Rayhan Ahmed Topader:
Babies born around then might never watch a live ODI. The T20 game will see global franchise brands across tournaments, with centralized administration and coaching functions. A simpler boundary rule would save us endless agonizing over whether elbows, sleeves, shoes and the like are touching the boundary cushion. Players will wear GPS devices that monitor their speed, and distances covered, in training and games. These devices will help produce data on optimal training loads, and warn when fatigue-related injury is imminent. Cricket bats and balls, too, will have in-built impact-and GPS-tracking features, providing detailed information on forces, angles and speed. Kit will be made relevant for different climates.
Ten years ago there were no such things in cricket as the Spidercam, LED bails, day-night Tests or pink balls. The same can be said about some of the shots we see played in the game today. A decade ago these were as foreign as selfie sticks and Instagram. Looking forward a decade, we know that the leading players, coaches and administrators will not be doing the same things they are doing today. While we’re not sure exactly what they will be doing, as a coach, I’d much rather go out on a limb in uncovering these innovations than wait for somebody else to do so. In this, I know that I will come up with many more ideas that don’t work than ones that do, failing more often than succeeding.
So, looking into the proverbial crystal ball, here are some ideas of what some of these innovations and changes might be. We will have far more accurate methods of training the brain in terms of skill development in specific sports, for refining skills, and building focus, concentration and decision-making abilities. This will probably involve headsets that will communicate directly with the brain.
Headsets will also be used to electronically reduce anxiety ahead of a match, and to induce optimal brain states. Players’ helmets will have in-built devices to measure brain activity while they bat, and will have presets, based on individual brain profiles, that will help induce optimal mental states while batting. We will find better ways to prepare the next batsman in. Options will include virtual-reality headsets that enable them to “face up” to opposition bowlers, and a net near the dugout where players can hit balls while waiting to bat. Similarly, bowlers will be able to study a batsman’s trigger movements for early clues to what shot options they are setting up for. Nets will no longer revolve around the frequently mindless and non-match-specific bowling and hitting that currently happens. The differences might include: a visible scoreboard that represents a match scenario, virtual fielders, a scorer and umpire, crowd sounds, and only one bowler bowling an over at a time to a pair of batsmen.
Ways will be found to neutralize the advantage maybe due to pitch conditions or dew – that accompanies winning the toss at some cricket venues. Where the toss is deemed to have consequence, we might see the team that loses the toss being allowed to make one change to their original playing XI.There will be a greater emphasis on providing an organic and whole-foods-based diet, particularly to touring cricket teams in contrast to the nutritionally deficient food currently served at most playing venues and in hotels and airplanes.There will be a better balance between conventional and holistic treatments of sick and injured players, moving from today’s approach, which relies on diagnosing the problem and fixing it, towards emphasizing prevention and healing the whole person, not just clinically but also mentally, emotionally, and maybe even spiritually. Doctors and physiotherapists will require more than just conventional training and a bag of pharmaceuticals. We will have more accurate methods of monitoring and managing players, more subtle ways of monitoring physical, psychological and emotional (stress) states that currently predispose cricketers to injury, illness and reduced performance. This will come in the form of advances in blood, skin, hair and nutrient analysis. After all, playing in Chennai is fundamentally different from doing so in Wellington. There will be innovations in fabrics and other technology that will result in less bulky yet more impact-absorbing materials for pads, gloves and helmets.
The time consumed in reviewing footage to decide whether a player’s body has touched the boundary or not when sliding to save a four will be saved by simplifying the rule to state that scoring a four requires the ball itself to touch or cross the boundary. There will be a bigger and better array of data available for player selection, and for the scientific planning and monitoring of training and performance. These measures will reduce players to data points, where they are seen as resources paid to produce results. This quantification of players will hopefully be accompanied by corresponding advances in the art of people management, which will treat athletes as human beings. As ecological awareness becomes more acute, cricket will have to solve its waste problem. Fewer coaches will be using the old-school command-and-control methods (“I’m the expert who needs to tell you what to do”) and more will be employing player-centered approaches, based on collective intelligence. Coach education and accreditation programs will be upgraded accordingly. Thanks to specializing in T20, young players will make significantly more money than now. They will also have greater public profiles and their own media channels. There will hopefully also be relevant education and awareness campaigns to support these players as they deal with the social, emotional and psychological consequences of early-age fame and money.
Currently, in the course of one IPL tournament alone, eight teams litter the earth with dozens of thousands of plastic bottles in less than two months. Cricket tournaments and teams will not be guilty of such abuses of the environment a decade from now. We will have found an environmentally responsible way to deliver hydration to players. Cricketers will have the option to play golf near almost every major cricket venue on off-days. And in ten years’ time, ideally there will be many more artificial wave pools near non-coastal cities where cricket is played, so the rest of us can go surfing. Today batsmen are allowed to switch-hit; next, we might see bowlers being allowed to bowl with either arm, without having to inform the batsman beforehand. They will still need to indicate whether they will deliver from the left or right of the wicket (the current terms about delivering from “over” and “around” the wicket will become redundant in this case). Bowlers will also be allowed two bouncers per over in T20 cricket.
We will see real-time communication between the coach and players on the field, likely aided by earpieces worn by captains and batsmen. The duty of calling front-foot no-balls will be taken away from the on-field umpire and placed in the hands of technology. Similarly, we will see instant-replay monitoring of whether or not bowlers are throwing, with immediate consequences. In ten years’ time, it might happen that the average age of people hoping to keep Test cricket alive will be about ten years higher than the corresponding average age now.
Cricket remains in the grip of an elite, whose appetite for growth is typified by the sport’s lack of interest in the Olympic movement, meanwhile, cricket commands higher TV rights than any other sport outside football but is struggling to grow globally due to historical, cultural and structural reasons. More is the mantra for the number of teams at most sporting world cup finals with one major exception: cricket. This year’s Cricket World Cup in England and Wales features just 10 countries, which is four less than the 2015 tournament in Australia and New Zealand. Most international federations have mainly full members and a small number of junior members, but the International Cricket Council (ICC) has just 12 full members and 93 associates. Despite a programme of expansion started in 1998, the status of this elite has always been protected. While all other major team sports are expanding, cricket continues to struggle with an arcane organisational structure which gives control of the game’s commercial income to a handful of big countries, who have shown little appetite to grow the game globally.
Writer and Columnist