AI Can Now Help Identify Between Straight and Lateral Backlift by Watching a Video


Science is an important but less popular part of sports. We, as viewers, often overlook the techniques employed by players in the excitement to enjoy the spirit of the game. However, a team’s support staff is keenly on the lookout for the finer details. Consider cricket for instance. While most viewers are interested in how many runs a batsman made, the support staff would analyse the batting and bowling techniques and other minute details, taking help from technology for analysis. Even the most precise calculations have a room for mistakes. To avoid these minor faults, researchers are now taking help from artificial intelligence (AI).

During a game of cricket, a batter facing a fast bowler has to make a decision on the backlift – whether to go for straight or lateral — in a fraction of a second. Now, imagine the technology being improved in a way that it can assist the support staff, or even the [players](, in identifying the problems. In their latest study published in Nature Scientific Reports, researchers from the University of Johannesburg have developed a deep learning computer vision model, using artificial intelligence, that can spot straight backlift batters from lateral ones, using video only.

“This study provides a way forward in the automatic recognition of player patterns and motion capture, making it less challenging for sports scientists, biomechanists and video analysts working in the field,” the report suggests.

Using this technology, coaches may be able to give more detailed feedback to players. It can also help identify players with lateral backlift components, like legendary cricketer Sir Donald Bradman who was a pioneer of lateral backlift. “The beauty of deep learning in AI is that you don’t have to tell the AI what to look for,” said study co-author Tevin Moodley, a doctoral student at the University of Johannesburg.

The researchers found that untrained batters often instinctively use a lateral backlift. “What we have found is that if young players are not coached using traditional methods, they do not pick up the bat straight. They pick the bat up in a lateral direction. This indirectly suggests that a straight backlift is not a natural movement,” said Prof Habib Noorbhai, another author on the article.



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