Hawkeye is a sport technology device whose concept was derived from missile-tracking technology. Its purpose is to track the position and trajectory of an object- typically a ball. Hawkeye made its debut in 2001 through cricket (as SkyScope) and it is no surprise that cricket TV broadcasters used it extensively since. Although the International Cricket Council does not officially sanction its full use, the way the device operates allows it to work for cricket in several important ways.
How the Hawkeye works in cricket is a function of conceptual and external levels. At the conceptual level, Hawkeye is a complex and unique tool that uses cameras, image analysis software and a parametric model to track a delivery and predict its path. In cricket, Hawkeye uses six fixed and calibrated camera positions to assist the image analysis process and radar technology. The broadcaster must position six cameras around the cricket field- three on each side of the field that almost mirror each other.
These multiple angles and images produce a three-dimensional grid that is fed into an image processing system. The image processing software captures the actual path of the delivery. Hawkeye is able to track the ball from the point of release from the bowler to the point at which the ball is in line with the stumps. Further prediction is achieved through use of a parametric model. The output is where the ball pitched and the direction in which it is headed. Hawkeye developers claim its accuracy to be “within 5mm.” Cricket commentators and Hawkeye detractors believe that it is higher- around one inch.
At the external level, Hawkeye works in cricket by facilitating enhanced television, officiating and coaching. The ICC has not officially sanctioned full use of Hawkeye in determining LBW (leg before wicket) decisions. However, with the TV referral system, Hawkeye plays an important role in informing the third umpire (the only official with access to it) where the ball pitched and where it hit the batsman. The predictive element of Hawkeye is not yet officially used because of lingering doubts about its accuracy. However, some cricket pundits believe that umpires have become more confident with LBW decisions on the field of play because they witness how Hawkeye’s predictive element works.
Before Hawkeye was used for officiating in cricket, it was (and sill is) an essential part of cricket coverage on television. Primarily a tool to shed light on LBW decisions for TV viewers, Hawkeye determines whether the ball pitched outside leg stump or in line with the stumps and whether it would continue onto the stumps. Hawkeye also facilitates other innovations like:
DeSpin: Shows how far the ball deviated after it pitched
Wagon wheels: Gives a 3D picture of a batter’s scoring shots
Pitch Maps: Show the areas where multiple deliveries hit the pitch
Beehives: These demonstrate where the ball has reached the batter or where it would have passed the batsman. The Beehives even highlight scoring deliveries for batters.
Rail Cam: Shows differences in speed, bounce and trajectory of different deliveries
Hawkeye can also produce ball speeds and determine reaction time through use of radar technology. With coaching, innovations like pitch maps and wagon wheels are essential for player analyses that highlight a player’s strengths and weaknesses.
Hawkeye in cricket is a great innovation that has helped officiating, enhanced television feeds for viewers and assisted coaches with technical analyses of players. Hawkeye technology has already earned the respect of cricket fans because of how it works and what it produces. It is beginning to have an influential role in how the game is officiated, covered and coached.