Bradford University has received a cash injection of £521,000 to investigate whether elite athletes have exceptional vision compared to the rest of us.

Stars from the England Lions cricket team could take part in the groundbreaking study which is being jointly run with three high-profile universities including St Andrew’s.

The research, led by Dr Brendan Barrett, from the Bradford School of Optometry and Vision Science, and Dr John Buckley, from the School of Engineering, Design and Technology, will examine vision in high-level cricketers.

Dr Barrett said: “It seems obvious that good vision is a pre-requisite in many sports, such as a cricketer’s need to accurately anticipate the speed and direction of a fast-moving ball.

“But do elite cricketers have superior vision to non-elites or novices?

“And if elites do have superior vision to non-elites or novices, is this the cause or a consequence of their exceptional sporting performance? These are the questions we’ll be aiming to answer.”

The researchers will assess vision and visuo-motor skills in elite cricketers and in non-cricketers, in an attempt to discover how the visual processing abilities of top-level players contributes to why they have reached the pinnacle of their sport. The tests will involve setting up infra-red motion capture systems to measure and monitor how players catch balls fired from a machine and how they perform other high-speed interceptive tasks.

The cash has come from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

“Cricket is the sport we have chosen because the visual demands in this sport are really high,” Dr Barrett said.

“This is not about the players’ eye-sight, as it would be assessed during a standard eye exam.

“It’s about how well their brain extracts relevant information from what they see, and in particular how this is done when there is limited time available because the ball is travelling towards them at close to 100 miles an hour.

“It may well be that due to having highly-honed motor skills, elite players don’t have to think about how to perform the task, such as how to hold their hands or where they should be placed to ensure success.

“And this then means their brain can concentrate more on processing the information they see, which is why they appear to have extra time when performing such tasks.”

Liverpool John Moores University and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) will also take part in the study.