With the ICC Cricket World Cup firmly underway, we stand at the eve of India's first match at the cricket festival. The Men in Blue begin their campaign against South Africa, who have gotten off to a rocky start, highlighted by their shock loss to Bangladesh. With cricket being a religion in India, the hopes of millions are on captain Virat Kohli's shoulders, who will be aiming to lead Team India to a third World Cup triumph, thereby surpassing their position as joint-second for World Cup victories.
As it so happens, the much-loved sport of cricket also has a healthy dosage of technology in place. Going beyond the synchronised broadcast feeds, the cameras and lenses collectively costing thousands of dollars, and all the streaming apps and channels attempting to telecast the game live with only split seconds of delay, there are three key technologies that actually assist the game, and make it happen. These three technologies are used in evaluating decisions, which can make or break the game, and like always, is bound to have a final say in the game itself.
The first of the key decision reviewal technologies is Hawk-Eye’s ball-tracing feature. Developed by Hawk-Eye Technologies, the most commonly used decision reviewal system takes into account an augmented ball tracking system. This further accounts for the degree of spin on a ball and where it pitches (inside or outside the line of the wicket) to predict the trajectory of the ball, after it has hit the pads of the batsman.
The Hawk-Eye technology is, in fact, one of the most commonly observed and used examples of augmented reality. The technology is majorly used in reviewing appeals of Leg Before Wicket (LBW), which is also one of the contentious decisions in a game of cricket. Ever since it was introduced, it has grown in use cases — from the decision reviewals to tracking shots made by a batsman, which can then be logged and assessed by players, in order to improve playing style against specific types of deliveries.
Hawk-Eye is also used quite often in analysis programmes, to review game plans and dismissals in both pre- and post-match shows. Given its advanced implementation now, it has also become more cost effective, and is used more regularly in tournaments.
Also referred to as ‘Snick-o-meter’ for a while, UltraEdge implicates the usage of audio tracing to judge dismissals, in case the decision of the on-field umpire is disputed. Often, due to audience noise on the field, umpires on the ground would fail to hear or see the faint edge that a ball would take on its way to the wicket-keeper.
To resolve this, UltraEdge uses a pair of strong microphones placed at the base of the stumps. These unidirectional microphones have a specified field of operation, which covers the general area around which a batsman may edge a ball, which in turn might lead to a dismissal. UltraEdge is one of the most recent technologies that have been implemented in cricket, but can be pivotal in case of decision reviews, where the margin of accuracy needs to be highly acute.
Yet another recent addition to the field of cricket, Hot Spot uses sets of always-on heat-sensitive infrared cameras, placed at either ends of the field in line with the crease on the pitch. In case the audio cue from UltraEdge is either too faint, or shows two audio blips (if the ball hit both the bat and the pad at almost the same time), Hot Spot is referred to by the third umpire, who is then presented with a monochromic visual of the frequency spot when the ball first made contact with an obstacle.
The technology was first used back in 2006, in the Ashes match between England and Australia. Both Snick-o-meter and Hot Spot were first developed by the Australian company, BBG Sports. All of the three technologies combine to create a solid decision reviewal system, and at the ICC World Cup 2019, all three will be at play to ensure that there are no disputed decisions disrupting the play.