As Kyle Abbott ripped his way through the Australian batting order in Hobart, amidst a ruthless South African hammering, Satya Nadella stood at the Melbourne Cricket Ground crease.
With national pride at stake, and a country suffering severe embarrassment, the Microsoft CEO struck a deal with Cricket Australia to trial an intelligent coaches’ platform, designed to lift performance management to a new level.
And following an effortless series win from the visiting Proteas, Nadella’s timing couldn’t be better.
Through the deployment of a new performance analytics - to be trialled 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 visualisations to better manage the huge volume of performance data tracked by Cricket Australia, reporting on athlete and team wellness, and even set intelligent alerts.
“When I say brand new, I mean it,” Cricket Australia head of technology, Michael Osborne, said.
“Cricket Australia is one of a handful of sporting organisations worldwide that Microsoft engineers are working with to develop and trial the new platform.”
Armed with a digital transformation agenda, Osborne said the organisation - through its Fair Play Athlete Management System - has the ability to collect a vast amount of data surrounding its athletes.
“We aim to unlock the insights buried in that data and make this data more actionable,” he explained.
“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.”
As a discipline, Osborne said sports analytics is evolving through deep integration with technology, with plans now in place to 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,” he added. “This work lines up neatly against our goal to produce the world’s best teams, events and officials.”
From a technology perspective, Osborne said 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,” he said.
“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,” Osborne added.
“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.”
The platform will consolidate the performance datasets Cricket Australia already has, providing an integrated 360-degree data view in the process.
Nadella announced the agreement on day one of his first trip to Australia as Microsoft CEO, ahead of his keynote address to 1,000 developers on November 16.
As reported by ARN, Nadella will outline how the vendor is engaging with developers to help shape the future with an intelligent cloud platform and artificial intelligence.