The technological advantage
by Imran Khan
February 9, 2004
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In 1983 just as Trinidad and Tobago had lost one Robin Singh to India they gained another from Guyana. That Robin Singh, the cricketer, went on to play international cricket for India and the Guyanese Robin, son of Jainarine Singh Snr, the famed legal luminary and politician, went on to City University of New York to study political, then computer science. The Trinbagonians could have felt hard done by the trade-off.
But these two Robins' lives seem to be mystically intertwined in a strange way. A few weeks ago as the cricketer announced his retirement to concentrate on his coaching career, the other Robin, who now lives in Trinicity east Trinidad, made himself available to the current Trinidad & Tobago cricket team as, as he puts it, "an analytical tool for the coach." Walk in to the media centre at any Trinidad and Tobago game in this Carib Beer Series and you'll be confronted by Robin, the techie, with two laptops, a digital camcorder and a small mountain of cables, wires, adapters and all manner of other computer related contraptions. He is the team analyst. But what exactly does Robin do to consider himself "an analytical tool?" To explain the complications of the technology can be daunting. The result of what it does is what is important.
As an example Robin, who is originally from Georgetown, can pull up, in about ten seconds or so, video footage and all the relevant statistics of all the poor back foot defensive shots played by Dwayne Bravo on the off side. He can produce that and any other of the unique demands that coaches can find a need for from time to time as they strategize to give their team an edge.
But this apart, Robin's added value is in his assertion that come the semi-finals of the Carib Beer Series, Trinidad & Tobago, due to the vast database on the opposition, will have a clear and distinct advantage. They will be able to finger strong points of the opposition and avoid or conquer these. Even more worrying for the other teams is that T&T will be able to exploit their weak points as they had done with Shane Jeffers when they played the Leeward Islands. The coach, former Test wicket-keeper David Williams explained it all. Using the video analysis technology they looked at Jeffers, the opening batsman, for about ten minutes while he was batting, analyzed his style, strengths and weaknesses. The coach immediately devised a strategy and relayed it to his charges on the field. It was successfully executed and out went Jeffers for 4 runs. The technology Robin uses - ECricket - was developed last year by Zack Hitchcock, a New Zealander. It is currently being used by the New Zealand, English and Zimbabwe cricket teams. Robin, having reviewed all the options on the market claims it is the most advanced of its kind in the world. It is even superior to the Australian generated technology which Garfield Smith, the West Indies team analyst, uses. Essentially it gives any team that utilizes it an advantage, as they are able to breakdown each player into whatever categories they wish. They can identify all the deliveries, which gave Imran Jan, their opener, problems this season and then work with him on improving his technique to handle those. All of this in a matter of seconds and a few mouse clicks.
There are two aspects that ECricket offers a team. The coach can either identify something on the field of play and ask Robin to produce the footage and related statistics in excruciating detail; or Robin can produce the same and then submit it to the coach allowing Williams to strategize in a superior way that other coaches can only dream of.
The technology eliminates the need for guesswork and relying on human memory. All the opposition players are carefully analyzed and exploited. The home players are similarly analyzed and enhanced. It can very well be the reason for Trinidad & Tobago being in second place of the points standing thus far and being a certain semi-final starter.
"In terms of preparation for the 2005 season we are so way ahead of everybody else because by the end of this season we will have a database on all the players of the region and in the off season we will be able to analyze in even more detail the opposition," Robin projected.
"As for now, during the series we can use the technology and make adjustments better than other teams because we have so much more than they have," Robin said as he simultaneously lamented how much an open-minded coach, such as Williams is necessary for the technology to be maximally utilized. Coach Williams does not hide his delight for ECricket. "This is excellent, it is what I have been looking for all the while, it is unbelievable," he glowed.
Omar Khan the T&T manager also had praise to share. "We are trying to develop the players to be students of the game and this technology keeps the guys focused on cricket rather that them going back to the hotel and straying," he shared. And Robin, the man behind the laptops, comes in for his fair share of kudos as well. "He's an excellent guy to work with and I couldn't ask for a better person," coach Williams revealed. The IT expert who previously worked in club football in Trinidad decided after a while to return to where his heart really was - cricket. With his background in computers and related technologies he approached the TTCBC to volunteer. This has been the result and the T&T team is not only delighted but superior in many ways.
"If a player 'thinks' he has an advantage then in fact he 'has' an advantage, and ECricket gives our team a huge advantage," Robin explained.
He however has not been selfish with his advantageous technology, and shares it with all the opposing coaches and encourages them to get involved. During the game at Albion, Guyana coach Albert Smith took opener Sewnarine Chatter-goon to Robin to show him what a poor shot he had played to drag what would have been an innocuous delivery onto his stumps and consequently throw away his wicket.
Robin obliged willingly. In this part of the world it is not unusual for anyone who has exclusive knowledge on anything, especially modern technology, to guard his turf with vicious passion and hold his knowledge close to his chest. That in mind, Robin's offer is stunning.
Through the Trinidad & Tobago Cricket Board of Control he has offered to the West Indies Cricket Board to hold a workshop and train coaches and individuals with the aptitude and desire to utilize the technology. His desire is for there to be at least one person in every country of the Caribbean who is versed in the complications of the technology so that "the standard of the cricket across the region can be improved." Robin, who owns an information technology consultancy firm in Trinidad & Tobago, invested US$16,000 of his personal savings to purchase the two fully loaded laptops and the peripheral equipment from New Zealand and is now an integral part of the national cricket team as a paid analyst. However most of the money he earns goes back into expenses and on this trip to Guyana for example it went towards to purchase of his ticket and accommodation. US$16,000 may be beyond the immediate reach of most territorial boards in the region but given the benefits it certainly is a path that they must begin to pursue lest they be left in the technological and cricketing dark.
In the end, having lost one Robin Singh for another does not seem to be a bad trade-off for Trinidad & Tobago at all, especially if it ends with a lofted Carib trophy at the end of the season.