How to Score with Big Data

Deloitte in their April report “Get ahead of the game – What businesses can learn from the use of analytics in sports” (pdf) quote some memorable sporting statistics in support of their statement that “… sporting organisations have been at the forefront of exploiting data to gain a competitive advantage for many years”.

As cricket is our sport (and arguably theirs) we’ve selected some of their more memorable statistics and examples from the greatest game:

  • Specialist bowler James Anderson went 54 Test innings until his first duck before falling for nought to Ben Hilfenhaus in the 5th Ashes Test in 2009, longer than any other English batsman ever.
  • Hugh Morris, the ECB Deputy Chief Executive and Strauss together analysed the teams they would need to play and the results they would need to achieve in order to rise up the rankings. They identified the players who had the right skills to defeat those opponents in different conditions. They identified the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition through rigorous analysis of their scoring patterns, how they had lost their wickets, when they were vulnerable during an innings, where they had conceded runs. They made sure that they had a very clear plan for each game, for each day, for each session, for each player – which was founded on hard evidence, compiled from years of data. When England reached number one by defeating India in August 2011, the data-driven plan had come to fruition.
  • Between 10 January 2000 and 6 February 2004, India’s Rahul Dravid went 173 innings without being dismissed for a duck (all formats), the longest such run in the sport.
  • In Glen McGrath’s illustrious 14 year international career he claimed 241 wickets thanks to a catch from the wicket-keeper (all formats), more than any other cricketer in the history of the sport.
  • You can’t take a non representative dataset and try to extrapolate that out into the wider population. One example in cricket would be looking at how Australia played when they dominated world cricket. Their process and methods may not be the best way to do things for England cricket, as many things are specific to Australian cricket (for example weather and pitch conditions) and aren’t representative of the English game.
  • Sir Donald Bradman recorded a batting average of 99.94 in Test matches had he scored just four runs in his final Test against England he would have maintained an average of 100.

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Deloitte’s overall conclusion on the enterprise front is that “All businesses could learn from the use of data in sport. As we have seen, there are real and practical examples of how organisations can start to increase the importance of analysis in their day-to-day operations, and ultimately move towards a world in which decisions are made on facts, not judgement.”

Quite so!

We wonder, with all these bits of paper seen in managers/coaches hands at football matches, whether they might benefit from a little bit more big data! It might even help them to improve on one of their statistics! “On average, football strikers score with one in every six attempts at goal”

Now about those penalties! “77% The number of penalties have been converted in the last decade of Premier League football.”

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