Think about the phone you owned 7 years ago. I'm willing to bet that it didn't do much more than be a phone.
Then the iPhone arrived.
Since then, think about how much mobile phones have progressed. They are now small computers that many people rely on to run their lives. I know I do. It's evolved fast.
In that same time period, cricket nets have stayed broadly the same. In fact they have not changed much since some bright spark thought to string some netting around a pitch to save fielders chasing the ball. That was a long time ago. Bowlers bowl and batters bat in the same way that happened when WG Grace was the best player in the world.
But recently this has changed. The net still exists, just like the phone is still a phone. The difference is now that the net does more than catch the ball.
The phone became a smart-phone.
The net has become the smart-net.
Venues like The Cricket Asylum, The Taranaki Cricket Association and, most recently, Essex County Cricket Club are building PitchVision into the surface of their nets. It means that bowler and batters can continue to do what they do, and the net grabs all the information for them.
Having a WG Grace style hit, or rolling your arm over instantly becomes a thing of the past. You can see quickly and efficiently exactly what is happening in a thousand more interesting ways than hoping you remember (because you won't, nobody can).
Think about the implications of having access to that breadth and depth of information about your game on hand. Guesswork and memory is gone. Knowledge is power and performance goes up.
Coaches and players who have had this information at their fingertips start to wonder how they managed without it. When you go back to an ordinary net you get the same feeling to going back to an old phone after using an iPhone: Cut off, missing out and anxious you are out of touch.
So while having a smartnet is still not quite as easy as buying an iPhone, the times are changing for cricket. The future is about coexisting with easy-to-use technology just like right now it's easy to own a tiny computer in your pocket that also does calls.
What is a "smart-net"
A smart-net or smart-pitch a normal cricket net with sensors installed that detect the impact of the ball, and cameras capturing the action. The information is instantly sent back to a laptop for the coach and player to review.
What kind of information does it report?
Just about everything you can imagine: Line, length, spin and seam movement off the pitch for bowlers; direction and power of shots for batsmen. You can also link every ball to cameras to replay the bowling action or batting technique.
So, it's just like Hawkeye then?
Yes and no. It returns the kind of information you are used to seeing on the TV, but the difference is that PitchVision is designed for any net environment. It can be used by groups of bowlers and batters and doesn't need special cameras and huge computer banks. It runs off a lead to a laptop.
Is it better than a coach?
Absolutely not, it's a tool for a coach or a player to use. It provides information to coach, learn and correct. It's hard to watch and remember every player’s performance. With a Smart-net, information is instantly available and totally objective. But like any tool, it's only as good as the user.
What does it look like?
It looks like a cricket net. A sensor is installed under the surface of the lane, and more sensors are hung from the side and rear netting. All the information is sent wirelessly so all you see is a cricket net and a laptop.
Where can I use one?
Here’s a few places that use smart-nets that are open to the public:
- Australia: Southern Academy, Perth
- England: Cricket Asylum, Yorkshire
- Trinidad: Queens Park
- South Africa: Complete Cricketer Academy, Cape Town
- New Zealand: Taranaki Cricket Association
- India: Delhi Premier League
How can I find out more about using one?
If you want a smart net at your indoor facility contact Neil Fairbairn at PitchVision