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Anil Kumble gives AI spin to cricket

By Romita Majumdar
Last updated on: October 15, 2018 19:45 IST
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The Power Bat is a visiting-card sized sticker on the shoulder of the bat that captures the speed of impact, quality of the shot and other parameters when the batsman hits the ball.
Romita Majumdar reports.

IMAGE: Anil Kumble, cricket legend, with Microsoft Executive Vice-President Peggy Johnson.Photograph: PTI

In the sports comedy film Chain Kulii Ki Main Kulii, the protagonist Karan, a 13-year-old orphan boy, gets hold of an old bat one day while playing street cricket, which he believes is the one cricket legend Kapil Dev used to lead India to victory in the 1983 World Cup.

Using this 'magic bat', he even makes it to the then struggling Indian team, even at that tender age, becoming a cricketing sensation though he soon realises that it's not the bat but the cricketing skills he possesses that makes him a genius.

It was, however, the plot of a typical Hindi movie then. But the use of technologies like Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and Cloud has now actually helped design such a bat, christened as the 'Power Bat'.


Microsoft's Power Bat to revolutionize cricketing experience for players and fans.

IMAGE: Anil Kumble with former cricketers Robin Uthappa, left, V V S Laxman and Ian Bishop to his left, Microsoft's Peggy Johnson to his right, and others at the launch of Power Bat. Photograph: Kind courtesy Anil Kumble/Facebook

Launched last week by the global technology giant Microsoft Corporation, former cricketer Anil Kumble's technology start-up Spektacom Technologies, and Star India, 'Power Bat' is basically a batting performance tracking device, which is powered by the Microsoft Azure platform using AI and IoT technologies.

It provides players, coaches, commentators, fans and viewers with a unique way to engage with the sport and help improve the game.

The 'Power Bat' is a visiting-card sized, Microsoft Azure Sphere-powered sticker, which is stuck on the shoulder of the bat.

In a live match, as soon as the batsman hits the ball, the data on different parameters (speed on impact, twist on impact, quality of the shot, and proximity of the ball's contact to the sweet spot of the willow) are captured in a new unit of measurement titled 'Power Speks', and are then communicated real-time via a device on the stump (bot).

Using advanced analytics and AI services on Azure, real-time insights are captured through the stump box and displayed via the broadcaster.

During practice or coaching, the same data can also be viewed through a mobile app without a stump bot, claim these companies.

"Our vision is to bring sports closer to fans through interesting ways of engagement using real-time sports analytics. At the same time, it is important that the technologies used are seamless and do not disrupt the game or obstruct players," says Kumble, legendary leg-spinner, former captain and coach.

Apart from Star India (which already holds major cricket tournament broadcast licenses), Spektakom also hopes to rope in Fox Sports (Australia) to ensure maximum reach across the cricket viewer base.

Although the technology introduced by Spektacom has its first use case in cricket, the company will explore other use cases within and outside cricket in due course, adds Kumble.

Photograph: Kind courtesy Anil Kumble/Facebook

The PowerBat technology debuted with Star Sports as a part of the IPL series with the Power Shot Challenge that showed commentators the possibility of the technology. It was subsequently tested in the Tamil Nadu Premier League.

Cricketers like Abhinav Mukund, Arun Karthik and Kaushik Gandhi used it during the entire TNPL tournament.

Spektakom is yet to announce a monetisation plan for the commercial launch of the technology.

Currently, the company hopes to increase adoption via their broadcast partnership with Star India.

"We've already seen the impact that connected devices have had in other industries, and we believe that with the advancements in our AI and Cloud services, this is just the beginning of what's possible for not only in cricket, but in all sports," says Microsoft Executive Vice-President Peggy Johnson.

Microsoft is currently powering sports tech-based solutions for the likes of LaLiga, NFL, Nascar, PGA, and Formula One among others.

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Romita Majumdar
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