Tech Overlook

Why Anil Kumble wants AI to bat for cricket fans


It’s a breezy Friday morning in Bengaluru and word of his arrival spreads like wildfire at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium. A group of school children dressed in all-whites crowd around him as he happily poses for selfies and signs autographs. He even bowls a few balls for them, much to the thrill of the budding cricketers who dream of emulating him one day.

“I was just like them – one of the 1,500 kids who’d come to the selection camp to get a shot at playing for the state’s under-15 team,” he says, as we walk around the ground where he started his professional cricketing career.

A boy poses with an award shield and cricket bat
A young Anil Kumble poses with his first cricket award. (Photo Courtesy: Anil Kumble)

Meet Anil Kumble – one of the greatest bowlers the game has ever seen. The third-highest wicket taker of all time in Test cricket, he’s one of the only two bowlers in the history of the game to have dismissed all 10 batsmen in an inning. If that isn’t enough, he’s scored a century too!

“Cricket is a batsman’s game. People come to watch the batsmen play. Even though I played and retired as a bowler, many people still remember me for that one century,” he laughs.

Given this background, it’s as ironic as it is apt that his latest foray, Spektacom, is using technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) to unravel the science behind the art of batting.

Twelfth man: Technology

An engineer by education, Kumble began experimenting with technology pretty early in his career. In 1996, inspired by South Africa’s coach Bob Woolmer, he created a software package for the Indian cricket team – an extension of the scoring sheet to gather data for analysis – he says. “That was probably the first time a computer walked into the Indian dressing room,” he adds with a hint of pride in his eyes.

Since then, the game has adopted technology rapidly, starting in 1999 with the speed gun that calculates the speed of the ball as it is bowled. While the game itself continues to be simple, the push from broadcasters to find new avenues to engage fans has led to wider adoption of technology, Kumble feels.

Thanks to multi-angle camera setups, a difference of a millimeter can decide whether a batsman is out or safe, adding to the thrill of the game. Today experts, teams, and even fans can see whether a ball would’ve hit the wickets and even analyze every ball bowled during a game.

Quite ironically then, despite it being a batsman’s game, there is very little technology that can analyze every shot as it is played. Kumble wants to change that with Spektacom.



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