In the past decade a host of new technologies have emerged to enhance the way we view cricket, particularly at Test match level. Some innovations have been refined, others have fallen by the wayside, while the four briefly described below look like they're with us for the long run!
In December 2012 Australian broadcaster Fox Sports announced the trial use of miniature cameras mounted onto the helmet of batsmen and wicketkeepers, enabling viewers to experience novel, first-person perspectives of cricket in action.
Promising audiences the chance to experience the true speed of fast, hostile bowling and witness Test match action first hand, the cameras proved successful, with Australia's Shane Watson the first to wear the device. In 2014, Adam Gilchrist wore a helmet camera while batting during the Lords' bicentennial match between the Rest of the World and the MCC. Viewers enjoyed Gilchrist facing off against two fast bowlers in Brett Lee and Shaun Tait, and even saw Virender Sehwag's wicket from the non-striker's end. Whilst the technology is still under development, Helmet Cam promises to provide a genuinely new perspective on live cricket action.
Much more familiar to cricket watchers is the 'hot spot', providing infra-red imaging to show the precise points at which the ball strikes a bat, pad or clothing. Initially introduced as a viewer aid, the technology is now sophisticated enough to allow its use during 3rd umpire referrals at Test match level. The technology is often employed to judge whether a batsman has edged the ball, either for a catch or for an LBW decision. Hot spot was first introduced in 2005, and has undergone various refinements. Its current incarnation, released in 2012, is much more sensitive than previous versions, and allows for a very high degree of accuracy. Controversy over the use of hot spot has arisen in recent years, when various parties suggested that bat edges could be masked to reduce, or remove, any visible "hot spot".
Digital high-speed high definition (HD) technology has been used in sporting and other events for the past decade. Slow-motion images can now be produced and viewed at extremely high resolution, enabling viewers to see dramatic repeats of key incidents at speeds around one twentieth that of the live picture. Version 2 of the system was released in 2011, with greater sensitivity, easier use and the ability to integrate the technology into outside broadcasts with added simplicity.
Another technology that has gone through various incarnations - with ever-increasing benefit - is Hawk Eye. First shown in 2001, the technology was predominantly used as a broadcast aid until 2008/09, when it was reviewed by the ICC as a viable tool for the 3rd umpire. It is now used for LBW referrals, and can track with high accuracy not only where a ball has pitched but its likely trajectory even after hitting the batsman's pads. In Conclusion, television broadcasts of cricket have immeasurably improved through the past 20 years, in no small part due to the innovations of lead broadcasters and technology companies. The role of the on-field umpire is also under ever-greater scrutiny, thanks to instant repeats and the use of technology such as Hawk Eye. Whatever your view on the pros and cons of using technology as part of the game, there's little doubt that such innovations delight - and will continue to spark debate and take the game forward well into the 21st Century.