Cricket Analytics – A new dimension:
“It was a tactical move”, is what Rohit Sharma replied to Harsha Bhogle at the post-match presentation when the ‘voice of cricket’ questioned him on the inclusion of Jayant Yadav over Rahul Chahar in the playing XI for the final.
While the wily wrist spinner from Rajasthan had picked up 15 wickets in as many games during the course of the tournament, the preferred spinner on the eve of the flagship event’s 13th final had played just one game throughout the tournament and returned wicketless in the team’s second league fixture against the Delhi Capitals.
Several eyebrows were raised over the 5 time IPL winning captain’s decision at the toss, but the swashbuckling opener, like he often does on the pitch, pulled them away 4 overs into the game, as the finger spinner dislodged the bails of Shikhar Dhawan, the highest run-scorer of the season for the first time finalists. Eventually, the Shreyas Iyer-led team failed to put on a big score on the board and Mumbai Indians went on to break their jinx of winning in odd years, emerging as the IPL champions of 2020. All of it because of Cricket Analytics.
Not long ago, the Indian limited-overs vice-captain had mentioned in a show on his IPL franchise website that the inputs of the team’s analyst make a major contribution towards the decision making. He said, “Those analytics and data given helps me on the field to make my decisions. It’s always nice to have plan B and plan C. These guys make my job easier. They filter everything and then they give it to me. And then it’s up to me what I want to execute”. It is amazing how impactful Cricket Analytics has become.
The man behind the scenes who has been with MI since the inception of the league in 2008, CKM Dhananjai, was quoted saying “Today, game preparation using data-driven decision-making culture is something that MI has embraced over a period of time”. This “decision-making culture” that Dhananjai speaks of has paid dividends for the Mumbai based franchise, as they have gone on to win 5 IPL titles along with 2 Champions League T20 titles over the past decade.
In recent times, cricket teams all over the world have started paying much more respect to the cricket analytics that go on behind the scenes, which has been evident in their approach towards different situations in a game. The impact has been so great, that we witnessed AB de Villiers batting below the likes of emerging Indian all-rounders Washington Sundar and Shivam Dube, in RCB’s second league fixture against the Kings XI Punjab.
The KL Rahul-led team boasted of two young wrist spinners in their ranks in the form of Murugan Ashwin and the emerging Indian star from the 2020 U-19 World Cup, Ravi Bishnoi. The former Protea skipper’s struggles against wrist spin have been exploited across cricket leagues ever since his retirement from international cricket and became the reason why he ended up spending more time in the dugout than on the pitch.
The Bengaluru-based franchise went on to lose the game, and skipper Virat Kohli was quoted saying “We had a chat. There was a message from outside about left hand-right hand [combination] and we had a discussion about it and we wanted to go ahead with it because they had two leggies (Ravi Bishnoi and M Ashwin) and that could have kept them out of the game.” Cricket Analytics strikes again.
With the volume and intensity with which cricket is played around the globe, controversies are often round the corner every fortnight. Be it the sandpaper gate, the infamous tied super over at the 2019 WC final, or the non-striker run out, all these incidents have sparked debates across the cricketing fraternity.
The recent one of those being the use of coded messages sent from the English dressing room by analyst Nathan Leamon to skipper Eoin Morgan on-field during the third T20I between England and South Africa.
This event has marked the beginning of a new era in the world of cricket analytics, as until now we had only witnessed coaches communicating messages to the on-field players via the twelfth man running out to the pitch with drinks. The very fact that even a world cup winning captain takes an analyst’s reading of the game into account while making crucial decisions speaks loads about the importance of the hitherto lesser looked at aspect of a team’s management.
The scope of “what ifs” in the gentlemen’s game is unprecedented and there are several divided opinions on what decision should be taken at different situations and levels of the game. While on a bad day the call to pick Jayant over Chahar might have lost MI their 5th IPL title, on a good day Mr. 360º might have won RCB the game by just sitting in the dugout.
The importance of such analysis has increased exponentially ever since the inception and rapid expansion of franchise cricket all over the world, as matchups have played a key part in the shortest format of the game. One can conclude that although the outcome of the game is dictated by how things go a certain way on the field, the plans put into action certainly require in-depth analysis of each team and its player’s performances across conditions and situations.
With the advancements in technology and cameras around at all angles, the demand for highly skilled cricket analysts who read the game precisely and crunch big data on their fingertips is highly expected to skyrocket in the years to come. With hours of footage and gigabytes of data at their disposal, analysts know the weaknesses of players better than they know themselves and succumb to the data-driven plans set up against them.
Cricket Analytics – Conclusion :
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