Brighton University researchers are working on computer programmes to help cricket batsmen cope better with fast bowlers and spinners.
The programmes project footage of bowlers on to life-size screens.
The batsmen’s reactions are analysed to help them develop the ability to read the bowler’s pre-release delivery kinematics – or body movements.
This helps them anticipate the type, direction and length of delivery.
With the likes of England cricketer James Anderson bowling at 90mph, it takes the ball 500 milliseconds or half a second to reach batsmen.
But it takes batsmen 900 milliseconds to decide how to play the ball once it leaves the bowler’s hand.
To make up the 400 millisecond difference, batsmen must anticipate where the ball is heading before it is released.
Brighton University researcher Karl Stevenson said: “The system we are developing helps batsmen focus on the most information-rich areas of the bowler’s action at the right moment.
“This allows them to start preparing a response before the bowler has released the ball, narrowing the 400 millisecond deficit in their favour and allowing them to execute a shot which, in real time, would have been impossible.”
The research is not all about pace.
Mr Stevenson’s team has devised a programme to coach batsmen to pick deceptive deliveries bowled by spin bowlers.
Using specially edited video, batsmen are trained to anticipate spin directions by identifying the bowler’s pre-delivery body movements.
Mr Stevenson said: “Prior to delivery spin bowlers project biomechanical information that, with experience, can be read and understood by batsmen who can then pick the biomechanical differences between an off-spin delivery and its deceptive brother, the Doosra.
“Over a four-week training period we found batsmen had decreased their reaction times and become more accurate.”
Research is continuing into what Mr Stevenson believes is fast becoming an essential tool for today’s sportsmen and women: “The margins of success and failure are extremely narrow in the modern world of sport.
“We need to ask what benefit is there in having physically fit athletes if they do not have the mental skills to make consistently accurate decisions?”