Cricket as we know today is vastly different from the game played during colonial times. You might ask, what has changed? The game is still about the battle between bat and ball and the basic rules are pretty much the same. MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club) is still the custodian of the laws governing the game.
Yes, all of that is true for the most part. The primary difference is not about “what” of cricket, but about “how” it is played today from the yesteryears. From being a sport of leisure, played among a few groups of elites, to becoming one of the most competitive sports with millions of followers, the intrinsic nature of the game has seen a massive transformation over the last century. This has been propelled by the highly compelling market ecosystem that has been created around the game. Amongst many factors, the cricket coaching ecosystem played a massive part in this transformation journey.
Why do tournaments like the Ashes, IPL, Big Bash, World Cup, and series’ involving teams like India and Australia, garner more viewers than the rest, around the world? The answers could be many – exciting talent, wider audience base, tournament history, better branding, more sponsors, global broadcasting, etc. Paramount among these reasons is the talent and competitive spirit exhibited by teams and players.
Take a look at what it takes to play for the national Australian side today. It was definitely not the case a few decades earlier. The setup is similar for many other cricketing bodies, across the world.
Coaching plays a massive part in enhancing the competitiveness of the game in-general. While many aspects of cricket coaching still revolve around the intuition and experience of the coaching staff, the nature of coaching got a boost with recent advancements in the cricket technology space. The adoption of technology allows for better scaling and efficiency in the system.
If you have played gully cricket, you would have definitely used paper for entering the scorecard. Now think about piling huge volumes of those paper scorecards and then analysing the strengths and weaknesses of one single player – whew! That sounds like a boring and tedious job, isn’t it? Yes, it is. That is what the digital scorecards replaced when computers entered the realm of cricket.
For a performance analyst, every aspect of the digital scorecard has now become an input to feed into his or her data analytics model. This data is then crunched for preparing match strategies and tactics against any particular opponent. These statistics also help the analyst to analyse the performance of a player against the set objectives from the coaches over a period of time.
While data analytics is a powerful armour in the arsenal for the coaching unit, it still lacks the level of detail required for personalized coaching plans.
Let’s take a detour to understand the missing performance element is in data analytics. Assume you are a dancer wanting to improve your performance. You can obviously look for feedback from your mentor and from the audience response. That is data analytics for you. What if you have the video recording of your performance, to rewind, pause, and analyse your steps to understand the effect it had on the audience? Let's say, I superimpose and compare your moonwalk style in the video frame-by-frame with that of Michael Jackson’s style and give you a performance score. Sounds interesting and useful right? That is video analytics for you. Yes, it did sound a little dramatic for an analogy, but you get the point.
Every event of the ball from the bowler’s run-up to the release position, seam angle, ball speed, pitching point, bounce generated, angle of spin / swing, bat impact length, direction of ball travel from the shot, runs scored against the ball, etc. are all recorded as transactions in a video analysis software. Today, a video analyst runs through hundreds and thousands of such ball transactions to prepare a presentation for the coaching staff and players. It helps them to create a full-fledged analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of their opponents, thereby assisting the coaching unit in preparing game tactics, assigning right match-ups, field placements, etc.
With the addition of ball tracking and player tracking analytics on video, coupled with advanced visualizations, every action on the scene is an insight for an analytical mind.
If you have reached this point, it's safe to say that you are now familiar with the role of analytics in the cricket coaching ecosystem. While statistics and video analysis greatly help in enhancing the player performance, there is still a lacuna in the system when it comes to real-time feedback. That is where sensor-based cricket data analytics is set to come into the picture. In our earlier dance performance analogy, sensor analytics will play the role of a mirror in your dance room.
A cricket ball sensor can help you in providing real time feedback on the number of revolutions on the ball, speed, swing, impact force, etc. A cricket bat sensor like PowerBat will help the batter and coaching unit to immediately assess the parameters behind a cricket shot. It helps the batter to analyse every aspect of the bat swing, right from the batting stance to backlift, downswing, launch, and follow-through. Just like how the mirror in your dance room helps to enhance your performance on the spot, the sensor-based analytics will drive the real-time performance enhancement in a cricketing event.
Cricket equipment sensors are well poised to aid the video analysis and statistics in the performance improvement cycle. When used extensively and effectively, sensor-based analytics has the potential to further enhance the competitiveness quotient among players and teams.
Now, here is a fun challenge for you: next time you watch a game of cricket, try to pause-play the video and predict the bat speed of your favourite player.