Data analytics in Cricket is not only confined to beautiful graphical charts or tables of different key statistics. Cricket teams have started using advanced data analysis methods and tools to do extensive study on various dimensions of their own players, opponent teams, weather status, pitch condition and so on. Likewise, tournament organizers are utilizing data to understand audience preference and provide value added entertainments to attract maximum number of viewers.
In this article, we provide an insight on how data analytics has made its way into Cricket and being increasingly adopted by all the stakeholders of this popular sports:
Extensive Research on Players & Teams:
The team management can take advantage of the on-field data that is available to them by quantifying and analyzing it for different purpose. This is an obvious fact that experienced managers can assess the strengths and weaknesses of any player or team quite accurately. However, effective use of data can validate their perception and give them insights that can’t be tracked with bare eyes. For example, how to pick a batsman for a certain bouncy pitch? The selectors need to have a look at his previous records in that condition and his score statistics against fast bowlers. Also, his performance against that opponent can also be taken into account. Subtle data regarding the body movement of a batsman in response to various line, length and speed of bowling delivery can be tracked to develop even deeper understanding. So, in order to merge all these factors and data set to take decisions, management need to make proper use of data analytics.
Opta Performance is one of the biggest name among the sports data providers. The company is the official data collector and distributor of England and Wales Cricket Board. They provide real time data about every single delivery from the matches played at ECB grounds.
Hawk-eye Innovations is another sports technology company that has brought a major change in Cricket umpiring. It was introduced during a Test Match between England and Pakistan on May 21, 2001. Though the audience can see the technology being used to settle a third umpire review, but there is more to it. It provides in-depth bio-mechanical analysis of individual player strokes. For example, a bowling coach can access to information about his bowler’s previous deliveries from Hawk-eye innovation and show it to his bowlers. It can help them significantly to improve their bowling skills and strategic sense.
So what are some of the crucial ball-by-ball data that can hugely benefit the coaches and players? Let’s have a look at those:
- Score breakdown against bowling type and team (i.e.- Fast Bowl, Slow Left Arm, Off Spin etc.)
- Run, Strike Rate against bowling line and length
- Performance in specific venues (i.e. - in Eden Garden, Wellington, Mirpur etc.)
- Average scores in certain over range (Between 20-30 overs, In last 2 / 3 overs etc.)
- Running Speed Between the Wickets
- Dismissal Criteria (Caught Behind, Bowled, LBW etc.)
- Average Balls Required for Scoring Half Century or Century
Average Length and Speed of Delivery against Batsman type
- Runs Conceded in Certain Over Range
- Base Running Speed
- Spin and Swing Variations
- Record against Certain Batsman Type and Team
- Catch and Run Out Statistics from different Fielding Positions
- Running Speed
- Ball Throwing Speed and Response Time
This level of detailed analytics can be empowering for the management and coaching staffs. These insights will help them to improve their players’ caliber and overcome the weak zones in a structured way. From a strategic point of view, coaches will take better decisions as they are more informed about their opponents and external condition of the match. Most of the T20 domestic leagues have a provision for strategic timeout, teams can use it to discuss plans for the upcoming overs. The more data driven these teams are, the better they will be able to utilize this time-out session.
Audience & Supporters' Experience
Crowd and audience engagement is a vital aspect of organizing a cricket series or tournament successfully. Organizers positioning a series based on the behavior of audience is nothing new. Online contents that feature bantering against the opponent spikes up during matches between India and Pakistan or England and Australia. This is because the cricket fans are more hyped up about these encounters than other clashes. It is an opportunity for the advertisers as they promote their service or product in the crowd to maximize reach and visibility.
Fans are obsessed with their favorite players and team. Storytelling through data can be used to entertain the fans to a further extent. For example, Virat Kohli has 14 match winning centuries while chasing a target which equals the great Tendulkar’s career record. Shahid Afridi, despite having played 398 ODI matches, he is yet to play 100 balls in any of the matches. These interesting facts about popular players have always been a source of info-tainment thus circulated widely in the social media. Commentators can use this historical records, performance patterns and trends in their commentary to relay a better quality picture of the game. Qlikview has launched a new app back in May 2016 that gives interesting visual analytics to the cricket crazy fans. The app platform enables users to easily access and interact with data to receive detailed insights about players, teams and matches with a simple click.
There are some other useful aspects of audience data. For example data about the crowd assists the stadium managers to optimize available resources for better outcome. Crowd’s reaction to certain replay camera or on field visuals also provide valuable insights about how audience experience can be enhanced. Official broadcasters have already started gathering and analyzing these audience preference data to ensure high TRP and social media visibility.
Data analytics is also being used to predict the outcomes of major tournaments like World Cups. For example back in 2015 World Cup, experts predicted that teams progressing to semi finals were going to be India, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. According to their prediction, India was unlikely to win any face-off against Australia in the tournament. And guess what, they were absolutely right! Some of the popular tools that are used for Cricket predictions are ScoreWithData by IBM Game Changer, WASP, Insights by ESPNCricInfo, Cricketr etc.
Microsoft has recently partnered with Cricket Australia to help them maximize the utility of high volume of player’s performance data that it tracks. It will be done using Microsoft’s new sports analytics platform powered by Cortana Analytics Suite. The platform will assist the coaches by providing them data driven recommendation and predictions on various aspects like batting style, bowling run up, player’s fitness, agility etc. This effective use of analytics will allow the players to improve their performance since the fight for a place in the squad will further intensify.
It's Just the Beginning
Apart from the 10 full members, currently there are 30 associate members and 56 affiliate members of ICC. The popularity of women’s cricket is rapidly increasing over time. It is understandable that the audience base of cricket will be expanding in the coming days and the level of competition among the teams will be heightened. In order to take Cricket to the next level both on and off the pitch, multifarious use of data analytics is a must. Coaches, selectors, organizers and sports personalities should step up to embrace and leverage the power of data as Cricket deserves to be transformed into a truly global sports.