By Will Harris
Professional cricket is arguably more competitive than ever before. Unlike in sports like basketball, baseball, and soccer where games are played frequently, cricket teams only come together every two or three months to play test matches. This makes it essential that performance staff and coaches can track players’ progress and make sure they’re peaking at the right times.
In this article, we’ll share how integrating five kinds of athlete monitoring technology with an athlete management system (AMS) can help optimize performance and mitigate injury risk.
Many of the leading sides in world cricket rely on Catapult’s Vector wearable or STATSports GPS to quantify the physical demands of the sport. Fielders, batsmen, and wicket-keepers must be in top shape to play their positions effectively, but it’s bowlers who are subjected to the highest loads because of the power and velocity they generate. With a system like Catapult Vector and STATSports, coaches can keep an eye on the acute and total loads of every member of the bowling unit, and also closely monitor acute-to-chronic work ratios to ensure there isn’t a spike in workload that could predispose a bowler to injury.
By integrating information from Catapult or STATSports into an AMS such as Smartabase, cricket teams can put practice loads alongside workout data to see how much total load players are being exposed to. Catapult’s fast bowling algorithm builds on more basic metrics to deliver insights on direction, force, and velocity, making it easier to assess the physical demands placed on bowlers during each inning and across entire test matches. This allows the coaching staff to adjust how many bowls each team member makes to maximize the effectiveness of the whole unit and keep everyone healthy.
Strength and Conditioning
Cricket matches are played over a long period – either one or five-day matches. But players are required to generate bursts of speed and power at any moment and from anywhere on the pitch. They need to develop these physical capabilities in the weight room, and over the past few years, the top international, county, and club sides have also doubled down on player durability through strength and conditioning. Due to the periodized nature of the sport, performance staff need to be able to track each player’s progress throughout the entire season and adjust their training to ensure they’re physically prepared for test matches but not overloaded. An S+C platform like TeamBuildr is perfect for this purpose.
Managing the data such a system collects in an AMS enables performance staff to tailor team programs to better meet individuals’ needs. Changes can be made based on the position of a player, their injury history, and whether their gym sessions are consistent with or deviating from their baseline metrics. The ability to closely monitor real-time information while keeping an eye on the big picture with historical data makes it easier for the coaching staff to adjust load exposure throughout the season so that players are always ready to give their best in the next test match.
Wellness and Sleep
As important as it is to monitor cricket players’ performance in practice, matches, and the gym, their recovery is what will help them close the loop on training adaptations and be able to give their best in competition. A wellness tracker such as the Oura Ring enables performance staff to track their players’ sleep quality and duration, heart rate variability (HRV), resting heart rate, and other metrics. These metrics can all be disrupted when a team flies halfway around the world to compete in a test match. If they have before-and-after information to hand, coaches can dial in players’ recovery to ensure they’ve recovered from the rigors of international travel and have a high level of readiness going into the first day of the test match.
While the proprietary app that accompanies the Oura Ring can provide some rudimentary recommendations, sending the data into an AMS like Smartabase makes it more useful and actionable. By visualizing sleep statistics, HRV, resting heart rate, and other data sets over time, performance staff can look for correlations between practice and match output and recovery and make the necessary adjustments to ensure that players are bouncing back fully between training sessions and tests.
Technology: Stats Perform
Earlier, we mentioned the significance of being able to monitor player load during practices and weight room sessions. But this is only part of the performance picture. To complete it, coaches also need an accurate way to assess load exposure during matches, which is exactly what Stats Perform provides.
Another use case is being able to look at an upcoming opponent’s statistics during the scouting process. This enables a club’s coaches to zero in on key details, such as a bowler’s tendencies against certain batsmen. They can then make the necessary tactical adjustments before their players take the pitch. The analysis of match statistics can also be beneficial when identifying talent. As Stats Perform captures standardized metrics, the development staff can compare the output of club players across the entire country and identify up-and-coming talent that could feed into the national team or county/regional sides. The same is true of junior players who might soon be in contention for the next age division up.
Incorporating match data into an AMS enables cricket clubs to consolidate it with information gleaned during practices and gym workouts, see how well players are responding to their programs, and make tweaks on the fly. If a player’s output dropped off during a certain test, the ability to look at their match statistics with the additional context of their training and recovery metrics makes it easier to adjust their load exposure in a data-driven manner so that they perform better the next time.
In cricket, bowling and throwing from the field are unilateral actions. This means that players can get unbalanced and the longer they’re competing in the sport, the greater such imbalances and asymmetries can become. To identify these accurately, clubs use ForceDecks from VALD. This dual plate system allows them to see when a player is favoring their left or right side outside a predetermined acceptable range. The S+C coach can then suggest corrective exercises that help the player in question become more balanced, which will increase their overall speed and power and reduce their risk of injury.
By sending the results of the 14 assessments that can be performed via ForceDecks into an AMS like Smartabase, cricket teams’ S+C staff can more accurately assess players’ neuromuscular capabilities, identify deficiencies, and tweak training plans. With data overlaid on top of S+C metrics, practice, and match statistics, and more, coaches are able to decide if testing numbers are consistent with a player’s typical performance or not, and if a decline is noted, whether it is just a temporary blip or a developing trend. They can then intervene as needed to get the batsman, bowler, fielder, or wicket-keeper back on track.
The margin between victory and defeat at the top of international cricket is slimmer than ever. Capturing athlete data and then managing it in an AMS like Smartabase gives cricket clubs an edge on their competition and enables their staff to manage players’ performance and recovery in a more informed, proactive, and effective way.