These Pakistani tech prodigies are on the verge of revolutionizing cricket

Sajjad Haider
These Pakistani tech prodigies are on the verge of revolutionizing cricket

LAHORE: Mohammad Asawal says he is 21 years old, before he pauses for two seconds, laughs, and corrects himself. "No, wait. I just turned 22 tonight."

In the excitement of the moment, the engineer from Islamabad has forgotten his age, and doesn't realize how young he is.

At 22, Asawal is one of five young co-founders of a tech startup which has developed a smart wearable sleeve that could remove controversies around decisions regarding legality of bowling actions in cricket.

In a nation obsessed with the game, the idea is worth a goldmine.

"We have come from Islamabad, and we completed electrical engineering from NUST University this year," said 23-year-old Abdullah Ahmed, CEO of Cric Flex, as he gave us a demo of a working prototype of their product.

"The International Cricket Council (ICC) says a bowler's arm should not be bent more than 15 degrees when bowling. To judge this, the umpire either judges by eye, or they send you to a biomechanics lab for long, expensive testing of the action.

"What we have developed is an affordable, wearable sleeve embedded with sensors which bowlers can wear on their arms and which can instantaneously show through a smartphone app if the bowling action is legal or not," said the young electrical engineer.

The Android application also serves as a training application by showing the force and speed with which the ball is released and the time taken by the bowler to complete his delivery. The smart device and application can detect illegal bowling actions up to 1 degree of accuracy.

CricFlex also detects the amount of spin to help bowlers train and improve the performance.

But Abdullah told Geo News that their team is still working to refine the product for spin bowling actions, which they hope will be completed soon.

"We think that this is most needed by cricketers at the grassroots level, so we want to target cricket clubs and academies first," he said.

The team first got the idea for a semester project around 2014, during the controversy surrounding Pakistan spinner Saeed Ajmal's bowling action.

After lots of hard work that went into building and refining the idea, their paper titled “A Wearable Wireless Sensor for Real Time Validation of Bowling Action in Cricket”, was accepted for presentation at the IEEE 12th Annual Wearable and Implantable Body Sensor Networks Conference 2015 at MIT.

But their remarkable invention went unnoticed by the mainstream media until Friday, Asawal's 22nd birthday, when the team won first prize in a competition at Startup Lahore, Pakistan's largest startup event in Lahore.

Cric Flex won first position and a cash prize of PKR1,000,000 at the Startup Rumble competition after being shortlisted among the 20 best ideas from over 200 applications from young entrepreneurs from across the country.

More than 150 entrepreneurs, over 30 angel investors, and 3,000 attendees gathered at the Arfa Techonology Park in Lahore on January 26 and 27 for the biggest startup event in the country.

Hosted by the MIT Enterprise Forum - Pakistan and Information Technology University, the event was a two-day conference bringing together investors, entrepreneurs, mentors, speakers, technology companies, accelerators and media in an initiative to boost the country's growing startup ecosystem.