Colombo: Battle-hardened Sri Lankan army officer Athula Samarasinghe has devised a process to help umpires find exact replacements for disfigured cricket balls.
The 39-year-old officer has won a patent from Sri Lanka's national Intellectual Property Office for inventing a process to duplicate a ball that is in use at a cricket match. The process could help resolve the umpires dilemma of which ball to choose when the current ball has to be replaced during play due to the change of shape, colour, damage or even unexpected loss. Usually umpires are given the choice of six used balls to choose one that closely resembles the condition of a ball at that particular stage of the game. The wear and tear on the ball can be crucial to the match and could even dramatically change the fortunes of a team. "What I have done is thought of a way to use existing technologies to replicate the condition of the ball that is in play," Samarasinghe told. "This will reduce the possibility of one team gaining undue advantage over the other during the replacement of a ball by umpires." In about a fifth of international matches, a replacement ball had been called halfway through play, Samarasinghe said. He said he was inspired after noticing umpires spending a considerable amount of time in the middle of a game trying to figure which ball to select when confronted with a choice. His invention incorporates existing technologies used in cricket, such as the radar gun to detect bowling speed and weather information such as temperatures and humidity. A microprocessor gathers the information and controls a device that would simulate the playing conditions and give a near-accurate wear and tear on a ball that could be called by umpires at any stage of the game. The army officer who is attached to the army's signals corp is now looking for someone to finance the construction of a prototype, which he says will cost about $ 20,000. "What I really would like to see is the machine up and running before the World Cup next year," Samarasinghe said. He said he received enthusiastic support from international coaches who attended a workshop here last month during the Champions Trophy tournament, which featured all 10 Test-playing nations. The "match ball duplicator" will simulate the playing conditions in real time and at any stage of the game offer a ball that closely resembles the condition of the ball that is in use. A father of three, Samarasinghe played cricket when he was in secondary school but later switched over to pistol shooting and wants Sri Lanka to be known not only as a cricket-mad country, but a "cricket-thinking" nation. It was during his posting in the island's embattled Valachchenai area as a commanding officer of a signals unit that Samarasinghe began thinking of his ball- duplicating machine. "It is a simple process and a simple machine," says Samarasinghe. "Surprisingly, others have not thought of it before."
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