Though known nationally as a cricket hero, MS Dhoni is known worldwide as one of the most marketable athletes in the world (SportsPro, 2012) and as the 23rd highest-paid athlete in 2015 (Forbes).
Following a massive rise to fame after his performance at the 2011 Cricket World Cup (which India won), Dhoni became a consistent name in national and global headlines as a cricket hero.
On 15 August 2020, Dhoni announced his retirement from international cricket. After 1,929 hours of cricket play (according to Dhoni), he celebrated his sign-off with a series of clips from his highest and lowest moments in the sport.
Since then, fans have been waiting to see what the celebrity will do next. Though it seems possible that MS Dhoni will continue with cricket in an industry booming with data science advancements, it’s clear he wants to put his mind to use, as well.
Recently, Dhoni’s Are You In? campaign launched with a series of endearing commercials celebrating poker. So far, he’s played other stars like Usha, Bansilal and Roy in the game of skill. But fans are wondering—how would his skill swinging the cricket bat translate to virtual chips?
Dhoni at the (Virtual) Felt Table
Between 2015 and 2020, more than $350 million has been invested in India’s gaming industry by venture capital firms. Given the country’s status as the second-most populous nation with the second-largest market for apps, the anticipated boom may seem obvious.
However, Dhoni’s partnership with poker isn’t just a business attempt at rising to the top of some 400 gaming startups active at this moment in India. In fact, he’s got a long list of prior engagements, ranging from his rank as an honorary lieutenant-colonel in the Indian Territorial Army to lifestyle brand SEVEN.
Instead, Dhoni is invested in the game itself. He recognizes skills like patience, focus, and responsible play from his decades with cricket. But poker offers more intellectual demand, while cricket focuses on hand-eye coordination.
Known for his shrewd attention to technique, Dhoni is an obvious candidate to perform well at the poker table. He’s already tried (and proved) his hand in battle royale video games, so the jump to skill games should be simple for the superstar.
Additionally, poker creeps farther every year into the territory of ‘sport’. Though the physical demands are less than those on the cricket pitch, fans of Dhoni are excited to see what sort of personal twist he’ll add to the game.
Possibilities in Cricket Science
In addition to Dhoni’s foray into the world of mental skill and endurance through poker, there’s speculation that he may dip a toe into data science’s foray into sports analytics. Most specifically, this would involve a company like SuperStats, a recently launched business that serves the cricket world.
Given that most athletes continue in their chosen sport following their retirement from the pitch, Dhoni seems likely to revisit cricket. However, given his interest in more intellectual pursuits, a partnership (or even founding) of a company like SuperStats would provide him ample involvement in his beloved sport.
Fans of the sport and Dhoni would love to see how his insights combine with data analysis from cricket metrics. Few pairings have taken place so far in the world of sports analytics. Though athletes offer key insight later on as coaches, what kind of difference could they make working in tandem with analysts to break down and apply insights gained from big data aggregation?
The collection of data and application of data science algorithms can help forecast game outcomes or adapt training regimes.
At the moment, SuperStats is working to finalize a Luck Index, which is an algorithm that can determine how large effect luck played in the outcome of a match. Some factors include the toss, umpire errors, dropped catches, and weather factors. Through a ‘runs potential’ program, a baseline for luck is deduced.