LED stumps, another attempt to achieve perfection in marginal decisions

In an attempt to serve as an aid to umpires and spice-up spectator experience, the LED stumps have made their debut in international cricket in the on-going World Twenty20 tournament.

An Australia-based mechanical industrial designer Bronte EcKermann, who has got this patented, gestated the innovation, which was developed by South Australian manufacturer Zing International.

The Zing Wicket System is powered by low voltage batteries. Once the ball makes contact, the bails equipped with in-built sensor instantly glimmer – experiments have shown that it just takes a millisecond – and send a radio signal to the stumps that lights them up. A microprocessor in each bail detects when both spigots are dislodged from the stump grooves. A zing bail is slightly heavier than standard wooden bail, but lighter than the heavy bails used in windy matches, the official BBL account tweeted.

“My daughter was playing with a ball that lit up when it was thrown. I was hoping to produce something that would add value to T20 cricket. I was also excited about LED technology,” Eckermann recalled in an interview with the Indian Express.

Eckermann, a one-time batsman who represented Adelaide district, takes pride in the fact that the ‘Zings’ have never failed him nor have they been broken even though he experienced nervous moments when Lasith Malinga lasered in a series of yorkers against India during the warm-up game.

These stumps were introduced in a club game in Adelaide after three years of research. After convincing the country’s cricket board of their usefulness, they replaced the conventional wooden stumps in the 2012 edition of Big Bash League.

“These light up stumps are all about enhancing the spectator experience during BBL matches and ensuring that the BBL remains highly entertaining for the fans,” BBL Senior Manager Anthony Everard said after they were introduced.

The International Cricket Council tested their use in the semi-finals and final of the U-19 World Cup in the UAE last month before introducing them in the World T20. The stumps are being used in several T20 competitions in New Zealand, Australia and the West Indies.

The technology is expected to aid close umpiring decisions in stumping and run-outs. If a batsman were to be caught short off his crease while effecting a stumping or a run-out, the bails have to be completely dislodged from the stumps.

Third-umpires, even after several replays in different angles, have been unable to conclusively decide when the bails completely come off leading to a long hiatus during a passage of play. This is where the flashing lights are expected to come to the umpire’s aid as the bails illuminate the moment they are dislodged.

EcKermann issued a funny warning against players grabbing the stumps as an expression of triumph over their opponents and taking them as a souvenir for they are ridiculously expensive. He has got 32 stumps and 40 bails for the tournament and will take all the equipment back, once the tournament is over.

“We have USD 40,000 worth of patented technology out on the field at each game and that is a lot of money. Each bail costs as much as an iPhone. We can’t afford to give them away to players at the end of a game,” Eckermann says.

But the rules can be bent for Dhoni, if he can manage to win the tournament, Eckermann remarked blithely.

“I know Dhoni loves keeping a souvenir stump. If India can win the final, I might get into some arrangement with Dhoni,” he adds.

As attractively as they are packaged, this again is a battle for millimetres, an illusive quest to achieve perfection in marginal decisions, something that has not only backfired in the past in Hawkeye, Snicko-meter, HotSpot etc. but have managed to avert the attention from the play itself with discussions hovering around the efficacy of the technology used.

Recent evidences suggest that the stumps could further debates about technological gobbledygook as their viability in the long-term were debated in the aftermath of a BBL game held this year.

The bails flashed lights as Melbourne Stars’ Tillakaratne Dilshan caught Sydney Thunder’s David Hussey short of his ground at the non-striker’s end. However, in an unprecedented manner the bails settled back into the groove, resulting in the dismissal being annulled. Ricky Ponting, commentating on television, expressed his shock saying he had never seen that happen with traditional bails.

Whether the technology is here to stay will be seen in the coming months when they are put to use in the Indian Premier League and future T20 tournaments.


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