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Digital Transformation

Hit for a six: Cricket Australia and Microsoft trial an intelligent coaches’ platform to lift performance management to a new level

Australian Cricket is in the midst of a digital transformation that is impacting all aspects of the game.  Whether it’s delivering new experiences for fans, improving processes for our participants and volunteers, enabling Cricket Australia and the state and territory associations to work more closely together or finding new insights from our data, our digital transformation is critical to us achieving our vision to be Australia’s favourite sport and a sport for all Australians.

Cricket is one of the most timeless of sports, but in recent years, new digital technologies and the huge volumes collected have begun to transform our high-performance programs. This has posed some challenges, in terms of managing constantly increasing data loads, but also provides a tremendous opportunity to better enable our players, coaches, sports scientists and other high-performance professionals.

With the help of our Fair Play Athlete Management System, we have the ability to collect a vast amount of data surrounding our athletes. We aim to unlock the insights buried in that data and make this data more actionable.  For example, we hope to tailor information not just for each individual player, but also to take into account how each player responds to particular conditions.  This will allow us to optimise our sports scientists’ time managing and analysing data and introduce more predictive, machine-learning elements into our analyses.

Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland with Satya Nadella at the Melbourne Cricket Ground

This summer, Cricket Australia has begun a proof of concept of Microsoft’s brand new team and player performance platform. The system, powered by Microsoft’s Cloud and Cortana Analytics Suite, uses machine learning, predictive analytics and rich visualisations to help Cricket Australia better manage the huge volume of performance data it tracks, report on athlete and team wellness, and even set intelligent alerts.

When I say brand new, I mean it. Cricket Australia is one of a handful of sporting organisations worldwide that Microsoft engineers are working with to develop and trial the new platform.  The work we are doing together will help shape the use of data in other sports as well. Microsoft is also working with other professional sports teams, such as Hull City A.F.C and S.L. Benfica, along with many other teams and sports organisations across Europe, the United States, and Asia.

Cricket Australia is one of a handful of sporting organisations worldwide that Microsoft engineers are working with to develop and trial the platform.  The work we are doing together will help shape the use of data in other sports as well.

Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella with Australian cricket player, Glenn Maxwell and Cricket Australia CEO, James Sutherland
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella with Australian cricket player Glenn Maxwell and Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland

Sports analytics as a discipline is evolving through deep integration with technology. We not only want to help define and drive this evolution, but also feed in to the development of the world’s best practises in sport data analytics. We are the only cricket organisation involved, so we will be the first in our code to use the new platform. This work lines up neatly against our goal to produce the world’s best teams, events and officials.

We believe that Microsoft’s platform offers the very best in empowering enterprise computing; a visual and intuitive dashboard, running on a touch-friendly Surface device and bringing all of Window 10’s usability to the fore. This is the presentation layer of the scalable, high-performance platform runs in Microsoft Azure with Power BI customising the visual presentation, and leverages key machine-learning and predictive analytical capabilities that are baked into the team, player performance platform. This platform will consolidate the performance datasets we already have and provide us with a rich and integrated 360-degree view of our data. It will also add in new elements that will improve the way our coaches work with every player to ensure they play their best.

We believe that Microsoft’s platform offers the very best in empowering enterprise computing; a visual and intuitive dashboard, running on the touch-friendly Surface device and bringing all of Window 10’s usability to the fore.

The coaches will be helped by machine learning within the system, which will make recommendations and suggestions that will improve over time as more datasets come online. This is machine intelligence coming to life, leveraging Azure to refine coaching, training and wellbeing programs to help our cricketers compete internationally.  The results will play out on the field. It’s about giving our teams every possible edge.

Cricket is all about great teamwork and we already work closely with Microsoft on many different levels. The collaboration on the Microsoft platform, however, is really quite something. You don’t often get the chance to be involved in developing something that is really leading-edge in terms of both the different components involved and the end result.

In recent years, our digital transformation has produced some terrific results for our fans, participants, volunteers and employees. They might be at the ground, watching at home, keeping score through our mobile app at their local club, or bowling a few overs in the backyard or at the beach. Today, there are so many ways to enjoy the game.

Cricket Australia is thrilled to be trialling Microsoft’s team and player performance platform this summer, and looks forward to helping shape the future of sports analytics in Australia and around the world.