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How HCL aims to transform the game of cricket with TechJam

How HCL aims to transform the game of cricket with TechJam
Michael Horton, HCL executive VP and country manager for Australia and New Zealand  |  Photo Credit: HCL Technologies
21 Jul, 2021

HCL Technologies, one of the big four Indian information technology (IT) services firms, is set to host TechJam -- a global hackathon of sorts -- in partnership with Cricket Australia and Microsoft. The agenda of the event, starting July 22, is to crowdsource future-ready technology solutions from sport enthusiasts, data scientists, analysts, developers, coders and technology innovators to transform the game of cricket. 

But the question is, how can advanced technologies mesh with cricket, a game that has been around for nearly 150 years? 

Well, according to Michael Horton, HCL executive vice president and country manager for Australia and New Zealand, it’s not about where we are but where we can go! 

“The idea behind TechJam is to help Cricket Australia improve in three key areas -- game performance, fan engagement, and community engagement,” Horton told TechCircle.

The teams participating in the event will be provided with data sets, including 20 years of player performance statistics and cricketing ecosystem insights, maintained by Cricket Australia. Using this information, the participants will have to come up with prototypes that would use emerging technologies and solve challenges faced in the three identified areas. 

In the game performance category, Horton explained, past performance data can be leveraged to create systems that could help the current Australian cricket team improve its performance on the field. “For instance, there could be artificial intelligence (AI) based solutions that could use analytics and historical data to help the team better strategize which players to select for a particular game against a particular opponent or how they should organize the team to play in particular conditions,” he said. 

He added, the participants may even come up with tools that could use weather patterns to forecast where matches should be hosted during a particular time of the year. This could ensure smooth running of the game, without bad weather disruptions like those we saw during the recent World Test Championship final.  

Similarly, in the fan engagement category, the teams would have to use the provided data to put themselves in the shoes of fans and see what technology solutions can be added across digital platforms so that the experience gets maximized while operational disruptions, if any, are minimized. For community engagement, the participants would have to deliver solutions capable increasing participation rate, particularly in the younger talent areas. 

“Community engagement solutions, among other things, could include tools aimed at helping grassroot-level officials and coaches with managing their teams, ground booking, and keeping track of player performance,” Horton said. 

If none of the three categories match the solution of any team, they could also go for a Wildcard entry – an open innovation challenge track, in which teams are welcome to come up with their own idea for TechJam. 

The registrations for the event opened on June 14, with more than 150 teams enrolling for different challenges. They will start submitting their projects starting July 22. Microsoft, on its part, will be providing Azure as the platform sandbox to test the proposed solutions. The last day for submission is September 2, following which the projects will be judged by an expert panel.  

The panel will assess the prototypes on the basis of technical execution, challenge fit, and innovation, and select 32 finalists who will pitch their solutions live on September 9. The team that stands out from the batch of 32 will get a cash prize of $15,000 while the first and second runner ups will get $10,000 and $5,000, respectively. 

The total prize pool for TechJam is $40,000. 

“HCL, Cricket Australia and Microsoft will work with the teams to help them, first of all, get their solution running so it can be demonstrated appropriately. Then, we will also give them help to get market ready should the solution go into practice,” Horton added. 

Since 2019, the IT services major has had a multi-year partnership with Cricket Australia, serving as the official digital technology partner for scaling the organization’s digital transformation initiatives. Over these years, HCL has helped Cricket Australia enhance its existing technical infrastructure and come up with newer versions of the Cricket Australia Live app.

The platform has seen significant growth in the wake of the pandemic, recording 700,000 users and millions of interactions on any match day, Horton said. 

“The other area that we've been working on is the grassroots platform which is more like the community engagement area. There is an existing app, My Cricket, which we’re looking to enhance to help anyone involved in community cricket have a better experience of running their teams and managing people effectively,” he said. 

In the first quarter of financial year 2021-2022, HCL Technologies reported a 15.5% year-on-year increase in revenues to $2.7 billion. Net income stood at $436 million with a 12.8% year-on-year growth.