Cricket has adopted technology like no other game. Spider Cams, Hawkeye, the Snickos and Hot Spots have become subjects of household discussions. If that was not enough, the Caribbean Premier League (CPL 2021) this year will be witness to yet another technological marvel – the Smart Ball.
Manufactured by Australian sports tech firm Sportcor in association with ball manufacturer Kookaburra, the Smart Ball promises to take the gentleman’s game to a new level altogether.
“The Smart Ball will have an embedded chip with sensors to measure the speed, spin and power of the ball and relay it in real-time using a smartwatch, mobile or a computer via a special app,” former Australia pace bowler and Sportcor co-founder Michael Kasprowicz told Firstpost.
Why use a Smart Ball?
The data collected by the chip inside and conveyed to a system using an app can prove useful in analysing and comparing performances while also making the hunt for talented players a bit easy.
The inventor of the technology, Ben Tattersfield, who is also the founder of Sportcor, had a different purpose in mind when he first coined the idea of a Smart Ball.
Tattersfield is a golf enthusiast. He would lose the ball frequently. One day, about five years back, he cut a golf ball into two, put a car key tracking device inside and glued it back together. It worked! Tattersfield then refined his concept and proposed the product to golf giant Titleist. The company officials loved the idea but said they cannot take it forward because Titleist made its money selling golf balls to people who lost them.
The innovator then pitched the idea to Kookaburra, which responded positively and the rest, as they say, is history. The ball was first experimented with at the Lord’s in London and will now be used in a professional tournament — the Caribbean Premier League – for the first time.
Does the presence of chip inside make the ball behave differently?
Kasprowicz says the cricketer on the field would never know if he is holding a regular Kookaburra ball or a Smart Ball. It behaves exactly the same as the traditional season ball. Neither the look nor the feel/weight changes because of the chip inside.
“We had it tested and verified at the University of Queensland where they had the process where Cricket Australia developed the pink ball,” Kasprowicz told Firstpost. Cricket Australia (CA) got it verified by a third-party to know if it really works. “All we’ve done is replace the cork rubber compound. It’s in the centre of the cricket ball. And matched it perfectly (with the chip),” he said.
Spin, speed and power
The technology provides data points on the spin, speed and power of the ball delivered. So while the existing technology helps measure the speed of the ball after it is released by the bowler and before it hits the ground, a Smart Ball gives the spin and speed of the ball after bounce as well.
For spinners, it tells the revolutions on the ball at the point the bowler releases it and revolutions after the bounce.
The most striking quality is that a Smart Ball tells the amount of power/effort the bowler puts into delivering the ball.
The Smart Ball technology and its working
The recording of data points begins as soon as the smartphone/computer operator presses the ‘start’ button on the app. The sensors in the chip (located at the core of the ball) collects the data and transmit it back to the user via Bluetooth. This information can then be stored in the cloud and analysed on a need basis using artificial intelligence (AI).
The entire process is completed in just five seconds!
The design of the ball
The Sportcor’s specially designed core is put in place of the cork rubber core of the traditional Kookaburra ball.
The chip is completely safe inside (during trials, the ball was repeatedly hit at around 300 km/hour). It has a hard, protective shell on the outermost side, a soft padding inside to absorb the shock and another protective layer within that frame.
“We took inspiration from nature in the design and looked to how the skull works in protecting the brain,” said Tattersfield.