Since the birth of cricket in south-east England in the late 16th century, statistics have played a significant role in shaping the structure and format of the game. From test matches to newer formats like T-20, the boundaries between traditional coaching techniques and cutting-edge technology are constantly shifting.
In recent years, IoT-based cricket bat sensors, hawk-eye technology, advanced video analytics and the use of data in cricket have undergone a remarkable transformation. In an exclusive interview, HCLTech Trends and Insights had the opportunity to speak with Thomas Body, a performance data scientist at Cricket Australia, delving into the realm of data analytics in cricket and its impact on strategic change, player performance, fan engagement and the ongoing cricket championship.
Data analytics: A game-changer in cricket
The use of data analytics in cricket has seen a remarkable transformation in modern times. Thomas Body points out that while the sport has been collecting ball-by-ball data since 1999, it wasn't until he joined Cricket Australia's as its first data scientist that the data started to be harnessed effectively.
One of the initial challenges was making this wealth of data accessible and easy to use for coaches and players. The goal was to move beyond merely collecting data to extracting meaningful insights that could impact performance on the field. The key takeaway from the conversation was the importance of aligning data analytics with the existing cricketing mindset.
"On and off-field data analytics is not just about numbers; it's about uncovering patterns, deep diving into statistics, gaining insights and making informed statistical decisions. We are leveraging data to unlock hidden potential, both on and off the field in cricket,” says Body.
Rather than attempting to reinvent the game, the focus is on finding data-backed nuances that complement traditional cricket strategies.
“Coaches and players are becoming increasingly data-savvy, asking more insightful questions and utilizing data-driven insights to enhance their game,” he adds.
Balancing cricket’s heritage with modern advancements
“In the 1990s, a bunch of footage on VHS would get sent out to coaches and eventually get transferred onto hard drives to be sent across the country. Today, we get the footage instantly as soon as a match finishes and the data goes straight into the cloud, available to everyone,” highlights Body.
This progression from VHS tapes to cloud-based platforms allows for immediate access to match footage and immense amount of data. This whole transformation has grown organically in the last couple of years.
Similarly, video analysis has been a part of cricket for decades, however, the way it is employed has evolved significantly. Coaches can now dissect player performances, review critical moments and gain a deeper understanding of opposition teams in real time. The challenge now is to streamline this vast amount of video data, making it more accessible and tailored to specific coaching needs.
"In cricket, every decision counts and analytics helps us make the right ones—from analyzing pitch conditions, studying opposition weaknesses to even predicting game outcomes” he continues. This approach has resulted in more competitive and entertaining matches, captivating cricket fans worldwide.
Artificial intelligence in decision-making
During a match broadcast, prediction models are now being used to showcase match results and make data interesting to fans. Decision-making tools driven by AI are also being used to analyze player statistics and predict outcomes during matches.
“The recent advancements in AI have driven home new ways of thinking about cricket, and in terms of collecting data. We're automating a lot using AI, so we don't need to have someone manually click pictures of each ball being bowled (say during the test matches),” says Body.
Today, predictive models assist coaches in understanding player matchups, optimizing team selections and making informed strategic decisions. While these AI-driven models are already making waves, Body believes there is untapped potential for AI to transform various aspects of the game in the coming years.
Engaging fans through data visualization
Fans are no longer passive spectators of cricket; they are now active participants in the data-driven narrative of the game. With the acceleration of digital engagement platforms, there are exciting new options for fans who don’t attend a match in person. The development of cricket.com.au and the CA Live app have become the go-to for cricket fans.
Digital platforms have expanded their approach by moving from a single website to a multi-channel approach, ensuring that engagement happens beyond the website to other CA apps like Cricket Live.
To make cricket Australia’s favorite sport, HCLTech, the digital technology partner of Cricket Australia, is accelerating digital transformation and orchestrating experiences to engage an ecosystem of fans, participants, volunteers, partners and elite players, from grassroots to international level.
Today, data visualization and storytelling have become essential tools for engaging cricket enthusiasts. “Each series introduces new statistical insights, and the conversations sparked by these statistics among fans, commentators and players often lead to fresh perspectives on the game. It's not just about direct engagement with fans but also about the broader cricketing community's evolving dialogue,” says Body.
The future of cricket analytics
As fans continue to enjoy the world’s biggest cricketing event, one area of innovation to watch is fielding positions. Understanding player behavior in response to field placements is becoming increasingly crucial.
Companies are working to provide real-time information about field settings and how they influence batting strategies. This data promises to be a game-changer, providing teams with a more complete view of match dynamics.
It’s clear that data analytics has reshaped cricket in a myriad of ways. From enhancing player performance to engaging fans and influencing strategic decisions, data is the driving force behind cricket's evolution.
"The road ahead is exciting," says Body. "We're only scratching the surface of what data analytics and AI can do for cricket. As technology continues to advance, we'll see even more innovative applications in player analysis, fan engagement and game strategy."
Indeed, the future of cricket is data-driven, and with experts like Thomas Body leading the way, this traditional sport is set to reach new heights in the digital age.