Technology & Sports – Part 1 – LED Stumps & Bails

The recently concluded T20 world cup on TV brought us a new technological innovation of stumps lighting up each time the ball crashes against it or the wicketkeeper whips the bails off. With conventional bails, was difficult for the umpire to determine when the bail is ‘completely dislodged’. Thanks to LED technology, the umpire could decide without a shadow of doubt . This new innovation in cricket was conceived by Bronte EcKermann, an Australian mechanical industrial designer, and created by South Australian manufacturer Zing International. It is called the Zing Wicket System and the entire set-up during a match costs US$ 40,000 (Rs 25 lakh approx),. The stumps come fitted with LED. The bails also have an in-built sensor than can determine if a wicket is broken, in just 1/1000th of a second. They are made of composite plastic and the LEDs glimmer at the slightest impact with the ball.

We thought multiple cameras ,vision mixing and replays by Channel 9 of Australia in ODIs in 90s and later in Test Matches took the viewer experience to the next level. Flood lit Matches delighted the spectators intropical countries who could enjoy the matches even in summer in the evenings. But that was just the beginning – Stump Cams, Hawk Eye , snicko etc. that were developed to reduce the human (umpiring) error was a treat to the spectator as well .

Many of us would have heard the story of Bill Bowerman of Nike who wanted to make a sole without metal spikes that could still grip . While having waffles for breakfast with his wife when he had a Eureka moment by turning the waffle upside down — where the waffle part would come in contact with the track and grip. He poured the Urethane into the waffle iron that made the sole that catapulted the company into what it is today. From Waffle story of Nike to LED stumps and bails technology has played a huge role and has come to stay.

Technology in sports is a technical and man made means by which athletes and players attempt to improve their training and competitive environment in order to enhance their overall athletic performance. It is the knowledge and application of using specialised equipment and the latest modern technologies to perform tasks more efficiently. Examples of sporting technologies include golf clubs, tennis rackets, cricket bats , pole vault poles, athletic sports gear (clothing and footwear), advanced computer stimulations and motion capture.

Technology enhances performance, performance brings spectators and ultimately larger the following higher are the revenues. Technology is here to stay and has affected spectator experience at all levels – from low level recreational activities such as walking, chess & bridge at recreational level to high level sports such as soccer skiing and F1 racing at competitive levels. From a few programs a day on TV, we not only have sports channels but also dedicated channels as Star Cricket dedicated to Cricket.

At the same time , it is important that Sports Technology needs to be governed carefully so that ‘human factor ’ is still important in sport , may it be playing, refereeing, administration, management or viewing

Prof. T.N.Swaminathan
Professor Marketing
Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai.

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1 Response to Technology & Sports – Part 1 – LED Stumps & Bails

  1. JK (J. Krishnan) says:

    Great line of thinking Swami – though a player’s performance/efficiency may be improved through tech-aids, I am sure that a player’s skill cannot be automated.
    The LED stumps are a smaller part of what is needed – the goal has to be “error-free umpiring” – no batsman wishes to get out through an umpiring error. The “snick”, the “lbw” and the “run-out/stumping” were the decisions prone to error. We now have tech-replays for the “run-out/stumping”. May be we’ll get bats with LED edges which would light up on the “snick”. Like they say in the legal system, “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer” – no batsman should suffer through an umpiring error.

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