Turning to Cricket with Michael Najdan

This week's interview goes away from our football analysts as we speak to former football, now turned cricket analyst, Michael Najdan.

PAUK: What is your current role?

MN: I am Performance Analyst at Kent County Cricket Club, responsible for coding primarily first-team fixtures and providing objective information to players and coaches.

PAUK: Tell me about your background and what has led you to this point.... What attracted you to switch to cricket analysis?

MN: I completed a masters degree in Performance Analysis and as part of the course I researched key performance indicators in English T20 cricket. I also completed work experience with various teams across a range of sports. From there I was involved with cricket analysis at OPTA Sportsdata for a couple of years before the job with Kent CCC came up in 2014.

PAUK: Were you a cricket player or is analysis your main love and have just used the skills to switch sports?

MN: Cricket and Football have always been my passions and particularly looking at trends in performance. Therefore, I've always had a sort of informal interest in cricket and football analysis which led me to pursue a more formal career in performance analysis.

PAUK: What does your working week consist of?

MN: Weeks vary greatly, particularly during the summer!

On match days I start by setting up the cameras we use to film the match. The overall role on match days is to collect data and video footage for every ball bowled in a match. The footage is then uploaded to a central server for use by the ECB and other counties to analyse their own, and opponent’s performance. All counties use a software program called PCS Pro where each ball is coded with details such as, line and length, type of shot played, wagonwheel data and the number of runs scored from each ball. Additional details are also logged, for example, if a delivery induces a false shot/play and miss and whether a bowler is bowling from over or around the wicket or if the wicket-keeper is up to the stumps. This data and footage is available for players and coaches to view during or after the match if they want to study a particular bowler’s action or just view their own dismissal once they are back in the changing room.

Non-match days involve filtering the data and footage to provide coaches and players with the vital information on performance in a previous match or identifying trends in future opponent’s performance. All the time searching for that nugget of information that will gain our team a competitive advantage and give the highest probability of success.

PAUK: How would you describe your analysis philosophy?

MN: Ultimately it is about providing the players and coaches with enough of the right sort of information to contribute to performance. Different players process information in different ways, for example, certain players may have a keen interest in their data where others prefer to focus on video footage of themselves or the opposition. Coaches may look for as much detail as possible where others require a summary of the key points. Therefore, it is important to tailor your analysis and the way you communicate findings to their specific needs and requirements.

PAUK: Best moment in analysis?

MN: Success with the team is extremely satisfying, so promotion to County Championship Division 1 and a Lords final in 2018 were great moments. In addition, providing information, and having players and coaches request particular information that influences tactical and strategic decisions and therefore, contributes to performance are the most satisfying parts of the job.

PAUK: Are you more data or video heavy in your work and why are you more heavy on that area & how do you use data to affect performance?

MN: I'd say a mixture of both data and video at the moment. The use of data is increasing all the time and I only see that continuing. The coding software we use produces data files from each match which we can import to R or Tableau for further analysis. This data analysis is particularly important for end of season reviews of our own team and looking at competition trends. In addition, during competition data analysis can quickly and effectively identify areas of performance we are excelling or struggling in compared to rival teams or performance in previous seasons.

PAUK: What do you think is next for the analysis industry?

MN: The industry has grown so much since I started 8 or 9 years ago. In particular, data analysis over the last few years has become much more important. Therefore, I think analysis will become more specific, with analysis departments growing and experts in certain disciplines taking roles. This is already happening at many football clubs with the appointment of data scientists, data analysts, recruitment analysts, set piece analysts etc, and I see this filtering through other sports. In terms of cricket analysis, the collection and analysis of fielding data and video will certainly grow over the coming years. Currently, a small amount of data is collected in county cricket such as catches taken and dropped and mis-fields, with a greater amount collected by data companies on international and franchise cricket around the world.

PAUK: What tool has the biggest impact on your job?

MN: We use a range of tools to complete different tasks. Overall 'PCS Pro' is the software that all counties use to analyse matches and filter data and video. This also provides the data file for further data analysis using Tableau or R. These tools allow us to analyse any trends in performance and compare performance in key areas of the game with other teams and players we are competing against.

PAUK: What advice would you give someone that wants a job in the industry?

MN: Get as much experience across a range of sports as possible. Learning to use different software and working with different coaches and players will be invaluable. In addition, getting your own work out there and into the public domain through social media, blogs or sending to analysts can only help.

Thanks to Michael for taking the time to be interviewed by Performance Analysis UK. You can hear more from Michael on Twitter and Linked.

If you are interested in becoming an analyst or know more about what the life of an analyst involves, take a look at our Introduction to Analysis Course here!

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