This gambler-turned-analyst can save cricket teams money
Data analyst Dan Weston explains taking on cricket's 'old school' with his calculative approach, and expose the biggest mistakes that T20 teams make.
Dan Weston, the Data analyst, reveals the biggest blunders that T20 teams make and takes on cricket's 'old school' with his approach based on calculation
Dan Weston changed the way teams approach the analysis of T20 cricket. His model is a bit complex and ideas are very different. He is confident that he can choose better teams based on his calculative approach.
This data analyst is breaking new boundaries on the pitch and setting new standards, he says while speaking to Betway, "while the T20 format has pushed its limits – music, dancers and fireworks just would not have been cricket 20 years ago."
Weston collected some data about cricket to calculate and predict the success of cricketers in all formats across the globe, including India, where the Chennai Super Kings are among the favourites to retain their title in the latest IPL betting.
But by reducing a player to number, he turns off traditionalists, who prefer to rely on feel, instinct and outdated conventional wisdom when doing selections.
Weston, who became an expert analyst after a period of full-time gambling resulted in him producing extensive tennis data, he says, "Quite a few coaches are old school, so it's difficult to get them to buy into what you're offering,".
He further adds, "There are just not enough fresh voices. Cricket is full of inane data like: 'This is the slowest century by an English batsman on a Tuesday.' It's completely worthless."
About the errors that were being made in the sport, he says, "You name it, they'll make that mistake, be it selection, recruitment, in-game tactics-so set up a business that supplies data to teams, players and agents that aims to eliminate them."
Weston realised that a similar approach could be used in cricket after he tasted success in analysing tennis. His model is a bit complex.
He considers a players' individual data like, average, economy, their strike rate which need to record the data ball-by-ball and makes adjustments to it based on regency, opposition quality, and the conditions in which each tournament is played in.
Based on this data, he recommends players to teams across the globe, including for the IPL and T20 Blast. "Cricket is a conditions-driven sport, so a T20 Blast match at Canterbury will be a pace-orientated affair, whereas in Dhaka it's going to be spinner-friendly and low-scoring," he says.
On questioning, if a batsman performs well at Canterbury, does that really apply to a match in Dhaka? He replies, "Probably not. There's limited relevance. So I analyse how historically similar players have made the transition from one league to another."
"I might be asked to find a pace bowler for the T20 Blast, where an Australian will be quite highly-rated, as opposed to the IPL, where they haven't thrived as much as their reputation would suggest because of the quality of the league," he adds.
The word 'Reputation' is something which Weston repeats several times and believes is at the heart of several misjudgements in recruitment.
In the context of the history of cricket, the T20 is still a relatively new format, so there is no magic formula that is not a surprise.
He claims, "Laziness" prevents teams from making bigger strides. If a bloke like me can sit in an office and produce decent theories and data about T20 I see no reason why a team with bigger resources can't do the same."
"Lots of high-profile players are signed based on reputation rather than current ability. Take Brendon McCullum: he's got a poor record against spin bowling, he doesn't keep wicket anymore, yet subcontinental teams are signing him as a marquee player. It makes no sense whatsoever.
"Then you notice players signed based on reputation from another format. So Sam Curran played very well against India in Test matches last summer and has subsequently got a mega IPL deal despite the fact that his T20 data is not particularly impressive. I will continue to argue that he is an anti-moneyball signing."
Curran is a young multi-talented cricketer who succeeded with flying colours in a high profile world game, with all-round qualities valuable to T20 teams aiming to pull into their teams as many as batting and bowling options as possible.
Weston warns not to end up packing teams with all-rounders. He says, versatile players are important for a team, but the unbalance caused by cramming them can contradict their effect.
He explains, "You don't want to stick an all-rounder at No. 9 because he's just not going to bat."
"The average No. 8 faces about seven balls per match, and the average No. 9 faces about four balls per match. If those guys are required to face more than the average, your top order batsmen haven't done their job properly.
"For No. 9, 10 and 11 you just want an out-and-out specialist bowler who would perhaps then be capable of playing a five-ball cameo. If you pick too many all-rounders you end up compromising where they bowl, because often they turn out not to be very good death bowlers."
When you consider that the money that could be saved by the teams who follow that advice, it seems strange that Weston asks for work instead of rejecting it. It's not that his ideas are being ignored.
Weston disclosed, recently he learnt that teams across the globe were using the content on his website without even asking him for his services as a consultant, which forced him to confine his public production to reactive analysis only as a result.
"I wrote an analysis of 10 English players who would perform well in the subcontinent and the top five all got signed," he says. "That includes guys like Wayne Madsen, who had never had an overseas contract before. A lot of the time people say they don't have the financial capabilities to pay for my work, but I don't buy into that theory at all. You can't tell me that a cricket team has no financial wastage."
"If they were to use my data, they would be able to release a player and free up the money to pay for a consultant. It's an indictment of the game at the moment."
Weston believes that the industry is heading towards a positive change, despite the fact that, as younger coaches come into the sport and the education of current ones evolves.
"I think things will change in the next decade or so," he says. "We'll find that cricket will turn to much more of a baseball-orientated, stats-driven sport."
If and whenever it happens, it will be justification for Weston efforts.
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