In an ideal world, young kids would have been thronging cricket camps around the country in this time of the year. Summer is the busiest season for cricket camps in the country, with the weather and holidays allowing two months of uninterrupted cricket.
But this is not an ideal world and these are not normal times. Thanks to the coronavirus, sport has been pushed down in priority across the world. Cricket camps are among the many things forced to shut down, and it’s likely to remain that way for the foreseeable future.
However, many coaching academies are taking their activities online in an attempt to keep kids actively involved even when stuck at home due to lockdown. Many are taking to social media like Facebook Live and Instagram Live, while others are even holding video conference calls through various apps.
Some academies are generating cricket puzzles and online ‘challenges’ to keep the students interested in the sport.
Irfan Sait, Director & Head Coach of the Karnataka Institute of Cricket in Bangalore, is among the coaches to take the online route. The transition to the small computer and mobile screens from the vast space near MG Road in central Bangalore must have been difficult, but Irfan is excited with the response from his students.
“The age groups from 10-14 is thoroughly enjoying and lapping it up. We have to devise methods of keeping the younger ones, under-10s, occupied. For them, to listen and watch online may not be too attractive. The 10-14 age groups are learning, and are very excited. I’ve got 100s of them sending me messages from even overseas. They seem to be quite involved and very keen to receive more," he tells cricketnext.
“I want to keep our camp kids knit together and give them something to work on. We started in a small way using just Facebook. We are on the verge of developing a platform which will give more interactive opportunities. Only then there will be more involvement - asking questions and coaching based on their requirements etc."
But what exactly can be ‘taught’ through the internet, especially since not all students can have access to equipment and other facilities?
“We are sharing techincal information theoritically. To keep the interest alive, we’re analysing videos," he explains. “For example, yesterday we had a session for spinners and we saw videos of Nathan Lyon. That was a very good video from Cricket Australia. We saw Sachin Tendulkar’s batting video the other day, speaking about copybook frontfoot defence. The kids are looking forward to that, taking notes, asking for copy of the videos and all that. It’s early days but each of our sessions has been very well received. Our IT support Team - Ashwani, Arpit Singh and Biju Nair deserve a lot of credit.
“The bigger boys - age groups 14 to 20 - we want them to ask questions. We don’t want to just keep throwing information. We want to respond to what they want. I’m doing a model on a one-to-one coaching depending on their requirement. They can send me a video wherever they are, and we are analysing them."
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The summer camps are also likely to be hit because schools could resume once the lockdown ends. Parents could also be wary of sending children to camps in these times. Irfan, however, sees an opportunity to develop a ‘niche’ market in the online space.
“Once they get the taste of it, and once we get our hands on this job, we have more opportunities," he expects. “The real camp will continue, and this will be an additional wing. People from any part of the world can reach out. If we do well in the next few weeks, we could have a niche market.
“There are so many people who cannot reach us and join the camps because they are in different parts of the world - jobs, lack of time etc. Suddenly an opportunity has come up and they are all excited. So even after the lockdown is lifted, we would continue what we were doing in the past and additionally reach out to so many people in the world.
“It could be a fair source of revenue generation as well. Many good coaches around the world can do good service from around the world with limited resources, it opens up a new window."
Ludimos - an online bridge between students and coach
The new window is being tapped into by a few like Ludimos, an online portal that acts as a bridge between students and a coach. Using Ludimos, players from around the world can upload their cricketing videos and receive tips from various coaches.
Founded by Madan Raj, a Netherlands-based techie who hails from Chennai, Ludimos aims to bring a ‘structure’ to online cricket coaching and make up for the lack of good coaches in associate nations.
“There was no structure to the process of using video analysis," says Madan. “It’s an issue especially given the huge gap between the major countries and the associate nations. One of the issues in associate countries is that they don’t have good trainers at lower levels, ones who can coach in a structured manner.
“If you record a video of 30 minutes, the coach has to watch the video in full. There’s no smart tool that can tell you what happened in the video, how many balls were bowled, what shots were played. If the coach has such an overview, he can be more efficient and have more impact on the players.
“We are the first online product that used Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning on cricket videos for coaching purposes. This is the prime time for this, not just because of the coronavirus; kids and the next generation love technology, they want apps for everything. There are apps like Byju’s, Udemy… coaching has gone online. Why not do the same for cricket?
“We make the process a lot easier. If a coach gets a 10-minute video, he cannot be seeing the whole video as it will shots of the bowler walking to his run up and other such things. If he has to do it for multiple videos, imagine the number of time being wasted. For all training videos, only 20 percent of the information is valid to be used for coaching. We condense the videos to make it easier to analyse. We identify the action-parts and throw away the ‘noise’. This is the first step.
“In the next phase, we plan to classify shots and give more datapoints to the coach. We also have feedback and analysis tools with text and audios so that the players can easily understand what the coaches say."
Madan says the coronavirus situation has helped his cause.
“The number of trial requests from schools and academies has tripled in March, when compared to February. The number of online visits for coaches went up by more than two times. The search history for profile of coaches has gone up by 200 times. The online sessions do not reflect the huge increase, but that’s because people might not be able to make videos now due to the lockdown."
Among the coaches who have signed up with Ludimos are former Tamil Nadu batsman Vidyut Sivaramakrishnan, Mark Coles (ex Pakistan Women’s Team coach) and Dave Nosworthy, the childhood coach of AB de Villiers.