There is a growing tumult around the datafication of cricket.
Oh, it’s coming, no doubt.
And the game will be different.
But will it be better?
Will it even be good cricket?
I don’t think so.
Cricket 2.0: Inside the T20 Revolution, by Tim Wigmore and Freddie Wilde, looks like a must-read (much more than just the impact of data on how T20 will be played). Nathan Leamon’s Hitting Against the Spin: How Cricket Really Works also looks like it will be interesting.
And I don’t doubt that data will help to explain and illuminate the game, perhaps to identify new “Moneyball” moments.
But will data take over?
Matt Becker (@limitedovers) has articulated this so much better than I ever could — take a look at his blog post Go, and Lee So-dol, on how AI just might spoil the ancient game of Go.
Matt writes about how Lee Se-dol, a 9 dan Go player (the highest achievable player ranking), has become so disillusioned with the future of the game that he has given it up, before computer intelligence replaces the beauty of the game as played by humans with cold logic.
Cricket has a long, long way to go before AI starts to play the game…but “joy stick” coaching, with plays called from the boundary based on the latest algorithms, is almost here.
“…integrating sophisticated data analysis into decision-making…” can be no substitute for sophisticated, real-time decision making by the players.
It simply won’t be cricket.
So perhaps it is time to join the fight back against data-driven cricket now?
In case it looks as if I am taking an overly pessimistic view of the future of the game, there is evidence that the counter-revolution has already started.
Gillespie explains why it is so important for a coach to understand and enhance the human side of cricketers simply: “Mate, we’re in the business of people.”Jason Gillespie quoted in When data met humanity – coaching in the 2010s (Tristan Holme on cricbuzz.com)