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Cricketers will use smart bats to track their performances

Several batsmen will use Speculur sensors at the Champions Trophy.
Nick Summers, @nisummers
May 31, 2017
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Stu Forster via Getty Images

Cricket is a game of technique. Throwing the perfect out-swinger, or hitting a clean square drive takes a tremendous amount of practice and skill. If you're watching a professional match at home, it can be hard to keep up with the mind games or understand where a player's execution went wrong. To help, the International Cricket Council (ICC) is adopting bats that have swing-sensing chips inside. They'll be used by "several" batsmen including Ben Stokes, Alex Hales and Jason Roy at the Champions Trophy, which takes place in London, Birmingham and Cardiff next month.

The sensors, developed by Intel and sports startup Specular, will measure the bat's speed and angle during back-lift, impact and follow-through. The figures will then be transmitted for immediate analysis by coaches and broadcasters. Like Hawk-Eye, a widely adopted sports camera system, this should lead to detailed visualisations during each game. Studio pundits can explain a player's performance, suggest how they could improve and compare their technique to previous tournaments. Similarly, coaches can use this information to fine-tune training sessions and strategies.

Swing-sensing chips are new for cricket, however similar technology has been used in baseball bats, tennis racquets and golf clubs for years. It's an alluring concept — why waste time perfecting a technique through trial and error alone? Or spend an extortionate amount on a trainer, when a wearable could provide similar insights? There's something to be said for a seasoned coach, of course, but the added benefits of performance tracking are hard for professional players to ignore. Specular says a consumer version of its "BatSense" chip will be out later this year — so if you want to learn to bat like Chris Gayle, you'll soon have the option of a digital trainer.

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