How technology is changing the gentleman's game

How technology is changing the gentleman's game

Is technology making us the most intense nation of cricket fans in the world?
Are computers taking over our jobs?

Team India culminated its long march to Cricket World Cup glory in April and for two months fans were practically mainlining cricket into their bloodstreams daily, sometimes twice daily. 

Once the World Cup was over, the Indian Premier League (IPL) supply immediately kicked in.

Live matches, scores and commentaries stream into our mobile devices and office computers, while homes with HD TV are favored over other viewing venues.

We can pause television, are offered close-up views of every click and every nick of ball against bat. We follow every Tweet for interesting perspectives, jump into online forums to debate every dismissal and then we share our findings with Facebook friends.

The inaugural seasons of the IPL and this Cricket World Cup have the special historical distinction of being followed more closely -- and therefore more intensely -- than any major sporting event on sub continental soil in the past -- and it’s all because of technology.

We’re up to some speed now as gadget-friendly sportsfans, so let’s take breather and look at how it all changed.

Technology on the field

umpire decision reviewIndia cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni does the T gesture signifying a decision review request.Cricket got its first brush with technology when decisions were given over to third umpires off the field, so that they could scrutinize the replays. Soon after that, stump cameras made their debut at the 1992 Cricket World Cup in Australia and have been employed ever since.

In the early 2000s Hawkeye technology could predict the direction in which the ball was heading, using six or more television cameras to create a 3D representation of the ball’s trajectory.

This same technology is being used by third umpires in the IPL today, as part of an experimental new rule called Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS or DRS). Each captain is allowed to make two review requests per innings during a match, potentially rendering a not-out an out, or vice-versa.

DRS caused a lot of controversy in this last World Cup. Cricketers, like footballers, have traditionally had to learn to accept umpire or referee decisions as final, and taking the possibility of a cruel twist of fate out of the equation does not sit well with traditionalists.

Moving on: the snickometer uses a stump microphone to pick up the sound of a nick from the bat’s edge and has become an indispensable tech tool for replays.

In the current IPL, ear-piece microphones are being used to speak to cricketers on the field as the game is in progress, thus enabling yet another perspective to the game.

There’s no doubt -- better technology has made us better fans and better students of the sport of cricket.

Technology off the field

If snickometers and cameras have ensured progress within the game, the Internet ensures matches are being seen wherever and whenever you don’t have access to a TV or a subscription to the right channel.

Fans now log on to check ball-by-ball scores and live commentary typed in real time by expert commentators on sports websites. But that’s old news.

In 2010 the big game changer came when IPL signed a two-year deal with Google/YouTube to stream the entire tournament live on its website.

More than 11 million page views were recorded for the first 15 days of IPL 3 in 2010 and this year, in partnership with Indiatimes.com, YouTube reports 20 million views for the same period.

The point to note is that while TV viewership and ratings are dropping significantly for the IPL this year, online viewership is yet surging by 82 percent.

Those are some topsy-turvy stats, but they reflect the effect of technology on changing consumer preferences.

Social networking, gaming and communities

Sachin Tendulkar Twitter Sachin Tendulkar joined Twitter on May 5 2010 using the name: Sachin_rt and started sharing intimate photos like this one. Cricket is a natural fit for social media in India, the most cricket-obsessed nation on earth.

When Sachin Tendulkar broke a world record scoring 200 runs in a single One Day International last year, Twitter started trending with the hashtag #sachinisgod. But Tendulkar broke another kind of record by becoming a Twillionaire, picking up one million followers, just a year after opening his account.

And that kind of trivia travels fast and far these days.

Tendulkar’s IPL team, the Mumbai Indians (MI), have launched a Facebook app to ensure their fans have better access to MI match tickets. In fact, MI’s Facebook group page is the seventh most followed Indian brand on the international social networking site.

The rise of dedicated social communities for cricket is a fascinating space to watch.

One such up-and-coming community, Soch.la, integrates live cricket scores with social conversations via Facebook.

And there are fantasy cricket games like Hungama’s Cricketstockexchange.com, that look at trading cricketers and indexing players according to performance. Users can then buy and sell these players and earn points in the stock exchange.

A future of expanded possibilities

What the future holds for technology on and off the cricket pitch is now a matter of being faster, smarter and better, to borrow Vodafone’s 3G tag line.

High-speed broadband and 3G technology (once it becomes cheaper) coupled with an array of tablet computers means fans will soon be taking crisp live cricket streaming to the loo, if needs be.

The future also holds the ability to pull up your own statistics on the television set once they get Internet-enabled.

I also foresee the possibility of users sharing live commentary of their own as the match happens, while simultaneously reading or listening to live commentary by other users who are their friends on social networking sites.

Technological advancements are facilitating more engagement with the game’s technical side, social interaction over sport is taking the conversation from the pub to the portable device and airing telecasts in high definition means pure viewing pleasure is increasing.

No matter where you are the future of cricket is looking sharp.