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How AI helps us be on the ball with sporting insights

Cricket is multi-faceted, sophisticated and generates a deluge of data. From bowling averages to strike rates, fans delight in poring over the player and match statistics that each game produces.

Now the latest generation of artificial intelligence tools is gleaning new insights from that data, with the potential to make the game even more dynamic.

New Zealand-based digital agency, NV Interactive (NV), has been a leader in cricket analytics since 2006, when it developed the infrastructure for CricInfo, the world’s largest cricket live scorer.

NV then partnered with New Zealand Cricket to deliver their website, ball-by- ball live scoring, mobile apps, high- performance video analysis, match reporting and more.

That work put NV on the radar of the country that invented the game, with the England and Wales Cricket Board last year approaching NV about developing a cricket-scoring platform for the top 2000 UK clubs.

With the UK cricket season looming, NV had to produce one of its most complex products yet, to a tight deadline.

It turned to Microsoft’s Azure platform and suite of AI and machine learning tools to get the job done.

NV’s code base was already built on Azure, so it made sense to apply the leading cloud platform to take the statistical analysis NV had been using for the national and first-class level of the game, to the very top end of the sport.

The result was NV Play, the world’s most comprehensive, live cricket scoring and statistical analysis.

NV Play provides high-performance platform video highlights from cameras set up around the cricket grounds, as well as pitchside analytics that allow players, coaches, and other users to capture data on their own device.

NV Play even offers statistical modelling to predict scores and winners, as well as performance insights crucial for coaching and player development.

“We had a broader vision of leveraging leading-edge technology to enhance the game of cricket,” says Matt Pickering, NV Interactive’s managing director.

“Due to the flexibility of the Azure platform and the incredible efforts of the NV team, we were able to deliver a robust solution within three months that was both on time and within budget.”

The Platform as a Service nature of Azure’s cloud offering also meant that NV Play could quickly scale up to meet demand.

With far higher adoption than anticipated throughout the first UK cricket season and NV Play forecast to be adopted by the majority of top UK clubs by the start of next season, NV knows Azure can deliver the capacity and infrastructure required.

Even better, NV Play version 2.0 went live at the start of summer for the Kiwi cricket season, helping players and coaches up their game too. This type of AI and machine learning powered by Azure could also help discover the next Kane Williamson
or Trent Boult.

“That’s our motivation,” says Pickering. “Helping people to discover and enjoy the game in inspiring new ways.”

To find out more about NV and their digital journey, visit nvinteractive.com.

For more information on how Microsoft Azure technologies can deliver new insights for your organisation visit, https://news.microsoft.com/en-nz/2018/12/11/sport-technical-innovation/.

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