Big Data and the Changing Face of Test and T20 Cricket

T20 Cricket
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 14: Riley Meredith of the Hobart Hurricanes bowls during the Big Bash League match between the Melbourne Stars and the Hobart Hurricanes at Melbourne Cricket Ground on January 14, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Cricket has always been considered something of a numbers game, but in recent years, the sport’s use of big data analysis has ramped up to unprecedented levels. It goes way further than looking at batting and bowling averages, too. Aside from strike rates and wickets taken, international test cricket and T20 cricket teams increasingly use augmented big data with smart sensor technology to find better ways of assessing the performance of batsmen, bowlers and even fielders.

Today, there are few sports that don’t use analytical data in some way, shape or form, and now cricket will do its best to catch up with the likes of football and motorsports. In 2017, the ICC Champions Trophy became the most high-tech cricket event ever hosted. Although the sport was already well-integrated with Hawk-Eye technology — tracking ball trajectory, speed and bounce — as well as Hot Spot imaging and Snickometer audio checks, the ICC agreed to utilize bat sensors to monitor a batsman’s swing.

These sensors, powered by tech giants Intel and called SPECULUR, incorporate an Intel Curie computer module, capable of measuring the angle of a batsman’s back lift and that of its follow-through and impact with the ball. The sensors also measure top bat speed and the speed of the bat at impact. Using SPECULUR, the world’s biggest test cricket nations and T20 teams have been able to get an accurate handle on a batsman’s speed and swing. Such has allowed cricket data analysts to calculate shot timing efficiency figures for every professional batsman and compare them with other players in real-time.

It’s not the first time that Intel technology has been utilized to enhance data analysis of cricket matches. The impact of grass coverage is highly influential in a cricket match, especially in games over four or five days due to deterioration. The sport has recently utilized Intel Falcon 8+ drones, equipped with high-definition (HD) and infrared cameras to help get an accurate picture of the wicket and any deteriorations in grass health or the pitch topography as the match progresses. That is especially beneficial in countries where the wicket can have a big say on game outcomes, such as the subcontinent. For example, Sri Lanka is notoriously hard for batsmen when pitches are hot and dry. In the helter-skelter world of IT20 and one-day cricket, matches are now heavily reliant on the Winning and Score Predictor (WASP) for projected scores and run chases, based on run rates and weather conditions.

Cricket is in an excellent position to leverage the power of big data. These analytical technologies arm management teams with more data than ever to pick teams, set game strategies and review every single ball bowled. Spectators and industry stakeholders can expect the SPECULUR to be lined up for use in footwear, batting helmets, batting pads and even inside the cricket balls themselves to give teams greater insights and enhanced potential for success.

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