Involved with Durham County Cricket Club since 2006, Phil Dicks has now brought his considerable expertise down to Yorkshire in the field of performance analysis.
Martyn Moxon’s last year at Durham coincided with Dicks joining the county staff at the Riverside which in turn coincided with the ECB’s Video Data Project.
It was back in 2006 when all eighteen counties got digital video cameras and laptops with video analysis software, the system pioneered in South Africa called CricStats which records the nature of each ball bowled and how the batsman played it. The technology has handed over to enable the counties to record every ball of every home game.
The following year, Moxon moved to Yorkshire and Geoff Cook took the reins at Durham and pushed for the video analysis to go that step further to record every ball both home and away throughout the season.
It was during the momentous Yorkshire County Championship victory away at Durham in 2013, the backdrop and driving force of which was an imperious 182 from Joe Root, that discussions formed around a full-time analyst role at Yorkshire. Previously, the role had been part-time and held by Nick Robinson who has since joined the staff at the cricket charity, The Yorkshire Cricket Foundation.
So, 2014 has been deemed a trial year to see how both Dicks and Yorkshire find the analysis benefits and how the relationship works but change is afoot.
Since 2007, the software itself has changed as these things do; it’s now the New Zealand product called Feedback Cricket which the England team have used since 2002.
But Dicks’ impact at Yorkshire includes putting in a second camera so there’s now ‘high-cam’ at the Rugby Club end; a telescopic camera that could see over the Rugby Stand and into a rugby game, if the need to peer from afar ever arose.
It’s able to see from up to twenty metres with coverage of a typical county game being around eight metres up to avoid the umpire’s head but comfortably able to zero in on the business end of the action.
So, now for the first time there’s a camera at both ends and the ability to switch seamlessly over-by-over. At Yorkshire, the system in place is standard-def as opposed to Durham who’ve plumbed for high-definition but again, steps are in place to consider an upgrade.
It might sound like just playing around with technology but it has a serious point, namely the ability to pore over the minutiae of everything on the cricket field. Whether looking for opposition trends and picking apart a bowler’s weakness or watching back modes of dismissal, it’s all about learning.
For those (like me) that thrive on the technology plumbed into cricket nowadays, there is a geeky thrill with the ability to tilt, pan, track the ball or an individual player. The video capability side of things is two-fold. It’s clearly got value in professional cricket in a multitude of ways but there’s an added entertainment dimension.
Adding to the spectator experience is something all cricket stadia should be looking to push the boundaries on; it won’t be for everyone but as Dicks points out, he could already, in theory, supply the IP address of the camera to any spectators in the ground and they could access those live images via laptop, tablet or phone.
It’s this sort of fusion of technology with sports spectating that is hugely exciting. Not a gimmick for gimmick’s sake but anything that can add to a person’s enjoyment and understanding of a game has to be seriously considered – although there is the risk we could all spend most of the time hunched over electronic devices instead of taking in the live action.
In terms of Yorkshire’s video capability, they’ve already used their cameras to produce daily five-minute highlights on YouTube. Indeed this area is something that has real potential for growth – and revenue – next season. That may, however, depend on any limitations imposed by the ECB who currently have first dibs on when a previous day’s action goes live to audiences, namely after them.
We’ve already seen the inherent value in match highlights with near-live rights being sold to News UK (which includes The Times newspaper) allowing them to offer video to subscribers of wickets, boundaries and sixes of England during international cricket matches.
To take this meandering discussion back to video analysis – its primary purpose after all – Phil has the freedom at Yorkshire’s away matches to sit where he likes and record what the county wants. One example is a project that Dicks did to closely scrutinise Adil Rashid’s legbreak and his googly.
This allowed some distinctive comparisons and observations from a coaching perspective and with Rashid embracing this method of learning, the county feels it’s kicked on the player’s understanding of his own game.
This seamless integration is part and parcel of cricket in 2014 but while its applications will hopefully continue to benefit Yorkshire, there’s always the tantalising prospect of added value for fans either inside the ground or watching at home.
To listen to the full audio interview with Phil, just click the orange arrow below: