Thursday, May 23, 2024

England Women are using Artificial intelligence to select their cricket team

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England Women have been using Artificial Intelligence to help with team selection in a move that could help shape the future of the female game.

Jon Lewis, the side’s head coach, named his white-ball squads for his side’s upcoming T20 and ODI series against Pakistan and revealed how AI played a pivotal role in team selection during his side’s record-breaking Ashes series last summer.

England were huge underdogs heading into the multi-format series against champions Australia but ended up winning two white-ball trophies, which included a first T20 victory in seven years as the tourists were forced to settle for a draw.

Lewis first learned of AI during his time in charge of UP Warriorz after taking over the Women’s Premier League side in February 2023 and indicated the advancing technology could be a useful tool as the team builds towards September’s T20 World Cup in Bangladesh.

“It’s something that I looked at and thought, ‘Actually this could add some value to the England women’s cricket team,’” said Lewis. “What I would say is it’s not how we select the side, but it’s one part of selection that we use to help understand what could possibly happen in the future.

“We used it very successfully in the Ashes last summer with matchups against the Australian side. The one thing that is missing at the moment from that is the quality of historical data in the women’s game. As we move forward, with more and more competitions being played, especially at franchise level and international level, we’ll be able to get much more accurate data.”

There has been a global rush to capitalise on AI in sport, with the technology having already been rolled out across franchise cricket. Last month, Olympic organisers unveiled their own plans to use AI in sport to help judges and identify sporting talent, with Thomas Bach, the IOC president, describing it as a “revolution for sport.”

Lewis and his backroom team have been working with London-based sports data company Prospect, whose subsidiary, Oval, is the leading rugby analytics provider that has worked with the England men’s rugby head coach, Steve Borthwick.

“I can send multiple different lineups to the company and they run about 250,000 simulations per team that I send with all the different permutations that could happen through the game,” explained Lewis. “It’s something that is quite commonly used throughout cricket across the world in franchise cricket.”

While admitting AI could prove useful in making “borderline decisions” Lewis insisted he would always favour a people-first approach when it came to team selection, warning it was no substitute for the “cricketing eye”.

“Will it ever be the thing that selects a team? In my view, no,” he said. “Other coaches may feel very differently. There’s one selection in particular last year and one period of the Ashes that we targeted as a team around when we saw Australia’s real strength and we matched up our strength for that. That worked really well for us and it helped us win the T20 series in particular. That got us back in the Ashes.”

England’s upcoming T20 series against Pakistan will give players an opportunity to stake their claim for a spot in Lewis’ T20 squad for this year’s World Cup in Bangladesh. Linsey Smith and all-rounder Freya Kemp are included in the cohort, although the latter will only be deployed as a batting option as she continues her return to full fitness from a back-injury.

Tammy Beaumont has only been included in the one-day squad while Sophia Dunkley is the most high profile omission following a dip in form. Fast bowler Mahika Gaur, 18, is unavailable because of A-Levels but could return in time for the visit of New Zealand later this summer.

England play three T20s and three one-day internationals against Pakistan, with the first T20 at Edgbaston on May 11.

England Women Vitality IT20 squad

Heather Knight (C; Western Storm), Lauren Bell (Southern Vipers), Maia Bouchier (Southern Vipers), Alice Capsey (South East Stars), Charlie Dean (Southern Vipers), Sophie Ecclestone (Thunder), Lauren Filer (Western Storm), Danielle Gibson (Western Storm), Sarah Glenn (The Blaze), Bess Heath (Northern Diamonds), Amy Jones (Central Sparks), Freya Kemp (Southern Vipers), Nat Sciver-Brunt (The Blaze), Linsey Smith (Southern Vipers), Danielle Wyatt (Southern Vipers)

England Women Metro Bank ODI squad

Heather Knight (C; Western Storm), Tammy Beaumont (The Blaze), Lauren Bell (Southern Vipers), Maia Bouchier (Southern Vipers), Alice Capsey (South East Stars), Kate Cross (Thunder), Charlie Dean (Southern Vipers), Sophie Ecclestone (Thunder), Lauren Filer (Western Storm), Sarah Glenn (The Blaze), Amy Jones (Central Sparks), Nat Sciver-Brunt (The Blaze), Danielle Wyatt (Southern Vipers)

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