Effective use of technology can improve performance in sports, says Subramanium Ramakrishnan, for long a video analyst with Indian cricket team

Chak De! India is perhaps one of the most important moments in Hindi cinema, as far as movies on sports are concerned. In one of its scenes, the Australian hockey coach is seen analysing the gameplan and making tactical changes, in real time, based on data his assistants keep track of, throughout the match.

That wasn’t too long ago but sports officials in India may well be thinking of a different era. In a milieu reluctant to embrace technology and opposed to change, Subramanium Ramakrishnan has been waging a tough battle.

Video analyst with the Indian cricket team for a decade and owner of Sports Mechanics, ‘Ramky’ knows what he is up against. “Coaching evolved when sport was a sport. Today it has become a career, where you earn more than a professional management graduate. But are you training like a professional? The previous generation played games they loved; the present wants to play what it is most suited to,” he says bluntly.

What one saw in the movie is not only normal in advanced sporting nations but completely possible here as well. “The chip between the ears is more powerful than anything else. But there are aids to improve. Videos can be used to identify more information about everything – performances, tactics, strategies – both of self and the opposition. Not everyone is a great communicator but visual aids help break the barrier between a coach and a player,” he says.

It is easy to get Ramky speaking at length about technology. “People do not believe in visual-based or remote coaching. Many still rely on naked eye coaching. The coaching community has been slow to embrace technology. We have to create awareness that these aids can actually help them produce better results more quickly,” he explains.

As much as he accepts the advancements made, Ramky admits there is still a long way to go; coaching and analyses are developing every day. “In cricket, we have software that can actually help you construct your innings. In hockey, rolling substitution currently happens based on experience but we are developing software that can be used for real-time Decision Support System (DSS). Variable sensors that can be worn by the players are available.”

“You can have an ECG sensor on your wrist or a cardio monitor on your neck that can transmit real-time data. You can find out which players are on the threshold and who can substitute them, and also what the new combination will look like. You can track if there is any abnormality and alert doctors to reduce chances of deaths on the playing field,” he explains.

His firm has moved into other sports as well, working with hockey and squash and being associated with table tennis, weightlifting, boxing, athletics and volleyball during the Olympics.

The evitable question comes up: what about the money, when most sports federations survive exclusively on government support? “Actually, if you can look into the ways and means to use technology properly, you can cut down costs to a great extent and your return on investments will happen much faster,” he claims.

Ramky insists Indians must use their strengths in technology to greater advantage in sports. “Technology can be used to identify and encourage talent and selection. It can help in extracting and collating information. Indians are great at data collection and mining so we need to use that edge to provide advantage to our athletes and improve our coaching methodology.”

In the movie, the Indian team won in the end despite lack of facilities because the script demanded it. In reality, Indian sports can do a lot more, with a little help from science.