By Ramola Talwar Badam
MUMBAI: Will the Kiwis beat the English at the cricket World Cup in the Caribbean on Friday? Will Australia return to form against South Africa next week?
Seven Indians may know late Wednesday that’s when a computer model formulated especially for the World Cup will begin spewing out results.
During it’s first try Tuesday, the computer model developed by Mumbai’s Fractal Analytics Ltd. earned its billing as cricket’s crystal ball. It not only predicted West Indies would beat Pakistan in the World Cup’s inaugural match, but it also forecast the exact scores of West Indies captain Brian Lara and Pakistan skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq.
Fractal specializes in predicting customer and employee behaviour for clients that includes banks and consumer goods companies in Asia and the United States.
“We began with cricket in January just for fun and found we had a 70% success rate,” said Mukesh Budania, a consultant at Fractal.
“The model has data of 2,523 one-day matches and we have trained the model to learn from the data about variables like the team’s and opposition’s performance,” he said.
The model analyses a batsman or bowler’s performance in the last few matches, then compares this with earlier stages in their career when they were exhibiting similar form and comes up with a likely performance chart.
The Fractal team correctly called New Zealand’s surprise victories over Australia last month, but “nobody trusted us then,” Budania said.
“Now with so much attention, there is more pressure to get the results right,” he added.
So far, they haven’t given their doubters much ammunition.
Fractal correctly predicted that Lara would be out for 37 and Inzamam for 36 on Tuesday.
But were they wrong in forecasting a tight victory for West Indies? The team scored a resounding 54-run win over Pakistan.
Cricket remains a game of chance, Budania said, and their model cannot predict dropped catches or run-outs.
“There are a few things you can predict like the form of a batsman, the team’s performance,” he said. “But to keep the fun in the game we should fail sometimes.”
And no, they don’t know who will lift the Cup. That will depend entirely on the last match played, Budania said.
Fractal will wait awhile before it decides to market the software. “Why not? ” he said. “We could think of marketing this tool to the sports companies or cricket boards.”
Bookies have not yet begun calling but Budania says Fractal will make sure the model ends up in “the right hands, not the bookies.”
As for personal bets, Budania says neither he nor his colleagues are placing any. And until the predictions are printed the day before each match in Mumbai’s DNA newspaper.