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Data Muscle


It was a deserving and brave win for the New Zealand team in the World Test Cricket final. It has consistently thwarted India’s bid to dominate the sport, partly because it has expertise in playing in windy, wet and chilly conditions. Southampton, the venue of the final, was very similar to typical New Zealand grounds. Even with all that, India’s loss would not have hurt so much if the players had put in the very best they are capable of. If, going by the record, they had played even up to seventy percent of their capacity, they would have won.

It becomes important, therefore, to consider why the team could not perform optimally. This is where the Cricket Board, the team management and the coaches come in. In the old days and in many team sports there was a general sense of how a group of talented individuals could be made to cohere into a powerful force. This became possible as a lot of time was spent together during long tours. There was a lot of interaction. Today, the players come together, at best, for a short camp before a tour and spend most of their time in social media type isolation. There is not enough discussion, tactics are mostly handed down and not worked out together. Given the level of earnings of the top players, there is a lot more than just games at stake. As such, brands and public personas have to be ‘managed’ by professionals. This dictates the attitude on the ground and while engaging with others. It becomes difficult for those supposedly in charge to point out faults and provide hard advice. This is the unfortunate truth as revealed by the half baked performance of the numerous stars in the team.

Under the circumstances, there is now need to utilise science and technology to do what ‘team spirit’ did in the past. When it comes to team selection, as well as the playing eleven, there should be computer programmes to calculate all factors such as pitch conditions, the weather, the particularities of each player, the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition and a plethora of other information. India is a world leader in Information Technology and all the bright sparks can be involved in developing these programmes. The ICC can easily afford it. Don’t just leave it to the ‘instincts’ of the Manager and the Coach. (The present lot needs to be sacked for Wednesday’s humiliation, anyway.) Prashant Kishore is one example of how data analysis can tilt the scales in politics. Let’s get it into sports.