Artificial Intelligence in cricket’s landscape is here to stay

Artificial Intelligence in cricket’s landscape is here to stay
Photo used for illustrative purposes showing Delhi Capitals' Rasikh Salam plays a shot during the Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 cricket match between Delhi Capitals and Rajasthan Royals at the Arun Jaitley Stadium in New Delhi on May 7, 2024 (AFP)
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Updated 09 May 2024
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Artificial Intelligence in cricket’s landscape is here to stay

Artificial Intelligence in cricket’s landscape is here to stay
  • AI is transforming the way that matches are approached, played, and, increasingly, how teams are managed

The revelation that the England’s women’s cricket team used artificial intelligence in its selection process has attracted attention in the English press. It should not have done so. During the announcement of the England women’s squads to play Pakistan in May, the head coach, Jon Lewis, said that during the Ashes series in 2023, AI proved to be very helpful in several selections. As an example, a decision was made in relation to two players who were in very good form. They were equally selectable, but AI guided a borderline decision which proved to be crucial.

Purists will, no doubt, wring their hands at the thought of selectors abrogating responsibility to a machine outcome. If they fear that teams are being selected entirely by a machine rather than humans, they are likely to have to wait a little longer. Selectors and coaches remain people oriented, needing to understand a player’s individual state and motivation at any given time. Data about performance is used to supplement that knowledge. This has always been the case. Averages, though not perfect, have long been used to guide selection and many a captain and coach has kept a “black book” to record the strengths, weaknesses and idiosyncrasies of opponents.

However, enhanced computing power and programs, coupled with the recording of longer runs of historic data, have combined to create an explosion of analytical capability over the last 15 years. AI’s simulation of human intelligence, based on quick processing of large data sets, generates learning on which intelligent decisions can be made. Such outcomes can provide an objective view of what could happen in certain situations between a batter and a bowler, based upon what happened in previous encounters. This leads to so-called “matchups,” in which one or the other is targeted by someone they do not perform so well against. There is nothing new in this approach, but data analysis allows much more precise assessments to be made.

There are now armies of data analysts in cricket and T20 franchise tournaments have been at the root of their proliferation. This has been especially prevalent in India, driven by the Indian Premier League, the fervent interest in the game amongst the Indian population and the country’s ever burgeoning IT capabilities.

The use of AI outcomes is transforming the way that matches are approached, played, and, increasingly, how teams are managed. It is argued that better informed decisions will enhance human capabilities, particularly in situations where split-second decisions determine the outcome of a game. It is not easy to comprehend how AI is going to help a captain make a split-second decision on the last ball or two of a match. Surely, it is then down to human instinct and calculation.

In terms of selection, AI is already being used, especially in terms of attempting to generate matchups. One area in which it could present clarity is in assessing pitch conditions, a variable which can confound captains and match planners. Those who may resent AI’s growing influence must realize that it is already ubiquitous in the game.

An early manifestation was Hawk-Eye, back in 2001. This multi-camera setup tracks the flight of a ball and predicts what will happen to it next. It has been used in cricket for more than 20 years and is an integral part of the Decision Review System, now a fixture of cricket’s international landscape. Under this, a batter or fielding side can request that a decision of the on-field umpire can be reviewed by an off-field umpire using off-field technology. None of this would be possible to achieve without prior analysis of multiple previous examples of ball tracking.

There are less obvious applications of AI, at least to the spectator. Wearable technology is one. In cricket and other sports, wearables are used to monitor health and fitness. AI algorithms analyze the data to provide intelligence on a player’s health, injury potential and an appropriate training regime. In recruitment, much more detailed and extensive data is available for analysis than ever before about a player’s performance and suitability for a team.

One aspect of AI which fans will recognize is that of ever-increasing efforts to engage them more. Algorithms generate personalized content, manage ticket pricing and generate chatbots to provide real-time, personalized responses to queries, all aiming to enhance the overall fan experience. A part of this revolves around score and result prediction. These have become increasingly prevalent and accurate, of particular relevance to the betting community. They base calculations on how players and teams have performed against opposition previously and train the model accordingly.

If this is sounding too unlike some people’s previous understanding, association and understanding of cricket, in which uncertainty and unpredictability loomed large, then best gear up for the future. There, we can expect a leveraging of the most advanced technologies to T20 cricket. In-play algorithms will analyze in-game strategies, predict outcomes and suggest strategic adjustments. The age of the commentator is under threat.

Customized training programs for players will be augmented by their emotional and psychological state. They will train in virtual environments which simulate match conditions, including crowd noise. Wearables will incorporate sensors which provide real-time data on player health, performance and potential injury areas, with personal treatment plans and diets designed to ensure faster recovery. Clothing will adapt to weather conditions so as to maintain optimal temperatures (spectators might do the same!). Smart helmets will monitor impacts and send back data. Sensors on helmets and other equipment will provide more detailed data.

Already, every movement of every player is monitored on the field. Off-field monitoring is likely to increase. The players are well paid, so most are likely to accept. There has been concern in the 2024 IPL about the domination of bat over ball. One unnamed player suggested that a bowling machine should replace bowlers. However tongue in cheek the comment, the IPL seems headed toward a robotic future. The rest of the world needs to wake to this prospect.


800 athletes from 45 nations set for IMMAF Youth World Championships in Abu Dhabi

800 athletes from 45 nations set for IMMAF Youth World Championships in Abu Dhabi
Updated 8 sec ago
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800 athletes from 45 nations set for IMMAF Youth World Championships in Abu Dhabi

800 athletes from 45 nations set for IMMAF Youth World Championships in Abu Dhabi
  • The event will run from Aug. 6-10 at Mubadala Arena in Zayed Sports City

ABU DHABI: Preparations are well underway for the 2024 IMMAF Youth World Championships from Aug. 6 to 10 at Zayed Sports City, the organizing committee has announced.

The International Mixed Martial Arts Federation championship, to feature 800 athletes from 45 countries, will be held in the UAE capital for the third consecutive year.

In 2021, the tournament attracted 331 athletes from 23 countries, and in 2022 featured 500 competitors from 42 countries. Last year there were 700 male and female athletes from 45 countries.

The next generation of MMA athletes will compete in three age categories: 12 to 13 (Youth C), 14 to 15 (Youth B), and 16 to 17 (Youth A).

In 2022, the UAE National Team debuted in the championship with 28 athletes, winning one gold, one silver, and two bronze medals.

Last year, the UAE team comprised 40 athletes and clinched four gold, four silver, and four bronze medals. Fahad Al-Hammadi (Youth A/70.3 kg division), Ghala Al-Hammadi (Youth B/40 kg division), Saif Alblooshi (Youth C/40 kg division), and Zamzam Al-Hammadi (Youth B/52 kg division) were among the gold medalists for the hosts.

This year, the team comprises 50 athletes who will undergo intensive training over the next few weeks to enhance their mental and physical readiness under the guidance of international coaches.

The IMMAF’s President Kerrith Brown said recently he was looking forward to the championships. “Returning to Abu Dhabi is always a pleasure for us. The level of commitment of the entire team is truly inspiring and we are happy to report another record-breaking attendance number for this year.

“We are excited to continue to build a safe pathway for youngsters to develop as athletes and human beings and everyone can expect increased efforts from the IMMAF to continue making safeguarding a priority as we expand our youth tournaments around the globe.”

Mohammed bin Dalmouk Al-Dhaheri, board member of the UAE Jiu-Jitsu and Mixed Martial Arts Federation and chairman of the body’s Mixed Martial Arts Committee, said the UAE was honored to host the event.

“With less than two months remaining until the largest event that MMA fans worldwide look forward to, we are working hard to ensure that this edition comes out in the best possible way. The previous two editions saw great success and contributed to solidifying Abu Dhabi’s status as a much sought-after destination for major sporting events,” Al-Dhaheri said.


Afghanistan beat Bangladesh to reach T20 last four, Australia eliminated

Afghanistan beat Bangladesh to reach T20 last four, Australia eliminated
Updated 34 min 5 sec ago
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Afghanistan beat Bangladesh to reach T20 last four, Australia eliminated

Afghanistan beat Bangladesh to reach T20 last four, Australia eliminated
  • Afghanistan beat Bangladesh in dramatic eight-run victory in rain-affected clash in St. Vincent
  • Afghanistan will now face South Africa in first T20 World Cup semifinal in Trinidad on Wednesday 

Arnos Vale, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: Afghanistan advanced to their first-ever T20 World Cup semifinal after completing a dramatic eight-run victory over Bangladesh in a rain-affected clash at the Arnos Vale Stadium in St. Vincent on Monday.

Defending a modest total of 115 for five on a bowler-friendly surface, Afghan captain Rashid Khan belied three rain stoppages, a slippery ball and a revised target of 114 off 19 overs to take four for 23 as Bangladesh, who themselves harbored faint hopes of making the last four, were dismissed for 105 off 17.5 overs.

An unbeaten 54 from opener Litton Das was threatening to take Bangladesh to victory and earn Australia the last semifinal spot on net run-rate.

But pacer Naveen ul Haq claimed the last two wickets — Taskin Ahmed and Mustafizur Rahman — off consecutive deliveries in the penultimate over of the match to trigger delirious Afghan celebrations.

With India defeating Australia earlier in the day and advancing to the second semifinal against England in Guyana on Thursday, this result assured the Afghans of second spot in the group and eliminated the Aussies together with the Bangladeshis.

Afghanistan will now face South Africa in the first semifinal in Trinidad on Wednesday.


Rodriguez steers Colombia past Paraguay at Copa America

Rodriguez steers Colombia past Paraguay at Copa America
Updated 25 June 2024
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Rodriguez steers Colombia past Paraguay at Copa America

Rodriguez steers Colombia past Paraguay at Copa America
  • Colombia play Costa Rica in their second group game of the tournament on Friday, before wrapping up their first round campaign against Brazil on July 2

HOUSTON: James Rodriguez rolled back the years with a vintage performance to help Colombia open their Copa America campaign with a 2-1 victory over Paraguay in Houston on Monday.
Rodriguez, whose club career has languished in the decade since he rose to prominence with a dazzling performance at the 2014 World Cup, created both of his team’s goals in a deserved Group D victory at the NRG Stadium.
The 32-year-old midfielder, who has played just a handful of minutes for Brazilian club Sao Paulo in the two months leading into the Copa America, set up the opening goal for Colombia in the 32nd minute.
After finding space on the left flank, Rodriguez flighted a pinpoint cross to the far post to pick out Daniel Munoz, who beat Paraguay goalkeeper Rodrigo Morinigo with a firm downward header to make it 1-0.
Ten minutes later Colombia doubled their lead and again it was a goal engineered by the trusty left boot of Rodriguez.
This time the goal arrived from the opposite flank, with Rodriguez swinging in a wicked free-kick that was glanced in by Crystal Palace midfielder Jefferson Lerma.
That made it 2-0 at half-time to leave Colombia firmly on course to extend their unbeaten streak to 24 games.
Colombia continued to carve out the better chances in the second half, but Paraguay set up a nervy finish after Brighton and Hove Albion’s Julio Enciso pulled one back in the 69th minute.
Ramon Sosa crossed from the left and Enciso punished slack marking in the Colombia area to hook an angled first-time volley into the bottom corner past Camilo Vargas.
Colombia, however, controlled play after the Paraguay goal and looked the more threatening team.
The Colombians thought they had earned a penalty in the 84th minute when another teasing Rodriguez cross into the box ended with defender Yerry Mina appearing to be hauled down by Gustavo Velazquez.
Argentinian referee Dario Herrera pointed to the spot but subsequently overturned the decision after a VAR review.
Colombia play Costa Rica in their second group game of the tournament on Friday, before wrapping up their first round campaign against Brazil on July 2.
Brazil open their Copa America campaign against the Costa Ricans in Inglewood, California, later on Monday.


Zaccagni rescues Italy leaving Croatia in Euro 2024 limbo

Zaccagni rescues Italy leaving Croatia in Euro 2024 limbo
Updated 25 June 2024
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Zaccagni rescues Italy leaving Croatia in Euro 2024 limbo

Zaccagni rescues Italy leaving Croatia in Euro 2024 limbo

LEIPZIG, Germany: Mattia Zaccagni’s superb last-gasp strike fired Italy into the Euro 2024 knock-outs with a 1-1 draw against Croatia in a fraught Group B clash on Monday.

Italy progress in second place behind winners Spain and will face Switzerland in the last 16, while Croatia are on the verge of elimination but could still progress depending on other results later in the week.

With only two points it is unlikely Zlatko Dalic’s side will qualify as one of the four best third-place teams but it is still possible.

Croatia midfielder Luka Modric became the oldest goalscorer in the competition’s history with his strike after 55 minutes, just 33 seconds after Gianluigi Donnarumma saved the 38-year-old’s penalty.

It seemed enough for his team but Zaccagni whipped a brilliant strike into the top corner on the break in the 98th minute to send Italy through from what was dubbed a “group of death.”

After shipping five goals in the first two games, Dalic opted to shore up the midfield by bringing in Mario Pasalic and Luka Sucic amid four changes.

The coach also kept established trio of Luka Modric, Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic despite their struggles in the 3-0 defeat by Spain and 2-2 draw against minnows Albania.

Luciano Spalletti’s Italy beat Albania 2-1 but were dominated by Spain in a 1-0 defeat and the coach shifted to a 3-5-2 formation, dropping Juventus’ Federico Chiesa.

Croatia dominated the opening exchanges against a defensive Italy side knowing a draw would send them through in second place behind group winners Spain.

On his first start at the tournament 21-year-old RB Salzburg midfielder Sucic forced a fine early save from Italy’s Gianluigi Donnarumma with a vicious drive from range.

Azzurri forward Mateo Retegui’s header was deflected narrowly wide at the other end on a rare forray forward, with the two-time winners happy to slow the game down and waste time at corners and throw-ins as early as the 20th minute.

Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic made a stunning stop to thwart Alessandro Bastoni, found by Nicolo Barella’s tempting cross, as the holders gained control without taking risks.

Dalic, who steered Croatia to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup final and semis respectively, threw on powerful striker Ante Budimir for the second half.

It gave his team a focal point and they looked instantly more threatening and swiftly reaped their reward.

Italy substitute Davide Frattesi handled Andrej Kramaric’s effort and after a VAR review Croatia were given a penalty.

Donnarumma clawed out Real Madrid midfielder Modric’s effort but the veteran could not be denied 33 seconds later.

The Italian goalkeeper made another fine save in the aftermath from Budimir as Croatia kept the pressure up and Modric smashed home the rebound from close range.

He beat the previous record for oldest Euros goalscorer set in 2008 by Austrian Ivica Vastic by 32 days.

Modric was replaced with 10 minutes to go and even some Italy supporters afforded the playmaker an ovation, while they nervously eyed the ever-advancing clock.

Croatia thought they had progressed but Zaccagni broke their hearts in the eighth and final minute of stoppage time.


Spain complete perfect Euro 2024 group stage as Albania go out

Spain complete perfect Euro 2024 group stage as Albania go out
Updated 25 June 2024
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Spain complete perfect Euro 2024 group stage as Albania go out

Spain complete perfect Euro 2024 group stage as Albania go out
  • It is the first time since 2008 that Spain have won all three group games at either a World Cup or European Championship

DÜSSELDORF, Germany: An early Ferran Torres strike gave Spain’s second-string side a 1-0 win over Albania on Monday as the three-time champions finished the Euro 2024 group stage with a perfect record and the defeat eliminated their opponents.
Barcelona winger Torres finished off a fine move in the 13th minute in Duesseldorf to puncture the atmosphere in a stadium filled with a majority of noisy Albanian fans.
However, this game was not a cruise for a Spain team showing 10 changes to the side which started their 1-0 win over Italy four days earlier.
Spain had already secured top spot in Group B, but Albania knew they realistically needed a win to go through and that made for a frantic encounter at times, particularly as they pushed forward in the second half.
Despite their best efforts, Albania go home after picking up only one point and finishing bottom of a difficult section.
It is a regression for them from their debut European Championship appearance in 2016, when they also went out in the first round but did manage to win a game.
Beating a Spain side who have probably been the most impressive so far in Germany was always going to be a big ask for Albania, coached by former Barcelona left-back Sylvinho.
It is the first time since 2008 that Spain have won all three group games at either a World Cup or European Championship.
Coach Luis de la Fuente can now turn his full attentions to a last-16 tie in Cologne on Sunday against an as-yet unknown third-place finisher.
Center-half Aymeric Laporte was the only Spain player to keep his place following the Italy game, with key midfielder Rodri suspended and everyone else given a breather.
Goalkeeper David Raya, defender Dani Vivian, left-back Alejandro Grimaldo and midfielder Martin Zubimendi, all largely untested at international level, came in.
There was also a start for Jesus Navas, who was part of the Spain teams that won the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, and who is now 38.
Even Laporte was removed at half-time, replaced by Robin Le Normand, while Lamine Yamal and Alvaro Morata also appeared in the second half.
Albania, ranked 66th in the world, knew it would be a big ask to beat Spain having lost all of their eight previous meetings.
Spain first threatened in the 12th minute when Mikel Merino’s header was saved by goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha, and a minute later they were ahead.
Dani Olmo stepped into the space between the Albanian lines to receive a pass, and then fed a measured ball in behind for Torres to latch onto.
The former Manchester City player timed his run perfectly and finished with precision too, his first-time effort going in off the far post.
Torres has made a habit of scoring at these tournaments, having netted twice at the last Euros and twice at the 2022 World Cup.
It took Albania until the final minute of the half to test Raya, the Arsenal shot-stopper flying to his right to parry a powerful strike by Kristjan Asllani.
Joselu hooked a Grimaldo cross just wide moments after the restart for Spain, before the Albanian fans raised the noise levels as they became aware of events in the other match.
They were very close to equalising when substitute Armando Broja met an Asllani free-kick and tried to lob Raya, but the goalkeeper saved.
Asllani then fizzed an effort just wide, and Broja was again denied by Raya in stoppage time as Albania bowed out.