CSIR helps cricketers up their game

cricket1-text Cricket standards are to receive a boost
with the new Optiplay cricket analysis
tool developed by the CSIR.

cricket2-text The Proteas are one of the world’s top
teams, but Optiplay could give them an
extra edge.
(Image: T20worldcupcricket.com)

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Janine Erasmus

A cricket-analysis application developed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) will help improve the standard of the game and enhance players’ skills.

CSIR researcher Gert Wessels, of the council’s Consulting and Analytical Services division, developed the application with colleague Matt Vassard, a software developer from the Digital Modelling and Science unit.

According to Wessels and Vassard, the new application, named Optiplay, is sure to become an essential tool for coaches.

It works by recording all data relating to shots and deliveries, as well as comprehensive video footage of a game. This data can then be used later by the coach, team and analysts to scrutinise important aspects of the game, using a range of filters such as shot type or areas of the field where runs were scored, and work out a more efficient strategy to vanquish opponents.

Vassard said the product was remarkable for its objectivity, and allows coaches to go over the smallest detail of the game. This will enable the coach to quickly identify areas of strength in his players, or problems with technique that need to be improved.

On the other hand, he can also use it to analyse the opponents’ game and sniff out any weaknesses that can be exploited, and strengths that can be defended.

However, coaches need not fear that their jobs are in any danger.

“One must remember that the software is simply an enabling tool,” added Vassard, “and the responsibility to conceive game strategies remains that of the coach.”

Helping players to reach the top

The new technology is based on another CSIR cricket notational analysis invention, called Crickstat. This product, which recorded deliveries and shots by players as well as umpires’ decisions, and allowed for instantaneous frame-by-frame playback and analysis, was developed with the cooperation of the former Proteas and Pakistan coach, the late Bob Woolmer.

Crickstat has been widely used by cricketing nations around the world, including South Africa and the UK, where the England and Wales Cricket Board chose the South African solution above others it considered, and used it to analyse all first-class games in the county cricket league from 2007 onwards.

The CSIR’s Sports Technology Centre, working with other CSIR departments, has developed similar tools for other sports, including Rugbystat, Netballstat, Hockeystat and Baseballstat.

The centre is internationally recognised as a leading developer of performance-analysis tools, and the application thereof, giving teams that essential edge over their rivals. The development team has supported national squads in the Commonwealth, All-Africa, Olympic and Paralympic games, and has worked with the International Cricket Council and SA Rugby, among others.

Initially it will market the product to its existing clients, with a view to bringing more customers on board during a global expansion later on. The technology is ready for use, said the CSIR, and any interested coaches are welcome to phone and inquire about it.

Versatility and compatibility

The application is built on and uses advanced technology from Microsoft, and is therefore compatible with the majority of computers. Because of this it is to be used as a demonstration application at Microsoft South Africa developer conferences countrywide.

The programme has three different levels of functionality, each one more complex than the one before. At the lowest level, coaches can look at basic scoring and reporting. On another level, the programme provides information such as ball trajectory and the wagon wheel in 3D.

Vassard said this versatility makes Optiplay applicable not only to the most skilled players, but also to beginners and those in grassroots cricket schemes.

Optiplay could not have arrived at a better time. The national team, the Proteas, are currently ranked third in the world in the one-day game, and second on the list of test-playing nations. With the next World Cup coming up in February 2011 on the Indian subcontinent, the coaching team is sure to consider any strategy that will help the South African team win the title that has so far eluded them.