System could help cricketers cope better with fast bowlers

Researchers at Brighton University are developing a system to help cricket batsmen develop the mental skills to make consistently accurate decisions when faced with fast bowlers.

Footage of bowlers is projected onto life-size screens and batsmen’s reactions are analysed to help them develop the ability to read the bowler’s pre-release delivery kinematics, or body movements, to anticipate the type, direction and length of delivery.

With the likes of England’s James Anderson bowling at 90mph (145km/h), it takes the ball 500 milliseconds to reach batsmen, but it takes batsmen 900 milliseconds to decide how to play the ball once it leaves the bowler’s hand. To make up the 400-millisecond difference, batsmen must anticipate where the ball is heading before it is released.

Researcher Karl Stevenson, working with colleagues at the university’s Chelsea School in Eastbourne, said: ‘The system we are developing helps batsmen focus on the most information-rich areas of the bowler’s action at the right moment. This allows them to start preparing a response before the bowler has released the ball, narrowing the 400-millisecond deficit in their favour and allowing them to execute a shot that, in real time, would have been impossible.’

The research is not all about pace. The system also coaches batsmen to pick deceptive deliveries bowled by spin bowlers. Using specially edited video, batsmen are trained to anticipate spin directions, based on identifying the bowler’s pre-delivery body movements.

Stevenson said: ‘Prior to delivery, spin bowlers project biomechanical information that, with experience, can be read and understood by batsmen who can then pick the biomechanical differences between an off-spin delivery and its deceptive brother, the doosra.’

Over a four-week training period, the researchers discovered that batsmen had decreased their reaction times and become more accurate.

Research is continuing into what Stevenson believes is fast becoming an essential tool for today’s sports men and women.

‘The margins of success and failure are extremely narrow in the modern world of sport and we need to ask what benefit is there in having physically fit athletes if they do not have the mental skills to make consistently accurate decisions?’ he said.