18 Dec 2018 19:37 IST

XLRI holds first ever ‘MathSport Asia 2018’ conclave

Conference delves into role of mathematical and statistical analysis in various sports

XLRI-Xavier School of Management recently organised the first ever ‘MathSport Asia 2018’ Conclave from December 10-12. The three-day conference, held at the XLRI campus in Jamshedpur, showcased research related to mathematical modelling in sports.

It is the inaugural conference of a series of biennial conferences that will be held across Asia, under the aegis of MathSport Asia — a group of academicians and practitioners interested in the promotion and development of the application of mathematics, statistics and computing in sports in Asia.

Participating in the meet were leading researchers in the field of sports analytics like, Prof Tim Swartz of Simon Fraser University, Canada; Prof Steven Stern of Bond University, Australia; Prof Dries Goossens of Ghent University, Belgium and Prof Nobuyoshi Hirotsu of Juntendo University, Japan. It also featured practitioners from the field of sports analysis, such as Kokum Weeratunga from Victoria University/ Tennis Australia, S Ramakrishnan from Sportsmechanics India Pvt Ltd, Gaurav Khilari from Jamshedpur Football Club, Amit Kini from Sportzinteractive and Sanjog Gupta from Star Sports as speakers.

Range of issues

The three-day conference discussed Mathematical Models in Sports; Performance Measures and Models; Optimisation in Sports; Statistics and Probability Models; Match Outcome Models;, Competitive Strategy; Game Theoretical Models; Optimal Tournament Design and Scheduling; Decision Support Systems; Analysis of Rules and Adjudication; Econometric Modelling of Sports; Analysis of Sporting Technologies; Mathematics Education and Sport; Computationally Intensive Methods; Financial Valuation in Sports; E-sports (gaming), and Betting and Sports.

In his welcome address, Fr. E Abraham SJ, Director, XLRI said, “Sports in India is both big business and democracy in action. Cricket, football, hockey and recently kabaddi have become a craze generating large revenues. Mathematics, on its part, impacts our daily life and fosters the development of new techniques to solve problems for individuals, businesses, and governments. Mathematics also plays a large role in the efficacy of sports.

“Coaches across sports are constantly trying to find ways to get the most out of their athletes, and the most ingenious coaches turn to mathematics for help. One of the earliest and most successful applications of algorithmic thinking has been in professional sports. Our professors at XLRI have started this unique MathSport Asia 2018, the first of its kind in Asia. It was heartening for us to see an overwhelming response to MathSport Asia from around the globe.”

Long tradition

Explaining how Mathsport was brought to Asia, and to XLRI Jamshedpur, Uday Damodaran, Professor, XLRI, and Conference Chair, said: “Asia, the largest and most populous continent on Earth, has a long tradition of sports. Traditional Asian sports like wrestling and archery survive even today in forms unchanged over centuries. The globalisation of sport has brought new sports, coaching techniques and methods to the continent. MathSport Asia seeks to play the role of a catalyst in encouraging the use of Mathematical and Statistical Analysis in Sports in Asia by organising conferences and research in the area and facilitating its dissemination. MathSport Asia will also seek to promote the teaching of mathematics and statistics using sports. Despite being the first conference of its type, the response we received was overwhelming.”

Analytics

The first keynote speaker on Day 1, Prof Tim Swartz, discussed his contribution tosports analytics over the last 20 years; which was followed by the technical sessions where researchers from different parts of India and abroad presented papers on mathematical applications in sports like football, tennis, chess, cricket and even on e-sports.

A question answer session was held with Jamshedpur Football Club and former Australian World Cup/ EPL great Tim Cahill. While answering the questions of the researchers, he explained about the role of analytics in football.

The speaker for the next session was Prof Steven Stern of Bond University, Australia. Prof Stern is the current custodian of the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method used in cricket. He gave a presentation on rescheduling targets in truncated matches.

The Practitioners’ Session in the evening, titled ‘Sports Live’ had professionals talking sports analysis. At the session, presentations were by Amey Kolekar of High Performance Centre (HPC) of Tata Steel Sports Academy and Gaurav Khilari, Video Analyst, Jamshedpur Football Club. The day’s events concluded with stadium visit to the Tata Steel Sports complex.

Game theory, fan engagement

The second day’s events comprised of plenary sessions by Prof Goossens, who spoke on the scheduling of the Belgian soccer league; and Prof Hirotsu, who delivered a talk on applying game theory in different sports.

The technical sessions, where researchers from around the globe presented research papers and discussed cricket, football, cycling, fan engagement in social media, athletics, rugby, and so on, was followed by a talk by Ramakishan, the first person to bring maths to sports in India. He spoke on “Birth and Growth of Sports Technology and Analytics in India”. This was followed by a presentation by Amit Kini of Sportzinteractive on fan engagement in sports.

The concluding event of the day was a demonstration of ‘sekkor’, an indigenous tribal game of Jharkhand.

Formulating strategy

Day 3 of the conference commenced with a plenary talk by Kokum Weeratunga, Data Scientist, Game Insight Group (GIG), Victoria University, Australia, and Tennis Australia, in which he explained how practitioners use data analytics to come up with a prescription that can help formulate strategies in different sports.

The second plenary talk of the day was delivered by Sanjog Gupta, who explained how sports analytics has changed the way in which sports is presented before TV audiences, especially with reference to cricket.

In the technical sessions, researchers brainstormed in discussions and presented research papers on mathematical applications in sports such as cricket, netball, tennis, European football, and so on. The event concluded with a visit to JRD Tata Sports Complex for an Indian Super League soccer match.