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Crunch the numbers: is cricket heading down the Moneyball route?

A data analyst is trying to change the way we look at cricket – and believes the game could be on its way to a ‘Moneyball’-style stats revolution.

Dan Weston is making teams think differently about the game using a numbers-based approach to predict the success of pro cricketers in all formats.

Through collecting individual player data – average, strike rate and economy – and adjusting dependent on recency, opposition quality and conditions, the analyst believes he can stop cricket teams from falling into the same old traps.

“Cricket is a conditions-driven sport,” he says, “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.

“If a batsman performs well at Canterbury, does that really apply to a match at Dhaka? 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 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.”

The weight of reputation is one of the major misjudgements teams make when signing a player according to Weston, no matter their track record in the relevant country.

In the glitz and glam of T20, marquee signings can invigorate a side and fanbase – but Weston believes too often teams fall for the name when they should be looking at the data.

“Lots of high-profile players are signed based on reputation rather than current ability,” he said.

“Take Brendon McCullum: he’s got a poor record against spin bowling, doesn’t keep wicket anymore yet subcontinental teams are signing him as a marquee player. It makes no sense whatsoever.

“Then you see players signed based on reputation from another format. Sam Curran played very well against India in Tests last summer and subsequently got a mega IPL deal despite the fact his T20 data isn’t particularly impressive.”

It all makes sense, and you’d think teams would be all over Weston’s method. But in a sport with such a strong sense of tradition, preaching such a data-driven philosophy isn’t the easiest of tasks.

“Quite a few coaches are old school, so it’s difficult to get them to buy into what you’re offering… 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.

“I think things will change in the next decade or so, and we’ll find that cricket will turn to much more of a baseball-orientated, stats-driven sport.”

Weston’s approach could help you make the right call on your cricket betting – head to Betway to see all the latest IPL odds.

This article was brought to you by The Cricket Paper, the UK's best-selling cricket publication, on-sale every Friday.
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