CRICKET: S Africa take the two-way option

CRICKETERS HAVE never been quick to exploit technology and much of the equipment in use today is much as it was 20 years ago. All that may be about to change, with news that South African players have been experimenting with microphones inside batting helmets.

In the past, any lines of communication between the dressing-room and those out on the pitch have usually been limited to an idiotic semaphore or a primitive bellow. South Africa, under their innovative coach, Bob Woolmer, felt this perhaps divulged too much to the opposition. Never one to give up, Woolmer looked for other ways of achieving a dialogue while play was in progress.

"We got Motorola to lend us a few microphones and receivers during a trial game," Woolmer revealed yesterday. "It worked quite well, but with the considerable expense involved and a change in helmet design needed, it is still very much at the embryo stage."

As the current favourite to eventually take the job of England coach, Woolmer has long been considered a progressive thinker. With most international teams now assembling an army of coaches and gurus around them, keeping a regular flow of information between them and the players has become increasingly important.

"Sometimes batsmen feel under pressure at the crease," Woolmer explained, "even though we on the sidelines can see they are doing all right. I think that although you run the risk of interrupting their thought processes, it would be helpful to tell them that.

"In New Zealand last winter, we used a two-way radio when the 12th man went out with drinks. It worked well and any queries the players had or suggestions I'd come up with were passed on that way."

Although the radio link has long been used to join coach and quarterback in American football, spectators will not see it in use during this summer's World Cup. Unlike the grunts that emanate from pavilion balconies everywhere, the game's overlords probably wouldn't consider it cricket.