Let’s face it. We come from a land of self-proclaimed cricket analysts. Anybody and everybody in India has an opinion while watching cricket. And these aren’t vague opinions, but solid, technical pieces of advice people shout at their screens. From that same land, comes L Varun, the Civil Engineer, turned Software Techie, turned Mumbai Indians’ Data and Video Analyst, who’s actually making a difference to a player’s life. He tells his story, in an exclusive chat with mumbaiindians.com.
To a lot of cricket nerdy Indians, a Team Analyst’s job sounds really cool. It’s a career path people often dream to pursue. So how did you get into this field?
I used to play a lot of cricket when I was young. I played till University level but I couldn’t make it far. So I completed my engineering then like most Indians and by default got into an IT company. I wasn’t really enjoying it and started looking for other jobs. As I started to discover new areas, I got an insight into careers in cricket analytics.
I applied to one of the most respected cricket analytics companies in India, Sports Mechanics where my career took a pivot where I felt the purpose and passion coming together. I literally ate, drank and slept sport on a daily basis. I initially started working on the backend of IPL teams and the Indian cricket team, where I learnt the deeper aspects of how the game is broken down and the strategies that drive the same.
My first big break came in 2018 when I got a chance to be part of the Mumbai Indians team. I have been involved with them ever since, and have been mentored superbly by DJ (CKM Dhananjai). In addition to that, I also worked with the Indian Cricket Team as the Analyst for a couple of tours in 2021, and was also part of the World Cup winning Indian u-19 team in 2022.
There is a perception that there is too much data exposed to the players these days which in turn curbs their natural instincts. Where and how do you draw the line? And are the players receptive to these data points and suggestions?
Firstly, it’s just a perception. In this day and age where all of us have so much data, I feel that players and coaches appreciate data that is contextual and aids their development. I think it’s more valuable to the coaching staff who we as a team work with on a daily basis during a tournament.
Most players like it. It depends on how the data is served. It’s all about understanding themselves and studying the opposition. The player might be a visual guy, who likes to look at videos to analyse his game. Some may like graphs. Conveying data points to a player in a visual form is a challenge that Analysts face and try to embrace. It’s a good challenge to take on and is always evolving.
Having said that, at MI, we have been trend setters in this area where we have a unique way to deliver it to players and coaches. Most of the analysis is delivered through an app which makes it easy to disseminate information in a seamless manner.
There are two things in cricket: analysing weaknesses and analysing strengths. For example, there might be an opposition player susceptible to left-arm spin. But you might have a very good off-spinner in your side. How do you go about this matchup? Do you go about playing for the weakness despite it not necessarily being your own strong point?
It’s a great question. As Analysts, it’s our job to ensure that such information is available and insights delivered to the coaching staff to develop the strategies further. There are deeper aspects beyond matchups that determine how a team stacks up versus an opposition.
Every player has their own strengths and weak areas. However, it’s important to track their progress on a consistent basis so that any changes or perceived weakness can be identified and brought to the notice of the specific coaches who are working with them across disciplines. Our expertise lies in ensuring that any changes in technique are highlighted to the experts, who can then intervene using the cutting edge tools we equip them with.
Coming to the IPL, when does your work with respect to that season actually start?
When it comes to our domain, work is cut out throughout the year where our analysis department is involved across many functions ranging from assisting the scouting team to tracking our own players to auction analysis and leading into the IPL. There is also work that happens in following the opposition players who play around the globe and studying their performances.
During the season then, there are three phases which we work towards: pre-game, in-game and post-game. There are clear processes set up to review and analyse these phases. We work closely with the coaching staff to enable these interventions and make informed decisions.
News Source: https://www.mumbaiindians.com/news/l-varun-team-analyst-mi-have-been-trendsetters-in-how-data-is-consumed-by-coaches-and-players