Data analytics can give an edge in sports: Experts

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Kolkata, May 19 (IANS) Data analytics are helping Indian cricketers prepare in “great detail” for matches in terms of strategising, decision-making and even as a morale booster, say experts.

While the sportsmen have their work cut out on the field, they are backed by the science of examining raw data to do the background job of developing strategies.

In addition to conducting performance analysis, data scientists, aided by software tools, carefully sift through real-time inputs that keep coming in through social media and online resources to spot trends and patterns.

“What we can do in terms of analytics is immense. How players consume data before the game gives them an edge,” Sriram Rajan, Executive Director, Analytics at IBM India/South Asia, told IANS over the phone. Analytics is being widely used in cricket.

He said analytics helps in “extracting efficiency in every way possible” from the players.

For example, Rajan points out how Australian bowlers try to “intimidate” Indian batsman. “You will find Aussies typically bowling to intimidate. They are not doing it just like that. They have done extraordinary video analytics of multiple matches and multiple pitches,” Rajan said.

And the analysis is not just restricted to scanning historical records but making sense of Big Data – the sheer volume of raw and unstructured data which is virtually everywhere including posts in a social networking platform.

During the Cricket World Cup 2015 IBM shared insights into public sentiments, potential of players and impact of performances among others.

Rajan explained that softwares like Hadoop can help crunch streams of online intelligence (Twitter, Facebook) and historical data, but analytics relys heavily on analytics engines as well.

“We are not saying this will replace the players’ efforts. This is just to give them an extra boost,” Rajan said.

The first stakeholder in analytics output is the team management or the coach. The team management and captain go through it in “extraordinary detail” and a strategy is worked out for the squad.

“He (the coach) is the one who starts looking at the potential weaknesses and potential strength of the players before the game starts. What one should do or not do,” Rajan said.

Predictive data analytics also take into account external factors such as weather, pitch and the crowd in the stadium.

“With the help of past records like who has won and how many times in the same ground with the same opponent team, one can predict a winning team,” said D. Peter Augustine, assistant professor, computer science department, Christ University, Bengaluru.

“There is a pure mathematics here. It is proved in soccer. If you have a cheering fanbase in the stadium, your winning probability increases by 30 percent,” he says.

Consultants work with teams, like in the IPL, and share insights into the amount of support for the team.

“They also work out the winning probabilities of a particular team based on social media support and other statistics. This is a key factor in sponsors coming forward,” says Santosh Patil, co-founder of the new sports-based startup Gamatics India.

The start-up is based out of the N.S. Raghavan Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning in the Indian Institute of Management, Bengaluru.

Patil and his team are relying on data and analytics to build a framework to familiarise people with other sports beside cricket.

Performance analysis, informed Patil, also helps coaches in decision-making when it comes to scouting for team members, as seen in the Oscar nominated Hollywood movie “Moneyball”, which highlighted baseball statistical analysis known as sabermetrics.

On the flip side, can analytics heighten chances of betting and gambling?

Rajan sees “no risk” in the hands of “responsible people”.

“In many countries betting is legal but that is not legal in India. We don’t support its misuse,” he added.

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