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How Analytics Have Transformed Cricket

How is data helping teams from the top to the bottom?

22Apr

When people think about analytics in sport, they think about the complexities that come with GPS, cameras and the beautiful visualizations you see during sports matches.

However, this is not always the case and the way that analytics have been used in Cricket is testament to this.

Of course there are the more comprehensive systems used by nations and the larger cricket teams around the world, but generally speaking much of the most information can be gained from the most basic data gathering techniques.

Take bowling length as a prime example, it is so simple to track where a ball bounces, then the outcome of that particular bowl. This can then be tied into how the batsman starts and finishes when they face a particular ball, bowler or specific conditions.

It allows for a comprehensive set of relatively easily analyzable data for coaches which can make the difference across a season. The technology needed for this kind of analysis is also now considerable cheaper simply because it has been adopted so comprehensively in the higher echelons of the sport.

This has had a trickle down effect on the rest of the sport as the demand for this kind of technology at the top level has then led to price reductions for those at the bottom. As the most elite teams look for more and more complicated metrics that can give them the slightest competitive advantage, the systems become more powerful.

This means that systems that would have been considered to be complex and top quality in the recent past are seen as basic by the most competitive tiers of the sport, leaving it considerably cheaper for teams at the bottom.

Even village teams now have the opportunity to gain from this basic understanding of data, even if they can’t detect the level of spin to within 1% when it hits the turf.

Data has not just been to the advantage of the lower teams benefiting from the availability of the technology used to gather it though. It has wider implications, such as the importance that it has for tracking crowd reaction or even improving the accuracy of umpire decisions.

The Hawkeye system for instance relies on data to predict whether a ball would have hit a wicket in an LBW (Leg Before Wicket) decision. This can have a huge impact on the outcome of a match and with improved technology and data gathering techniques it is possible to make these decisions more accurate than ever.

With crowd management it is also possible to make sure that bars are effectively stocked, the crowd's reaction to certain types of play or even where they enter/exit a ground. This can be one of the most powerful tools to help drive revenue and crowd engagement with the sport, something that is vital in both improving its image and revenue streams.

Cricket is a very different sport the higher you move up the tiers, from the basic village teams playing next to the local pub, to the elite teams who employ several specialized data scientists to analyze every part of the game. The trickle down effect of new technologies is having an impact to improve those at the lowest level, whilst also increasing revenues and performance at the highest level, meaning more improvements, more technology and more trickle down. 

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