Traditionally ‘English’ sports could be changed by new ‘smart technology’

Could 'classic' British sports such as tennis and cricket be set for a technological shake-up in the next few years?

The Sport Review staff
By The Sport Review staff
rafael nadal
Rafael Nadal in action at the Monte Carlo Masters Photo: Marianne Bevis

Although there would be no British triumph at the 2017 edition of Wimbledon, the event itself could be seen as a pioneering one many years from now.

The use of smart rackets was just one small element of a widely anticipated technological tennis revolution. However, for sport’s usual underdogs (such as Sam Querrey), it has the potential to be a game changer.

Rafael Nadal, for instance, stands as a prime example of how technology is set to launch tennis performance to new heights. Now a ten-time victor at the French Open, the King of Clay’s mastery has been further augmented by the use of a Babolat racket (PLAY) and wristband (POP) combination.

Through Bluetooth technology, the data is transmitted to a central server, which then converts the raw data into digestible figures and statistics. In a move that could see top pros like Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic expand even further upon the history they have already made, the player then receives that processed data via smartphone.

With a new style of graphene also now used in construction, modern-day rackets are lighter, yet as sturdy and as powerful as ever.

Footwear is another element which has evolved in recent years. Players can now truly max out on their abilities on certain surfaces. On his day, Andy Murray is nigh-unbeatable on a grass court, and the style of footwear he reportedly favours accounts for the pace of a grass game, with greater emphasis on heel support one of the shoe’s key characteristics.

Tennis now boasts technology like never before, and other sports are already following suit. With a seismic change of regulations on the horizon, cricket is one sport that will need to use technology particularly well in the near future.

Cricket following suit

Cricket has already shown signs of keeping up with tennis in the technology stakes. Another quintessentially ‘English’ sport, it has garnered significant attention in recent weeks. Sunday, 1 October will bring the passing of legislation to regulate the size of bats. This is based on the assertion that international cricket now favours the batsman – although a recent study by Betway Insider has proven that size does not necessarily matter when it comes to scoring boundary hits. It is, rather, the technology behind bat production that really matters.

The bat-making technique pioneered by Indian and Pakistani manufacturers twenty years ago, in which wood is compressed to a lesser extent, was responsible for the rise in boundary hits that saw Asian cricket’s global profile rise drastically. Manufacturers, with the ability to distribute on a worldwide scale, now have a golden opportunity to build on that breakthrough development by integrating the latest technology.

In the four decades since the first cricket world cup was held, the nature of the game has changed significantly. In those days, the only telemetry that existed was in the brains of the players, and cricket bats were without scientific intervention. It is a far cry from the modern approach to Cricket, with a report in The Economist noting the increased demand for ‘smart bats’ and aerial drones in player training and development regimes. That same technology was also in use during the recent ICC Champions Trophy.

Additionally, video highlights provided by artificial intelligence are also set to become more commonplace, giving pundits, journalists and coaches alike far more time to process the finer points of a match, for their respective callings.

Those that equally value fair play and entertainment will conclude that smart technology has a very real, and lasting, place in sports that are considered a cornerstone of national identity.

Although some spectators may have found the presence of drones aesthetically displeasing, the two systems now used in many codified cricket matches – namely “HawkEye” and “HotSpot” – have ensured that an umpire’s decisions can be made in better conscience.

While “Hawkeye” is crucial to bowling analysis and LBW calls, it will be from the use of “HotSpot”, which shows exactly where a ball has struck the bat, that batsmen of the future can truly benefit.

Ultimately, batsmen of the future will have a clearer view as to how exactly they can score a higher percentage of fours and sixes. This can only help to retain cricket’s popularity amongst future generations that will ever more crave action over self-preservation.

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