June 22, 2001

After Lillee and Sekhar it's now the turn of 'Silicon Coach'

For once, the prime attraction at the MRF Pace Foundation during one of Dennis Keith Lillee's visits was not the former fast bowling legend himself. National selector and head coach of the MRF Pace Foundation, TA Sekhar, a host of aspiring fast bowlers and Lillee himself sat huddled around a lap top computer as 'Silicon Coach', a new software for coaching fast bowlers swung into action. The software helps coaches analyse bowlers. By feeding video recordings of the players in action, the software allows coaches to simultaneously view the side on and front on pictures of a bowler.

The MRF Pace Foundation is the only academy in India to use the software. First used in the Australian Cricket Academy, Silicon Coach promises to revolutionize the way coaches approach fast bowlers. "We capture the video in digital format at a high frame rate, 50 frames per second. The split screen allows us to see exactly where a bowler is going wrong," said Sekhar. "With the zoom option we can zero in on particular areas and even calculate the angles of the limbs," explained Sekhar.

Playing back videos of an aspiring fast bowler from the National Cricket Academy, the former Indian fast bowler demonstrated how the software worked. "With this software being used, we can track a player's development. Suppose a player is injured and finds that things are not the same as before when he returns, he can always go back to his tapes and see what he's doing differently," said Sekhar. Seeing the software in action made it amply clear that this was not your run of the mill product. Developed by a bio-mechanics expert in New Zealand, the software is designed keeping in mind the various needs of both fast bowler and coach.

"The most important thing for a fast bowler is his technique. To get everything just right technically, it's crucial to study bio-mechanics. After all, absorption of forces and movement of limbs and body are crucial to any fast bowler," added Sekhar. The use of `Silicon Coach' vastly enhances the control a coach has over various different aspects of fast bowling.

The gathering at the Pace Foundation included cricketers of various nationalities, ranging from Australia to Bangladesh to Sri Lanka. Mitchell Johnson from Queensland and Michael Thistle from Western Australia, both of whom were recently awarded contracts by their respective states went through the paces at the nets. The quartet from Bangladesh included Test cricketers Hasibul Hassan and Manjural Islam. Dilhara Fernando represents the Lankans in the academy.

The MRF Pace foundation is leading the charge as far as embracing new technology goes. With the software now being distributed in India with a price tag of Rs 60,000 (Approx. US$ 1275) there is no reason why it should not become popular all around. With world cricket advancing at such a rapid rate every day, no one can afford to ignore emerging technology. The hand written sign on the board in the Pace Foundation gym makes their stance in the matter very clear. "Even if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there," reads the quote attributed to humorist Will Rogers.

Well, the MRF Pace Foundation is certainly on the right track and they aren't just sitting around