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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella plays cricket. (Microsoft Photo)

Microsoft deepened its connection to cricket and continued its edge computing push on Thursday, announcing a new smart cricket bat developed in partnership with Indian cricket legend Anil Kumble.

The Power Bat is a connected bat that uses a non-obtrusive 5-gram Azure Sphere-powered sticker to capture real-time data on various parameters such as speed on impact, twist on impact, and quality of the shot as measured by proximity to the sweet spot. The data is sent to a mobile app so broadcasters and coaches can assess in real time.

Microsoft worked with Kumble, a former Indian cricket team captain and engineer by education, and his company, Spektacom Technologies, to create the bat. Spektacom is developing sensor technology as part of Microsoft’s ScaleUp program in Bangalore, India.

They are also working with broadcast partner Star India, which is using the technology to show fans real-time stats during the broadcast.

The Power Bat. (Microsoft Photo)

“We’re excited to be a part of the work Spektacom and Star India are doing to enhance the cricket experience for fans, players and coaches,” Peggy Johnson, executive vice president, Microsoft, said in a statement. “We’ve already seen the impact that connected devices have had in other industries, and we believe that with the advancements in our AI and cloud services, this is just the beginning of what’s possible for not only cricket, but all sports.”

This is part of a trend of putting sensors in sports equipment, with the goal of collecting new data and insights. Just this week, ShotTracker announced that its sensor-based system — which includes wearables and a smart basketball — will be used in a NCAA basketball tournament next month. The NFL began putting chips inside footballs last season.

It’s also the latest example of Microsoft’s “intelligent edge” idea, which moves more of the data crunching to IoT devices at the “edge” of a cloud in order to improve performance.

Microsoft has a long history with cricket. The company’s employees — many who hail from cricket crazy countries like India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Australia, Bangladesh, West Indies, South Africa, and England — have been playing games on its Redmond, Wash. campus for years. Microsoft is building a dedicated cricket ground in the middle of the campus as part of a redevelopment project.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella holds a Kookaburra cricket ball given to him by GeekWire Editor Todd Bishop at the 2017 GeekWire Summit. (GeekWire Photo / Dan DeLong)

Cricket — a bat-and-ball game originating in southern England in the 16th century — remains an oddity for most Americans, but the passion runs deep in Britain and many of its former colonies, where the sport takes on an almost religious-like following.

One of Microsoft’s biggest cricket fans is the company’s CEO, Satya Nadella, who has had a passion for the game since childhood and was able to test the Power Bat during early development. Speaking at the 2017 GeekWire Summit, Nadella explained how cricket has taught him leadership lessons he’s carried over to the workplace.

Nadella recounted a story from a particular cricket match when he was “bowling trash” — so poorly that his captain took him out of the game.

But minutes later, the captain gave Nadella the ball back and told him to get back in the match. It’s a moment that has stuck with him to this day.

“Why did he do that?” Nadella explained. “He could have just broken all my confidence and thrown me off the team, but for some reason, he decided to give me the ball back. That ability, that sensibility of what leaders can do to bring teams along to do their best work — that’s what we can learn from team sport.”

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