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How live fielding data capture is changing cricket

How live fielding data capture is changing cricket
October 22, 2023

It was a moment of street-smart fielding that has already gone down in Ashes history: Alex Carey's controversial stumping of Jonny Bairstow at Lord’s in July motivated a stunning England comeback in subsequent Tests that saw Australia draw the series and retain the historic urn - and both sides’ fans treated to the most viscerally thrilling Ashes series in decades.

Such pivotal fielding moments can turn a game - or a series - stoke controversy and spark emotional responses in players and fans alike.

And yet, fielding - cricket’s third discipline - had for many years been overlooked when it came to capturing quantifiable data that could assess player performance. Batting and bowling rankings have of course been around for decades, but fielding had been put into the ‘too-hard’ basket.

Thankfully, that is now changing, thanks to Sportradar, official data supplier for the International Cricket Council, which captured live fielding data for the very first time at the ICC Men’s T20 Cricket World Cup in Australia last year and is doing so again at this year’s ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup in India.

This new data is uncovering previously hidden insights, generating greater engagement for fans, development opportunities for coaches and players and growth opportunities for broadcasters and the game of cricket.

Sportradar’s fielding data reached a massive audience at last year’s ICC Men's T20 World Cup. The ICC reported there were 78.4 million visitors across the Men’s T20 World Cup on its web and app platforms, an all-time record that helped to make the tournament the most digitally engaged ICC event ever.

For this year’s tournament, which is running from October 5 to November 19, Sportradar is again feeding its batting, bowling, and fielding data directly into the ICC’s fan-facing website and mobile app and using AI to construct rapid-fire commentary about each delivery from a combination of data inputs.

Sportradar is also sharing the insights gleaned from its data to media outlets and broadcasters worldwide, enhancing coverage of the tournament through story telling.

So how does Sportradar capture live fielding data?
Just as catches win matches, the greater understanding of the science and art of fielding derived from this new data is potentially game altering.

Sportradar’s proprietary data collection tool can capture up to 80 data points for every single ball bowled in a match, across all three disciplines of the game: batting, bowling, and fielding.

Key fielding data points include exact fielding locations of each player for each ball, fielding events for each player and the difficulty of those events that take place. “Pressure events” are also recorded - essentially when the fielder pressures the striker or non-striker to return to the crease swiftly. These events can result in no outcome, runs saved, a run out opportunity or dismissal.

Sportradar data scouts will meticulously collect the raw fielding data live in stadium during the ICC Cricket World Cup. This data encompasses intricate metrics such as catch difficulty, run-out probabilities, dropped catch occurrences, runs saved, runs conceded, and the quantification of pressure-inducing moments.

How Sportradar turns fielding data into rankings
This rich dataset is then processed through our proprietary algorithm, enabling us to effectively rank players according to their performance.

The development of this innovation was largely driven by expertise out of Australia. The Sportradar team used that knowledge to develop its own cricket fielding data collection capability to fill the void previously left untouched or underutilised in cricket media, broadcast and by elite teams.

Sportradar has since worked with the ICC to develop a rankings model for fielding and now supplies fielding rankings for ICC tournaments such as the ICC Cricket Men’s World Cup based on its proprietary data.

Its fielding metrics can be converted into ranking points for each fielder, with players starting a match at zero and moving into net positive or negative numbers, depending on their performance.

At last year’s ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, the algorithm revealed the tournament’s top 10 most impactful fielders - with England’s Liam Livingstone taking top spot for individual performers, and his country and champions ranked as the best performing team in the field.

The biggest challenge was refining the algorithm so that each fielding action was weighted appropriately - and comparing, for example, the value of a catch versus a good throw or run out attempt.

Sportradar is rising to that challenge once again for this World Cup. Its rankings are being surfaced on the ICC’s own services and syndicated to its broadcast partners around the world as they were during the semi-finals and final of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup last year.

So, when those dramatic, tournament-defining fielding moments happen, Sportradar’s fielding data is informing storytelling and enriching the viewing experience.

About the author

Jarod Pickering

Head of Cricket, Sportradar

Jarod Pickering is an experienced product leader and strategist with over 20 years' experience crafting digital experiences in domains including insurance, education, e-commerce and sport.

Click here to contact him via LinkedIn.

Read more from this author

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