The Apple Watch can be considered to be a perfect accessory for athletes, but this is not the case with cricketers. The International Cricket Council (ICC) has apparently warned some Pakistani players to stop wearing the Apple Watch on the field.
On Thursday, during the first day of the first Test match against England at Lord’s, a couple of Pakistani players were spotted donning an Apple Watch. However, after the play, an anti-corruption official told the players not to wear smartwatches on the field so they can avoid allegations of match-fixing.
— ICC (@ICC) May 25, 2018
In a statement, the ICC said that any smartwatch connected to a phone or Wi-Fi or in any other way making it capable of receiving communications is not allowed. Further, the governing body said that it would continue to remind players that all such devices must be surrendered upon arrival at the ground on match days.
Though ICC regulations do not strictly prohibit wearing a smartwatch, the organization wants players to disable the device to adhere to anti-corruption measures. In other words, players must deposit all transmitting devices before play starts.
“Communication devices are prohibited within the PMOA [player and match official area], barring specific exceptions. Without exception, no player shall be in possession of, or use a communication device (such as a mobile phone or a device which is connected to the internet), while in the PMOA,” ICC regulations say.
Pakistani bowler Hasan Ali told reporters after the end of the day’s play: “The ACSU officer came to speak to us and told us it’s not allowed to wear them so we won’t be wearing them.”
Ali was not sure which of the Pakistani players were wearing the smartwatch.
According to British media reports, there were no suggestions of any wrongdoing, as it was not known if the watches were connected to phones. However, the ICC does have the authority to confiscate the devices to study the data stored on them.
There are many compelling reasons to wear a smartwatch on a sports field, one of them being recording and storing fitness data (even when communications are disabled). In a pre-match interview, Asad Shafiq, who was seen wearing the watch on Thursday, stated that Pakistani players use the smartwatch to track their routine, get an idea of the results of their workout and also calculate targets for the next day.
Though Shafiq is right, it still does not justify wearing a smartwatch on the field. There are specifically designed fitness trackers that can serve the same purpose. Such fitness trackers have built-in pedometers and heart-rate sensors, but no communication or transmission capabilities.
The ICC, on the other hand, also has a valid reason for asking players not to use a smartwatch during play. Over the past few years, match-fixing has become a major concern for the ICC. On a previous tour to England, three Pakistani players–Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir–were reportedly involved in a match-fixing incident. During a test match against England at Lord’s in August 2010, the three players were involved in a plan of bowling no-balls at pre-arranged times. For their involvement in the match-fixing, all three were banned from the game for several years and served time in prison as well.
The ICC with its strict rules against smartwatches may appear to be an anti-tech agency, but it is not. In fact, the organization collaborated with Intel last year to put sensors inside bats to get data on how the ball connects with the bat.
“With this technology, parameters like back-lift, bat speed, and follow-through can be tracked for every cricket stroke,” Intel said then.
The ICC’s warning to players is not the only incident in the sporting world in which smartwatches have stirred up controversy on the field. In September 2017, the Boston Red Sox were penalized for using the Apple Watch to identify catchers’ signs. In baseball, catchers use signs to tell the pitcher what their next pitch should be. The batter can’t see the signals because the catcher is behind them. Though stealing signals is seen as part-and-parcel of the game, it is the use of technology that got the Red Sox in trouble.