The desire for the spectacular and the incredible has become the sign of our times. This century will definitely go down as the century which amalgamated technology with Sports in every which way possible. Not just in sports gear but even in broadcasting, advertising and presentations of the sports arena. Cricket is not just about playing bat and ball anymore. It’s an atmosphere charged with the participation of the spectators. At more than one level.
When the Zing Wicket System was introduced by an Australian company, it made perfect sense to the spectators. They just love it when disputes, like out or not out, can be settled by the magical zap of technology. Laying the truth bare for all to see. Undisputed decisions. Zero compromises. As fair and impartial as pure science. But it is not so simple. It was introduced first with the caveat that it would not be used for decision making and shall only be a visual delight for the spectators.
Of course, even then, the details, the intricacies, the material and the regulations along with the technology were a huge task and is still in the process of evolving, but Zing bails can be seen, now, almost regularly in T20 leagues if not in all the formats of the game. The purists are a very cautious lot. What you can’t deny is the breakthrough in visual appeal. Another element of the spectacular added which could later become even a crucial decision making tool.
We have in this last decade seen the inclusion of Snickometer, Hawk-eye and now the Zing Wicket System. What now? Could this just be the beginning of more such innovations. What would you think of a ball that changes colour on touch? Wouldn’t that be a different level altogether. But how? But how? There are so many questions that come to mind. We already have this colour ball and that ball. The ball gets hit all the time. It’s impossible. The moment you say that you have entered into the territory of technology.
The only thing that can be said, as of now, is that the “ball” is a work in progress. The day it is introduced will be another moment when the spectacular steals the show. Though, there is much more than what will catch the eye with this new ball and that is a whole new level of technology. What is also being engineered to put inside our traditional unsuspecting cricket ball is a sensor much like the revolutionary smart bat sensor, BatSense. Just as BatSense deconstructs the nuances of batting and presents them in 11 measurable parameters allowing the batters to better understand their game this sensor in the ball will do the same for bowling.
Just imagine the kind of information that can be gathered from such a scenario. what point did the ball leave the bowler’s hand. What was the direction of spin on its axis. How much did it swing in air. In which direction. Each and every aspect will be laid bare. The most interesting part is the information that can be gathered in combination with BatSense. How far was the ball from the bat when it hit the ground. In which direction did it turn. What was the angle of the bat at the time. How much did it bounce. All the information that is organic and of the moment during the play will be available in such detail for analysis and evaluation that our understanding of cricket and its masters will undergo a sea change.
The challenges in pulling something like this off are as tricky as the Zing Wicket System. If not more. What appears like a simple lighting up of LEDs on impact had so many variables to take to care of that at the onset the entire exercise seemed daunting. That was wickets, which is not something you use to display your skills of the game. Yet there were aspects that needed to be taken care of and there were problems even in that. What we are talking about is one of the two most important aspects of cricket, the ball.