Cricket World Cup 2015: When cricket married predictive analytics

Predictive analytics in sport is not new, but it’s a novel move in cricket. While some of the software tools were being used by the coaching staff of various teams for some time now, fan engagement of that nature has been something of a new beginning

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Leading into the quarter finals of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, this year’s tournament was hailed as the most digitally advanced in history studded with 3 million downloads of the official mobile app. ICC, along with SAP, housed the fastest ever live scores available online through what was called the Match Centre which allowed fans across the globe to closely track the matches and players in an insightful way.

One among the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) key priorities from a fan engagement point of view was to deliver real-time statistics through the mobile app. And this time they went beyond the obvious. Predictive analytics in sport is not new, but it’s a novel move in cricket. While some of those  software tools were being used by the coaching staff of various teams for some time now, fan engagement of that nature has been something of a new beginning.

Will Wahab Riaz come around the wicket during the batting power play? Does Rohit Sharma hook during the first 10 overs? Does Steve Smith prefer to face off spinners? The ICC used SAP’s HANA Cloud Platform to put together statistics that fans could use to derive conclusions on their own in some of these matters. And plus these stats were being updated every minute or so, for the benefit of the fans.

Over the past year, the ICC has increased its focus on the use of analytics in the sport, especially when coming to the relationship with the supporters. SAP, on the other hand, has increased its focus on media, sports and entertainment and has carved a separate vertical for it. The vertical was set up roughly 18 months ago but its importance within SAP has grown considerably and with opportunities galore the IT major has decided to explore its potential to the fullest.

“We saw a great opportunity to work with ICC. The idea was to help them simplify the manner in which they analyse and share data with their fans. It is clear that this year’s World Cup got much closer to the fans than the previous editions,” Scott Russell, COO, SAP Asia Pacific Japan told FE. SAP’s endeavour has been to maximise player and team performance with the help of its analytical tools while also simplifying venue handling.

In fact the data a fan can search for, trying to compare and contrast players and teams, is just about the same way how coaches and stars use the stats for on field performances. What ICC has done is to remove the existing restrictions for the fans by using these software tools effectively.

Earlier fans couldn’t do much more than go through match fixtures, player profiles etc but now they are able to watch highlights, replays, stump camera vision and trajectory of the deliveries via the Match Centre driven by SAP HANA and Lumira. The ICC also plans to examine social media data for insights into the kind of stuff that keeps fans happy when it comes to tweeting about a particular match or a certain player or team.

Not surprisingly ICC CEO Dave Richardson is a happy man. “The event web site is fully responsive, adapting to all devices, with cutting-edge design making all the tournament’s details accessible, informative and engaging for cricket fans all around the world. The Match Centre presented by SAP, available across both platforms, houses the fastest live scores available anywhere online. Thanks to the work we are doing with partners like SAP, we are allowing fans around the world unprecedented access to more closely follow the action of the World Cup and their favourite players,” he said in Melbourne earlier this month.

“It’s not the flying starts, but it’s the flying finishes that will determine the outcome of this World Cup. It’s also about who has the best bowling attack,” said legendary Australian wicketkeeper-batsman Adam Gilchrist. “Hence many of the teams have studied the bowling attacks of the various sides very carefully this time. Look at Mohd Shami of  India. He’s been a revelation at this World Cup,” he said.

The next ICC World Cup is sure to see an even greater technology play, as analytics is here to stay.

(The correspondent was in Melbourne on an invitation by SAP)

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