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By Peter Della Penna
As USA continues to make progress toward reaching Division 1 of the World Cricket League, more resources will need to be obtained to help the team get on par with the increased level of competition they will be facing. While funding tops the list, another resource that would aid USA’s players is the use of technology.
Pic (Right): Indian captain MS Dhoni using SportsMechanics [Courtesy: SportsMechanics]
In particular, video analysis is increasingly vital to sharpen focus on the strengths and weaknesses within a team as well as a scouting tool to help learn more about an opponent. SportsMechanics, a sports technology company based in Chennai, India, was used by USA during the World Twenty20 Qualifier and ICC WCL Division 5 in February. After not being able to utilize their services during WCL Division 4 in Italy, USA coach Clayton Lambert missed the value they provided at the start of the year.
“They are invaluable to us because a lot of times, we don’t really get an opportunity to see some of these teams,” said Lambert. “That’s where our vulnerability is, when we go into these games blind, not really having a fair idea of these guys’ areas that they like to play. It’s not like there’s a lot of video there that you can look at.”
USA was familiar with three of their five opponents in Italy. The players had played back to back games against Nepal in Division 5 while they face Argentina and Cayman Islands on a regular basis in ICC Americas competitions. However, in USA’s round robin game against Italy in August, the lack of familiarity posed some problems.
“If we haven’t seen these teams, sometimes they can get a jump on us and those are the games that we’re vulnerable with, like the likes of Italy,” said Lambert. “The first time we played them, we’d never seen them before. They got a jump on us and got to 220 and they were able to field hard and defend it, but often when these guys come against us the next time, they get troubled. So the video analysis kind of helps us to get a jump on them so we can break down some tape and have a fair idea of what each guy likes to do and what a team likes to do as a group.”
Founded by Subramanian Ramakrishnan at the turn of the millennium, SportsMechanics has established itself as a leader in video analysis with a list of clientele that includes the BCCI, the Bangladesh Cricket Board, Sri Lanka Cricket, multiple IPL teams and the ICC, which supplies SportsMechanics services to every team in the High Performance Program.
As for its involvement with US cricket, SportsMechanics broke into the American market thanks to Hemant Buch and the California Cricket Academy, which hired the video analysts to work with CCA players on their tour of India late in 2009.
Pic (Right): SportsMechanics team at a match featuring India [Courtesy: SportsMechanics]
“I met them in India,” said Buch. “One of the BCCI officials introduced me. They were advisors for CCA. Ramky, their founder, is advisor on our training program. He helped us draft a training program and strategy.” Buch had hoped to use SportsMechanics services much earlier, but after raising enough funds, he was able to pay for them to videotape and analyze the CCA players during their time on tour. Buch then recommended SportsMechanics to the USACA board for use with the national team after the success he saw with the teenagers.
“Their reports, their analysis, everything was extremely useful,” said Buch. “Our kids really learned the science of the game and what they need to work on and the impact of their motor skills or their timing or their strokes, the way they bowl.”
According to Unni Krishnan, Assistant Manager of Sales and Business Development for SportsMechanics, filming practice sessions and providing analysis and feedback for time in the nets is just as important as analyzing what goes on in a live match.
“We act as a right hand to the coach, developing strategies and technical inputs to the players,” said Krishnan. “Video analysis is basically is a segment of two. One is technical analysis during your practice sessions. The core focus is on technique correction, skill enhancement. They can develop their skill. When they’re bowling, how they can better their action. When batting, how their strokes are, their foot movement, all that stuff.”
USA captain Steve Massiah felt that this aspect of the video analysis provided to his team in the UAE and Nepal was “very beneficial to everyone.”
Video 1: Aditya Thyagarajan playing a shot against Ireland.
“What I thought was helpful, it was us having the opportunity to look at ourselves bat for the first time because we had never had a video analyst or we had never had even a video recording and we could have had an opportunity to go and look at ourselves batting or bowling so I thought that was helpful,” said Massiah. “It’s great when you can have a look at yourself and actually see what you’re doing. Especially, I did use it to good effect. I was able to look at it and see where I need to make what adjustments to succeed in those type of pitches. Those are not conditions that I have ever played on in my entire career.”
While scouting an opponent at Test level is much easier because of the visibility of games through television, teams at the Associate level rarely appear on screen. As a result, the amount of knowledge between opponents at the Associate level is somewhat limited. This is where utilizing a service like SportsMechanics can turn into a distinct advantage. In addition to the technical analysis of players, Krishnan says that the tactical analysis his company provides is especially useful in these circumstances.
“You get into tactical analysis which is a match play,” said Krishnan. “That’s one of the key things we do. We also work on opposition analysis which is the key which helps in a tournament. We can get footage of all the other teams and we help with pre-match preparation and planning.” At the end of a day’s play, it’s possible for the video data collected from several matches to be broken down and put into a presentation at a team meeting that evening in order to get maximum benefit out of the info before a match against a different opponent begins the following day.
Video 2: Saurabh Verma taking a wicket against Ireland.
In addition to doing work throughout the cricket world, Krishnan says that SportsMechanics has also provided video analysis to India’s squash, volleyball, table tennis and badminton teams.
“We’re the pioneers in implementing video analysis in Asia,” said Krishnan. “We’re the frontrunners in the segment.”
At the USACA Eastern Conference Tournament in Atlanta, CEO Don Lockerbie mentioned that obtaining the services of SportsMechanics again for USA’s trip to Hong Kong for WCL Division 3 was a distinct possibility. USA is now familiar with Italy, having played them twice at WCL Division 4. But as Lambert stated, USA could be vulnerable going into matches blind against teams like Denmark, Hong Kong, Oman and Papua New Guinea. Massiah has said that he hopes USACA will be able to afford SportsMechanics for all tournaments in the future.
“I would endorse it and hope we can have it every time,” said Massiah. “It would definitely help us in our bid to move forward because every tournament we play in basically is important to us because it could take us one step further. Definitely it would be great if could have access to that again.”