Cricket is a very fast-paced, high-energy sport but it’s also big business. Professional teams that belong to the Indian Premier League pay each of their players, the estimated value that could range from INR 20 lakh (INR 2 million) to INR 2 crore (INR 20 million) per year depending on his experience and stature. For that amount of money, member teams expect a great deal and are constantly on the watch for ways of improving their performance.
During a 59-game season, every nuance a coach can pick up about a weakness in an opponent’s offense or the shots of one of his own players will translate into more runs on the scoreboard, more wins, and ultimately more money for the team. Traditional cricket game statistics failed to capture all of the details associated with every play and was not easily related to videotapes of games. As a result, decisions about changes in tactics or how to take advantage of opponents’ weaknesses were based primarily on hunches and gut instincts.
Coaches could not easily answer questions such as “Which types of plays are hurting us? ” Now professional cricket coaches and managers are taking their cues from other businesses and learning how to make decisions based on hard data. The software available with the Indian Team was very generic and did not produce any analytical information. For the same reason, John Wright wanted to have quite a few reports to help him make decisions based on the statistical data. A company called Sports Mechanics has found a way to collect and organize fine-grained statistical data and relate the data to associated video clips.
Sports Mechanics employs just 5 people to match up video of each play with statistical information about every ball bowled within the match. For example, who bowled it, who is the batsman, who is the non-striker, where did the ball pitch, what did the ball do, where was the ball hit, how many runs were scored off it, who fielded it, how did he field it, which end did he throw, what was the outcome of the ball, etc. Once the tagging is done, when the query is done according to the tag, then the relevant video plays.
Queries can be done by multiple layers of filters by bowler, by batsman, by type of ball, etc. Each game is dissected and tagged, play by play, using hundreds of descriptive categories and these data are linked to high-resolution video. Coaches then use an index to locate the exact video clip in which they are interested and access the video at a protected Web site. Within seconds they are able to watch streaming video on the protected site or they can download it to laptops, iPods, play stations, etc.
For example, if the Kolkata Knightriders have just lost to the Rajasthan Royals and gave up too many runs, Knightriders coach can use Sports Mechanics’ service to see video clips of every Rajasthan Royals’ batting performance in the game. He can also view every Kolkata Knightriders transitional situation for the entire season to see how that game compared with others. According to Kolkata Knightriders owner Shahrukh Khan, “the system allows us to look at every play, in every way, and tie it back to stats. So we can watch how we played every ball, track our success rate, and see how other teams are doing it.
The service helps coaches analyze the strengths and weaknesses of individual players. For example, Sports Mechanics’ system has recorded every offensive step of the Kolkata Knightriders’ Shoaib Akhtar since he joined IPL. The system can show how successfully he is blowing in either home or away games, with the ability to break games and player performance into increasingly finer-grained categories. If a user clicks on any statistic, that person will find video clips from any of the games of any season of IPL that show Shoaib’s particular bowling move.
Mr. S. Ramakrishnan, the Indian Cricket Team Analyst and the founder of Sports Mechanics has since 2003 helped over 5,000 cricketers and provided analysis and soft ware to ICC and 21 countries. About 7 teams in the IPL; all except Royal Challengers have already signed up for the Sports Mechanics’ service, and are using it to help them scout for promising national and international players. Although nothing will ever replace the need to scout players in person, the service has reduced IPL teams’ skyrocketing travel costs.
Sources: Sports Mechanics; Base 1 USD = 50 INR as of 11, January, 2009 The challenges facing IPL teams show why information systems are so essential today. Like other businesses, professional cricket faces pressure from high costs, especially for team member salaries and travel to search for new talent. Teams are trying to increase revenue by improving employee performance, especially the performance of cricket team members. The chapter-opening diagram calls attention to important points raised by this case and this chapter.
Management was unable to make good decisions about how to improve the performance of teams and of individual players because it lacked precise data about plays. It had to rely on “best guesses” based on videotapes of games. Management found a new information system to provide better information. The information system is based on a service provided by Sports Mechanics. Sports Mechanics’ staff members break down each game into a series of plays and then categorize each play by players, type of play, and the outcome.
These data are tagged to the videos they describe to make the videos easy to search. IPL coaches and management can analyze the data to see which offensive and defensive moves are the most effective for each team player. Team members themselves can use laptops, play stations, iPods, etc to download the videos to help them prepare for games. This innovative solution makes it possible for basketball management to use objective statistical data about players, plays and outcomes to improve their decision making about what players should or shouldn’t do to most effectively counter their opponents.