Microsoft is looking to bring big changes to English cricket as the sport looks to inspire a new generation of players.
Typically seen as a paragon of tradition, with its stereotypes of genteel village surroundings, crisp whites and afternoon tea, the ECB, the governing body of cricket in England and Wales is now looking to Microsoft to help encourage a digital revolution.
The two organisations have signed a wide-ranging deal that the ECB, which oversees more than 2.5 million recreational players and 50,000 volunteers, hopes will bring the game firmly into the modern day.
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The partnership forms part of the ECB's aim to encourage the growth of cricket across England and Wales through its "Inspiring Generations" five-year plan as it looks to become a digital-first organisation.
“This partnership has the potential to transform every level of our game," noted Tom Harrison, ECB CEO. "The ability to drive innovation across high performance cricket will support the continued excellence of our elite teams, and the opportunities we will provide together across the whole recreational cricketing community will improve the life chances of many young people and adults.
“We could not have a better partner than Microsoft as we look to put technology at the heart of our business, develop the culture of the game and bring our purpose to life.”
The partnership will focus on three main areas - High Performance, Cricket Communities and Cultural Transformation - covering all levels of the game.
High Performance will see the ECB and Microsoft investigate how using technology such as AI, real-time data and analytics can help the various elite England teams improve and find that extra edge over the competition.
At a club level, the ECB will also work with Microsoft to explore how ball-tracking technology can help to unearth the next generation of elite cricketers and provide more opportunities for diverse talent across the whole game.
Finally at a grassroots level, Microsoft's "Get On" campaign will see the ECB help support a push to help 1.5 million people build careers in technology by 2024 by pushing out digital skills training across local cricket communities.
“Microsoft is proud to support the England and Wales Cricket Board in its quest to become a digital-first organisation that can meet the needs and expectations of fans and players now and in the future," said Clare Barclay, CEO of Microsoft UK.
"A key aspect of our work together is to create long-lasting economic change in local communities by helping people acquire digital skills so vital to their futures. This partnership is a great example of how we at Microsoft can fulfil our mission of empowering people and organisations around the world to achieve more.”