This article was contributed to TechCabal by Bonface Orucho via bird story agency.

A digital makeover for South Africa’s cricket ecosystem could be in the works, leveraging artificial intelligence and blockchain technology to increase the popularity of the sport among fans while creating new revenue streams for fans, players and brands.

Results of a pilot collaboration between LootMogul, an Indian sports technology company, Cricket South Africa and the Durban Super Giants have revealed an increase in fan engagement with cricket gaming platforms, pointing to the potential impact digitisation could yield for the sport.

According to Vibhu Srivastava, the digital marketing head at LootMogul, “it indicates the significant potential for future business opportunities.”

Results from the month-long pilot were unveiled on February 23 by LootMogul.

After deploying an AI, blockchain and metaverse-led strategy, an average of 4.05 million platform visits were recorded in one month. These translate to 48,177 average new monthly games played and a 242.5% rise in the number of games played per month.

The collaboration sought to bridge the boundaries between the physical and digital worlds of cricket, offering a holistic and immersive experience to fans.

Notably, the partnership with the duo involves creating digital twins of South African stadiums, players, and all features of the sport. The digital maps are packaged as games on websites and applications, allowing fans to experience a virtual yet realistic experience of being in the heart of cricket action.

According to LootMogul, the interactive gaming platform feature facilitates fans’ engagement with the sport beyond live matches, creating a year-round connection with the sport.

Cricket South Africa and LootMogul announced the partnership on December 5, while the deal with the Durban Super Giants was announced in January when LootMogul was unveiled as the official Cricket Metaverse Gaming Partner.

South Africa has been a major force in the world of cricket ever since the first visit by a touring British test side, in 1888. Targeted with sanctions during the country’s Apartheid era, cricket took off after 1994 as a sport for all South Africans and the country currently stands at number five in the world test rankings and number three in the one-day international (ODI) rankings.

However, domestically, the sport languishes behind others like football and rugby as a spectator sport and Cricket South Africa is looking to improve the sport’s fanbase.

The digitisation drive, anchored on technology and the use of AI, promises to strike a connection between fans and the sport, leading to an increased appeal for the sport among the fans.

The opportunity for fan growth in South Africa is clear from the global rise in the sport’s popularity, with cricket’s inclusion in the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles underscoring an expanding global influence. 

“This is a leap into the future of cricket. It is not just about enhancing the game; it is about revolutionising the fan experience,” SA Cricket’s Chief Executive Officer, Pholetsi Moseki, remarked in December during the rollout of the programme.

The use of AI in cricket is the latest addition in Africa to what has been a growing application of AI in sports, from player analytics to statistics assessment to game management.

The successful initial application of AI in cricket in South Africa also points to the potential in other countries on the continent where cricket is a major sport, such as Zimbabwe, Namibia and Kenya.

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