, but did indicate a player from each team will be using the sensor puck, and as many as six on one side will be taking part.

The introduction of more objective pitch analysis through drones and a fun VR experience are healthy add-ons to the bigger picture, but fresh, in-game insights without the gimmicks is where technology in cricket will flourish.

The game is changing; it's embracing being smarter through new means, and that can only be viewed as a positive.


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