Club Cricket Conference

Saturday, 19th September 2020

The club batsman who plays with Hawk-Eye precision


By Charles Randall

5 August 2016

A former English club batsman has become a key part of  the Decision Review System adopted by international cricket around the world, and he recently spoke about his extraordinary job in an interview for the Professional Cricketers Association.

James Ord played most of his club cricket with Kenilworth Wardens and Dorridge in Birmingham while trying to build a professional career at Warwickshire. He switched ambitions and soon found himself holding the job title of cricket creative manager for Hawk-Eye Innovations. Apart from umpiring, this must be as close  as one can get to the ebb and flow of a game without actually playing.

Ord, 28, began as systems operator with Hawk-Eye in 2013, travelling the world to ensure the system worked correctly. By then he had joined Barnt Green, and work finally took over, by coincidence, after  he had been bowled by the first ball of the match at Himley - like a sharp nudge in a different direction, one could say.

Ord recently became UK-based again when his responsibilities grew. In an interview with Paul Bolton, of the PCA, he said: "I am in charge of pretty much everything that gets broadcast on TV. I divide my time between the office and grounds, but I don’t do as much travelling as I used to. When I was working as an operator, I could be overseas for 200 days a year."

“For UK international matches I will be at the grounds and supply all the data that you see when you are watching Sky – the graphics for the pitch map and the information that they use on their Third Man analysis slots – I provide all that.”

Though he studied economics at Loughborough University, he did not have a technical background. It was his cricket career that helped land the connection with Hawk-Eye. "I was quite fortunate really," Ord said. "When I was at Loughborough, Hawk-Eye ran a lot of placement schemes for third-year students, and I knew quite a few people who had been on those placements."

"Then my girlfriend went to a wedding where the best man mentioned that there were some jobs coming up in cricket and he got me an interview. Although my technical background wouldn’t have been as good as some of the other candidates, I had a cricket background. I had always studied the game and taken a keen interest in stats. I think they looked at that and took a punt on me."

"I was taken on full-time straight away as a systems operator, which basically involves being on-site at the games to make sure the system is fully in order and integrated with the broadcast so you can offer statistics, video replays and other interesting data. It’s quite technical in terms of the software side of things, but I was more involved in cricket-specific  things to begin with – understanding what commentators were more likely to talk about and building a good story for TV."

Ord had continued to seek a cricket career without success after he was released by Warwickshire at the end of 2010 with only  one County Championship and two one-day appearances. For the next two seasons he played one-dayers for the Unicorns, trialled with Leicestershire and spent two winters playing club cricket in Australia in the hope that he might be given a second chance in county cricket.
"It got to a point where I needed to look for something else," Ord admitted. "This job is probably the next best thing for me to playing. Cricket didn’t quite work out, but just being involved in this way means that I still enjoy it."

Hawk-Eye, now owned by Sony, was developed by the scientist Dr Paul Hawkins, a  former Club Cricket Conference under-25 batsman from Marlow CC. The  ball-tracking technology was first used as a broadcasting aid in 2001, most notably by Channel 4,  and the system was adopted by the International Cricket Council as part of the Decision Review System in 2008. Hawkins was awarded an OBE in 2014.