This article is written by Mayukh Ghosh who is a Senior Faculty at Jigsaw Academy. He has 5+ years of core training experience, with expertise in delivering analytics training in R, SAS and Statistics to both freshers and professionals. He has also trained more than 100+ corporate participants.
Mayukh considers himself to be a student of the game of cricket and has a special interest in the game’s history and literature. He has written on the game for websites like Yahoo and Sportskeeda and regularly conducts and participates in quizzes, cricket often being the subject. While considering himself forever indebted to the great game, he says that it is the answer to pretty much all of life’s problems. Mayukh is now eagerly waiting for his book on cricket – In a League of their Own: Celebrating Cricket’s Great Characters – to hit the shelves in the second half of 2019.
In the quizzing circuit, one question often crops up: what connects cricketers Sunil Valson and Amay Khurasiya?
The answer leads to a rather interesting trivia. Both were part of India’s World Cup squads but didn’t play in any of the matches – Valson in 1983. Khurasiya in 1999.
Is there anyone from the 2019 squad who can join them?
If you think of it, three names, at most, come to mind.
Dinesh Karthik, Vijay Shankar and K.L. Rahul
Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik fought for a place. Karthik got the nod ahead of the young sensation.
Recent form and the urge to look toward the future would have probably sealed it in favour of Pant. But the selectors this time chose to consider data analytics as an important measure while picking the final squad.
Vijay Shankar too was picked ahead of Ambati Rayudu. The selectors cited Shankar’s ‘three-dimensional’ abilities as the deciding factor. They probably went through his potential to contribute as a batsman, as a bowler and as a fielder. The probability of him contributing on a certain day is more than Rayudu making a difference with the bat.
Rahul’s inclusion too raised a few eyebrows but, given the high-scoring conditions seen in England in the recent past, the selectors wanted someone who could score runs quickly. And the data did the rest.
Even though these three cricketers were not automatic choices, there is a high chance of them playing a role during this year’s World Cup. The sound choices based on data seldom goes astray. It’s highly unlikely that any of them will join Valson and Khurasiya, in that not-so-coveted list.
A three- and half-hour long presentation based on processed data was shown to the selectors before they took the final call. They had fine-tuned numbers about the conditions, the opponents, the grounds. And all about the one-on-one tussles that often shapes cricket matches. They have even looked at data pertaining to fielding positions and who are the ones to deploy in what fielding positions during different stages of the matches.
There were some uneasy yet important questions to answer as well. For example:
How good their opponents are against wrist spin?
There are two wrist-spinners in the squad and how well they manage the middle overs will decide how far the team goes in the tournament. The data backed the efforts of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal in the recent past.
How good are the middle-order batsmen (except the Bradman-esque Virat Kohli) in rotating the strike during the middle-overs?
Simple numbers like a high batting average (in excess of 40) and a good strike rate (in excess of 80) are crude in a real sense. In the context of different tricky situations, the responses have been recorded, and that gave a more accurate measure of the players’ utility.
How to allocate the fifth bowler’s ten overs among the part-time bowlers based on the data gathered over the past few years during which the nucleus of the team didn’t change much?
Hardik Pandya, Kedar Jadhav and Vijay Shankar will probably share the overs among them. There is a high chance, depending on the opposition and the conditions, of only two of them playing together. The data is useful in ascertaining which two to play against which opposition under what kind of overhead and pitch conditions.
The American sports have been using data analytics for many years. Cricket too joined the bandwagon in the past decade or so. These days, data analysts accompany most professional cricket teams.
The BCCI, usually late to embrace new ideas and innovations, has finally bitten the dust and has taken a step forward in the right direction.
If we do end up winning a third world cup, do remember to applaud the BCCI and the selectors for getting the right team for the big occasion.
This is the final squad announced after the discussion: