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After Madan Rajagopal moved from his native India to the Netherlands, his first course of action was to find a local cricket club and register as a player. The club didn’t have a permanent year-round coach for its senior members but, rather, seasonal instructors from the Southern Hemisphere — Australia, New Zealand and South Africa — and inevitably each had a different opinion about how Rajagopal should alter his swing.
“I lost all my fundamental flow and feel for the bat,” Rajagopal recalls. He adds, “Coming from India, cricket is kind of in our blood, in my blood, and I could live without anything but not without cricket. But in 2018, there was a point where I literally thought about stopping cricket because I wasn’t enjoying the game anymore. I wasn’t scoring. I wasn’t playing well. My performance was very bad.”
Around the same time, Rajagopal was helping coach the club’s junior players and was surprised not to find any apps to help track their progress. In his professional life, he is a data scientist and AI engineer, so he set ought to build his own solution.
That product is now Ludimos, a smartphone-based cricket tracking and training app that has been used by more than 19,000 players across 15 countries. Among the team clients are nine national cricket associations, including those in Scotland and the Netherlands, as well as Royal Challengers Bangalore of the Indian Premier League.
Ludimos can analyze video from multiple viewpoints and provide tracking data on ball and bat. An assessment of player biomechanics is in development. And the platform is also a communication tool that enables coaches to assign drills, evaluate them upon completion and return annotated videos with tips.
“Our current core value prop is the ball tracking,” Rajagopal says. “So our ball tracking technology is good enough that it is already adding value to both batters and ballers, and in our roadmap, the next thing we have is to unlock the bat tracking and then the biomechanics. Then at that point, then we can merge everything together and have contextual analysis of the player in full.”
RCB, in fact, revealed this week that one of their newest additions — bowler Avinash Singh — was the direct result of its Hinterland Scouting program, a data-driven talent identification tool powered by Ludimos. Singh has never played professionally and mostly played tennis ball cricket until less than a year ago, yet now he is the first of more than 10,000 registrations to make the RCB roster through this program and has bowled 145 kilometers per hour (90 mph), an elite pace.
In a video interview, RCB head of scouting Malolan Rangarajan described Hinterland Scouting as a “very, very objective way of identifying talent where we don’t use human eyes” while likening the bowling action of Singh to Umran Malik, the IPL’s fastest bowler.
As part of an innovation contest in 2021, Ludimos earned second place in the competition hosted by Cricket Australia and HCL, with distinction for its player development tools. Ludimos is also a graduate of the Stadia Ventures accelerator program and is now raising a €1.5 million seed round, of which €300,000 was slated to come from a crowdfunding campaign on Seedrs. (At press time, Ludimos had exceeded that goal and raised €314,511.)
While other sports — most notably baseball — have seen great advances in the understanding of the sport via publicly accessible databases and research, cricket’s advanced data has been more closely held.
“We don’t have any open data set about what’s been collected and how it’s been used, which means that there are only a handful of companies in the world that actually do this,” Rajagopal says. “And we are the only one of them, which does all three, which is bat tracking, ball tracking and biomechanics.”
Video review helped remedy Rajagopal’s own swing woes. He asked friends on the team to record him for three weeks straight and reviewed the clips with a coach.
“Even though the exact same sentence was said to me by several coaches — ‘that your head is moving away, that your weight is actually falling off and not coming towards the ball’ — I could never visualize what that actually meant, how that would look like, until I saw him pointing on the screen where he said, ‘Your head should be here, but it’s few pixels to the right or to the left,’” he says, describing the experience as empowering.
With small changes, Rajagopal dramatically improved his batting results, regaining his confidence and triggering his pursuit of Ludimos to create similar opportunities — with greater tech-driven features — to everyone. (Ludimos is an amalgamation of Latin words that try to capture the process of improvement: self-reflection, practice, habit formation.)
Rajagopal says Ludimos was designed for all age groups of cricket, recognizing that most club coaches might work with 11 year olds on up to 40-somethings. The older bracket will seek more detailed analysis; youth players will seek a different experience. “For 11- to 15-year-olds, it’s more about having fun and feeling for the game,” he says. “It’s more about gamification, so we turn our data and AI into a way that they can use as challenges and leaderboards.”
Ben Ferbrache, the cricket development manager for Guernsey, manages and coaches the junior programs for the small island state situated in the English Channel.
“It’s a really good way of tracking a player’s progress, especially with a lot of our guys that are going from one age group to the next,” he says. Ferbrache notes the ease of use, both for the players and for the coaches to record and assign their own practice drills. “What we find is kids love technology,” he adds. “Everything is on a phone or an iPad these days. So that’s where we were like, ‘Why don’t we just embrace the technology, and the kids will actually start using it?’”
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