The head tracks and gaze predicts: how the world's best batters hit a ball.

PloS one

PubMedID: 23516460

Mann DL, Spratford W, Abernethy B. The head tracks and gaze predicts: how the world's best batters hit a ball. PLoS ONE. 2013;8(3):e58289.
Hitters in fast ball-sports do not align their gaze with the ball throughout ball-flight; rather, they use predictive eye movement strategies that contribute towards their level of interceptive skill. Existing studies claim that (i) baseball and cricket batters cannot track the ball because it moves too quickly to be tracked by the eyes, and that consequently (ii) batters do not - and possibly cannot - watch the ball at the moment they hit it. However, to date no studies have examined the gaze of truly elite batters. We examined the eye and head movements of two of the world's best cricket batters and found both claims do not apply to these batters. Remarkably, the batters coupled the rotation of their head to the movement of the ball, ensuring the ball remained in a consistent direction relative to their head. To this end, the ball could be followed if the batters simply moved their head and kept their eyes still. Instead of doing so, we show the elite batters used distinctive eye movement strategies, usually relying on two predictive saccades to anticipate (i) the location of ball-bounce, and (ii) the location of bat-ball contact, ensuring they could direct their gaze towards the ball as they hit it. These specific head and eye movement strategies play important functional roles in contributing towards interceptive expertise.