One of the biggest by-products of the great e-learning boom ever since the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world has been the rise in learning about various sports from the comfort of one’s home.
Such platforms use training strategies or digital tools to benefit the learner in tracking their performance, movement, and learning about a particular sport correctly, from a galaxy of legendary sportspersons.
A platform which is now striving to stir the ground of virtual cricket learning in India is Cricuru, founded jointly by former Indian cricketers Virender Sehwag and Sanjay Bangar in June 2021.
On January 18, 2023, the platform was re-launched with some newer upgrades and Bangar sees bridging the gap of distance regarding learning cricket the right way through Cricuru as a huge opportunity, especially in tier 2 and 3 cities.
“We have Brett Lee amongst our mentors. If someone has to understand the way Brett bowled a ball at 150 kmph, that is available to the player at a very nominal cost. Plus, one can reach out to them from the comfort of their homes as if you have to reach out to a top cricketer, you will have to incur a lot of costs.”
“For a player sitting in his village/town/city, you cut through the world via the platform to reach out to Gayle, and Lee and understand how they have done it. We are bridging the gap and that’s the most exciting part,” he told IANS in a virtual chat.
Establishing a platform which gives online cricket learning the right way was doing the rounds in Bangar’s mind for a long time, considering the digital revolution in India and the prospect of using it to reach every nook and corner of the country for empowering the next generation of cricketers.
Sehwag, the co-founder of this venture, was also thinking on similar lines since 2003-04. It wasn’t until a dinner at Bangar’s place convinced him to put up the venture together with the former India men’s batting coach and received backing from Nalin Khaitan, Vice Chairman, Khaitan Holdings.
The plan of creating content for Cricuru happened during the pandemic and the platform became a reality through its launch in June 2021, before now coming back in an updated avatar.
“A guy playing somewhere in interior/rural districts of Maharashtra or Kerala or somewhere in hinterlands of central India, how does he/she can have access to (quality cricket coaching)? I come from Aurangabad and had to shift to Mumbai to hone my cricketing skills and get a better education in the development of the game.”
“What Cricuru does is, at a very nominal cost, it gives you the know-how of how you can develop skill and also, how you can develop your mindset because when technique and temperament come together, it’s a lethal combination,” says Bangar.
Cricuru has 34 mentors currently, including Sehwag and Bangar themselves, apart from the likes of Brian Lara, AB de Villiers, Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Ashish Nehra and Muttiah Muralitharan providing 2400 -+ hours of cricketing lessons.
Learning about batting from AB de Villiers is currently priced at INR 1,399 for one year, with the same amount for taking online lessons from Lara and Imran Tahir. An all-access pass for an entire year costs INR 9,999, while three types of courses coming in bundles like Blasters, Strikers and Warriors are priced at INR 4,999 for the same duration.
With people enthusiastic about learning cricket, either in their backyard at home or using the school infrastructure, Bangar wants Cricuru to instil the right way of playing the game in all aspects amongst aspiring cricketers.
The new upgrades, according to Bangar, will give a better learning experience to aspiring cricketers and help them use concepts very well for their development, with some monitoring by artificial intelligence, currently in the final stage.
Artificial Intelligence will analyse a cricket shot and give feedback on the balance, Footwork and Swing curve by assigning a score between 1-100 for that shot. 18 locations on an individual are tracked while playing the stroke. The footage is recorded using a standard phone HD camera with a 16:9 ratio in MP4 format and processed on the cloud.
“There were certain teething issues in terms of technological backup, the lags on the video footage. We are also creating a workbook as to how you can jot down the progress you have made after practising the way skills have been displayed on the platform. The subscriber will have the option to send his footage to us. The artificial intelligence will evaluate it and mark it, which is an exciting part.”
“We are also adding the mental toughness aspect on the platform by roping in certain sports psychologists because that is a big part of the game as well. If a player feels the need to reach out to the mentors, that element has also been upgraded.”
Bangar, the head coach of Royal Challengers Bangalore in IPL, says importance has been given to women’s cricket in the platform, with Smriti Mandhana, Jemimah Rodrigues and Poonam Yadav joining in as mentors.
“Going forward, we will also get in the medium-pace aspect for the women cricketers because challenges are different. But we have been ahead of our time by roping them in and you will be surprised as to how brilliantly they have explained the skills performed by them on the cricket field.”
Bangar feels if he had opened various physical centres of his cricket academy, he would have served at most 200 students. With the new upgrades now at Cricuru, he’s confident in reaching out to more aspiring cricketers and bridging the gap in teaching about playing cricket the right way.