Cricket Scores a Six With Digital
- By Lachlan Colquhoun
- August 21, 2023
For over 100 years, scoring records for local and community teams playing cricket in Australia were kept in the traditional A3 formatted scorebooks with entries usually made with a lead pencil.
The team scorer kept the books, which were immediately consigned to the club archive when the season finished, only to be brought out for the occasional re-union.
The scorers would also tally up all the performance stats and publish team averages at the end of each season, with the main innovation being the addition of a spreadsheet.
Today, that has all changed as the game's peak body, Cricket Australia, has pursued its own digital transformation, with one key goal being heightened engagement to drive the recruitment of new players and collecting accurate data down to the game's grassroots.
Participation rates have fallen in recent years, and cricket, which has long been the dominant summer sport in Australia, now has intense competition from a range of other sports and recreational activities.
Cricket Australia is looking to its digital strategy to promote the game to the public and the broader fan base and provide sophisticated digital record-keeping and analysis tools and put these into the hands of teams playing at all levels.
Australia has around 600,000 registered cricket players and over 3500 teams, and an obsession with statistics and averages has always been a vital part of the game.
The organization has been accused of poor data keeping, which has hampered its credibility with sponsors.
In 2019, Cricket Australia conceded that its poor data made calculating player numbers a "guessing game" because individual records were not being collected and "we're making a lot of assumptions based on team numbers; we're not really talking about unique players."
To address this issue, the game's governing body has turned to digital technology to improve its data integrity and the experience for users – fans and players at all levels.
Last week, Cricket Australia announced it was extending its contract with Indian IT services company HCL Technologies for its next digital transformation phase to deliver immersive digital experiences to players, partners and fans worldwide.
"The teams can not only do their scoring digitally, but they can post live updates, show video highlights and live stream a match"
HCLTech, which began working with Cricket Australia in 2019, will implement automation, analytics, artificial intelligence, and DevOps to the Cricket Australia Live and PlayCricket apps.
“HCLTech has already supported us in transforming our tech stack and improving Australian Cricket’s participant and fan digital experiences. The extension of this partnership and the world-class technology it provides will help cricket maintain and improve its place as the leading sport in the country,” said Donald Elliott, general manager at Australian Cricket Technology.
HCLTech and Cricket Australia have also collaborated to bring together data scientists, developers, and sports enthusiasts through the crowdsourcing initiative TechJam, in association with Microsoft.
"When we started working with Cricket, the community cricket app, which is now rebranded as PlayCricket, was sitting at a rating of 2.2 on the App Store, and there are still some old reviews from people who were not very happy with it," explains Michael Horton, HCL Technologies country head for Australia and NZ.
"So we've completely revamped and rebuilt the app for the community side of things, and it is now accessed 150,000 times per minute in summer, and it's currently rated at 4.7 and is listed at number 274 among sporting apps globally.
"Now, the teams can not only do their scoring digitally, but they can post live updates, show video highlights, and live stream a match if they want. Some people are even using drones to help film the match as part of the production box application, so it’s really taking off.”
Checking on the kids
A surprising number of international users are visiting the app, many of whom are from cricket-mad India.
Australia is home to an increasing Indian population. Michael Horton believes that besides checking the news on topflight cricket, many Indian views are from relatives and friends interested to know how family members in Australia are performing with their cricket at lower levels.
“I think some of the traffic is grandparents in India logging on to see how their grandkids are going,” he says.
“They have the potential with the app to see this live.”
Horton says there are significant opportunities in the next phase of the rollout.
One is adding functionalities and improvements around analytics and making some of the technology used by the most elite sporting teams available to those playing at community and grassroots levels.
Then there is the potential for monetizing the traffic, but this will be a decision for Cricket Australia, a non-profit organization with a mission statement to grow and nurture the game.
Regardless of what Cricket Australia decides to do with monetizing its increased traffic, there is no doubt that digital tools are critical to maintaining the game's strength and growing its engagement, participation and popularity.
Lachlan Colquhoun is the Australia and New Zealand correspondent for CDOTrends and the NextGenConnectivity editor. He remains fascinated with how businesses reinvent themselves through digital technology to solve existing issues and change their business models. You can reach him at [email protected].
Image credit: iStockphoto/allanswart