How Machine Learning is Improving English Cricket

BANGOR, GWYNEDD, WALES, UK / ACCESSWIRE / August 30, 2019 / Innovative machine learning may seem light years away from first class test cricket, but it was the introduction of machine learning which enabled experts at Bangor University to reveal to the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) the factors which can lead to developing county or international world-class cricketers.

Having gathered detailed and multifaceted information on over 1000 factors believed to be important predictors within a player’s journey to elite or super elite cricket; whether they become a County or international player, experts at Bangor University’s Institute for Psychology of Elite Performance worked with computer scientists at the University to number-crunch the vast data-set.

The results revealed that a crucial combination of only 18 factors can determine talent development.

Dr Gavin Lawrence of the School of Sport, Health & Exercise Science explains:

“Anecdotal and scientific evidence suggests that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to reach expertise. Unfortunately, what this evidence can’t tell us is exactly what type of practice do we need to undertake and when? As a result, there could be hundreds or even thousands of aspiring cricketers practicing the wrong stuff at the wrong time.

“Until now, science has not been able to answer these questions. But recent advances in complex machine learning has made it possible for us to collect and analyse a vast array of data in order to help shed light on what practice is important and when you need to do it if you want to become super elite.

“For example to become an elite cricketer, our data reveals that you need to have engaged in large volumes of highly challenging and varied practice by the age of 16, but you need to have done even more of this to become a super elite cricketer. This challenges the traditional view that young cricketers should face tempered and predictable deliveries in order to practice repeated rehearsals of shot techniques.

Dr Ben Jones, who recently gained his PhD having worked on the project added:

“To reach the heights of super elite, our data indicates that young cricketers need to face challenging and unpredictable deliveries whilst simultaneously practicing multiple shot techniques early in their development; practices that are often not introduced until later in development. ”

This is one of only 18 factors revealed.

Work is now ongoing to ensure coaches, talent scouts, academy staff alike are aware of the 17 other factors that ‘make a difference’, in conjunction with planning how they might help develop those factors in young and aspiring cricketers.

All this new science will help better inform the development of cricketers.

The ECB have a 15-year record of collaboration with Bangor University’s School of Sport, Health & Exercise Science. This is one of a number of joint research projects to increase science and evidence-based practice within cricket, and is part of a wider push from the ECB to reduce the performance gap between clubs at the county and national level. It is another example of the type of research impact activity that saw the School of Sports, Health & Exercise Sciences ranked 7th in the UK in the most recent government led Research Excellence Framework.


Further information:

Dr Gavin Lawrence, Senior Lecturer Motor Control and Learning, Institute for the Psychology of Elite Performance, School of Sport, Health, and Exercise Sciences, Bangor University, 01248388283 01248 383298

Editor’s note:

Another research project with ECB works to help all of England’s current players perform in the pressure cooker that is international cricket by ensuring their physical and mental preparation is optimal. A ground breaking training programme between the School of Sports, Health & Exercise Sciences and the ECB identifies player characteristics using techniques including coach interviews, psychological profiling, and both cognitive and physical tests. These data are then analysed by a team of six researchers from Bangor University who then design individualised training techniques and regimes for each player. A pilot program in 2016 focussing on five players identified by the ECB as having considerable potential was a big success. The project was then rolled out into the counties and more recently to the senior men’s and women’s teams.

The collaborative approach to scientific understanding is described a key to the programme’s success. The coaches on the ground contribute both practical experience and personal knowledge of players whilst the researchers utilise their academic understanding of performance to deliver a more scientific approach to planning training. The research team is part of the School of Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences Institute for Psychology of Elite Performance (IPEP) at Bangor University. This houses the largest concentration of elite sport performance based researchers in the country. The team consists of academics who bring a diverse set of subject skills which helps create a more complete picture of athlete development including psychological, motor skill learning, and physiological perspectives.

Further information: Dr Ross Roberts, Senior Lecturer. Sport Psychology, School of Sort Health & Exercise Sciences, Bangor University 01248 388137

Bangor University’s School of Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences has been providing high-calibre undergraduate and postgraduate degrees since 1978 making it one of the oldest departments in the UK. Over this period Bangor has attracted some of the world’s best teaching and research staff who have contributed to the development of these extensive degree programmes.

SOURCE: Bangor University

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