Speed is “everything” for Lockie Ferguson. His pace was noted in 2008, when he competed with Jimmy Neesham in a fast-bowling competition on the sidelines of the New Zealand vs England Test at Basin Reserve.
Ferguson’s elder brother Mitch Ferguson was also known for his rapid pace back in the day at Auckland Grammar but then slipped through the cracks, and is now a software developer. The Ferguson brothers’ need for speed drove them to develop an application called Machineroad with which bowlers can measure their speeds on their smartphones. In addition to being a pocket speed gun, the app allows you to record your training sessions while providing real-time feedback on lengths and bounce points among other analytics.
So, all you need is a smartphone, a tripod set up 1.5 metres high and two metres behind the bowling crease, and “find out more about your bowling”.
“It was Mitch’s baby to start with. Fortunately, I’m in cricket as well, so it was a good avenue to get technology this cutting edge into everyday users,” Lockie told ESPNcricinfo during a virtual interaction. “Obviously, as professionals, we get the opportunity to have HawkEye, ball tracking, and pitch mapping and all these sorts of analytics, which help to become a better cricketer and now we’re trying to put that in someone’s pocket.
“So, obviously pretty easy with me being a quick bowler and easy alignment for our product there, but certainly from a young age, I wanted to be a quick bowler because my big brother was a fast bowler and I wanted to be faster than him. Off the back of that, I think everyone will probably agree – even talking to some of the batters in the team, getting the app out at training, they’re all charging in and trying to bowl quick. So, it just shows you that there’s a lot of passion for fast bowling and everyone wants to know at some stage how quickly they can bowl.”
Mitch drew from his experiences as a raw fast bowler – mismanaging bowling loads and lack of enough awareness about fast bowling – to make the app “hugely scalable” for club cricketers.
“I guess the main reason behind [creating] the app was some of the stuff that I went through as a young cricketer,” Mitch said. “I was going through the grades and involved in a lot of representative cricket and obviously having quite a few injuries during that time as well. Ultimately, it was kind of based around how we can provide visibility to some of those young players because I definitely missed out on my fair share of opportunities.
“You’ve got HawkEye and a range of other pieces of equipment that does enable you to capture some of this data, but one of the biggest things around that is a lot of that equipment is quite expensive, especially when you try to bring that equipment and technology to clubs and lot of other remote areas throughout the world as well. One of the key things that we really wanted to focus on was how we can take that technology, how we can simplify that data.”
Recently, the Ferguson brothers used the app with the Parnell Plums Women’s side in Auckland, where Maddy Curran clocked 110kph, catching the attention of Northern Districts, who have now called her to their academy.
“One of our best [things] happened with the Parnell Women’s team,” Lockie said. “We were out there testing the app with the Parnell Plums – which is a great women’s team in Auckland. Maddy Curran, one of the opening bowlers was bowling on the app and she’s quite quick. It picked it up – she was bowling at almost 110ks – then I posted it on our Machineroad Instagram and my Instagram. And next week, the ND coach got in touch with her and she is now involved with their academy. That might kick-start her career and if we can create more of those stories then that’s awesome.”
While the immediate focus is to build engagement and gamification tools in the app to encourage cricketers around the world to challenge themselves against each other, Lockie reckoned it could also help bowlers test their plans at the nets and execute them better in the middle.
“In the developing part, one thing Mitch and I talked about was… I hate to quote games, but last year at the World Cup, we were sort of faced up against Steve Smith. So, we were working out a game plan on what my strengths are against a batter like him who is so leg-side dominant and obviously got great plans. So, we sort of talked about this leg-gully option and at the time I wasn’t potentially in a position to be able to do that, but had I had that at training and actually filmed myself working on trying to hit a spot… I’m not always going to bowl that far on the left shoulder – a bumper. Tough to do it in the nets against our batters because they don’t want to face it too much.
“But there is an element that I’m trying to create a plan that I think will work, but then how do I train and get real-time feedback? Then, this app is more or less on those lines where you can work on a skill like that [spot bowling] and hopefully, get the wicket or have Martin Guptill catch a one-hander at leg gully (laughs).”