Cricket 2021: New SmartBall cricket tech that could change the game forever

Todd BalymNews Corp Australia Sports Newsroom
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Camera IconNot Supplied Credit: Supplied

Former Test fast bowler Michael Kasprowicz calls it the most innovative piece of cricket technology he has seen in 30 years in the game.

A game-changing SmartBall that was developed in a Gold Coast garage and powered by a Brisbane-based tech company is set to revolutionise cricket in Australia with an ability to give real-time data analysis of a bowler’s delivery via a microchip implanted deep in the ball.

Fox Cricket General Manager Matt Weiss has kept an eye on the product’s development and believes the SmartBall will one day add to “the storytelling of cricket” by allowing viewers to understand more about how a bowler uses the ball to confuse a batsman.

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Former Test bowler Michael Kasprowicz with the innovative SmartBall cricket technology that is set to revolutionise cricket coverage and statistical analysis. Pic: Peter Wallis
Camera IconFormer Test bowler Michael Kasprowicz with the innovative SmartBall cricket technology that is set to revolutionise cricket coverage and statistical analysis. Pic: Peter Wallis Credit: Supplied

“It’s a really impressive piece of technology and we are always looking for new innovations that add layers to the storytelling of the game,” Weiss said.

“We are right behind it. I’m sure Cricket Australia will be very keen to get it into the BBL as a next step down the track.

“Ball-tracking like ‘Hawk-Eye’ started out as broadcasting innovation and ended up umpiring the game, so there’s no end to where this ball could end up.”

The brainchild of Sportcor founder and CEO Ben Tattersfield, where Kasprowicz is co-founder, the SmartBall produces a data stream of ball speeds and spin measures from a movement sensor tightly cradled inside the cork core of a premium Kookaburra Turf ball.

Data scientists at Brisbane tech company Biarri provide the expertise to get the data from the ball into a mobile phone in real time.

“This is the best bit of sport tech I’ve come across in 30 years in cricket as a player and administrator because it is for the player,” Kasprowicz said.

“Instant feedback is so important. We had the ball used in the CPL and we blew away a couple of groups who used our ball for the first time in elite competition.

“We are empowering cricketers and giving them another level of understanding that has never existed.”

Former Test bowler Michael Kasprowicz (man with facial hair) and Biarri head of analytics Evan Shellshear with the innovative SmartBall cricket technology. Peter Wallis
Camera IconFormer Test bowler Michael Kasprowicz (man with facial hair) and Biarri head of analytics Evan Shellshear with the innovative SmartBall cricket technology. Peter Wallis Credit: Supplied

Biarri’s Head of Analytics Evan Shellshear said the SmartBall’s ability to provide immediate data via a mobile phone app made it an ideal training tool.

“It’s instant feedback to a bowler or coach via a phone app seconds later,” Shellshear said. “For example, a player can use the information on ball speed at release, spin at release or revolutions post-bounce to improve their technique.

“The secret sauce to this cricket ball from Sportcor has been being able to put something in the centre of the cricket ball that didn’t change any of its characteristics.

“That was a big challenge ... getting some electronics in there to measure what’s happening to the ball and also transferring that data off the ball.”

More than 300 SmartBalls were used in the 33 T20 matches of the Caribbean Premier League in August and September, while commentators used the data during Brisbane Premier League matches in Queensland last month.

Cricket Australia sports science officer Rian Crowther said they would look to use the SmartBall to identify junior talent.

Cricketer Michael Kasprowicz (c) celebrating dismissal of batsman.
Cricket - Australia vs Pakistan third day of Third Test match at WACA ground in Perth 28 Nov 1999.
Camera IconAustralia Test cricketer Michael Kasprowicz celebrating dismissal of Pakistan batsman at the WACA in 1999. Credit: News Limited

“We’re hopeful of using it in youth championships later this summer because we feel the data will really help with talent identification,” Crowther said.

“It puts a match context to how people perform and manipulate with their spin bowling, for example, because the ball can measure speed out of the hand and revolutions on the ball post-bounce.

“That’s a high-performance application, but imagine seeing the data of (leg-spinner) Rashid Khan’s subtle manipulations on the ball through an over on TV.

“Personally, I’d love to see it in more major competitions.”

Kasprowicz said the SmartBall could also help explain the finer elements of fast bowling, not just spin.

“No one has ever been able to interpret the ‘heavy ball’, in essence that ball that comes onto the batter a bit quicker and seems to have a bit more bounce,” Kasprowicz said.

“We have capacity for a power algorithm to measure watts on release. Maybe, we’ve cracked the code to measure the heavy ball.”

Weiss would be excited to know who the most powerful hitter of the ball is in the game.

”A lot of stats are bowler-based,” Weiss said.

“A point is coming where this ball can also read power off the bat and that’s exciting.”

Originally published as Cricket 2021: New SmartBall cricket tech that could change the game forever

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