Replicating the dugout experience

As the 11th edition of the IPL draws to a close, the priority will be to gauge whether the Dugout has a future beyond the T20 format and just how much of it can be carried over into Test and ODI.

The panelist of Star Select Dugout (from left) Scott Styris, Brad Hogg, Anil Kumble and Damien Fleming.   -  Special Arrangement

Cricket is a game of disruptions. From Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket to the Indian Premier League, the introduction of TV umpires and the Umpire Decision Review System, from Sachin Tendulkar playing a textbook straight drive to A.B. de Villiers reverse-sweeping a full delivery to third man – the sudden break from the mundane has been pivotal to the sustainability of the ever-evolving gentleman’s game.

So when Star TV won the IPL television and digital rights for $2.55 billion for five years beginning 2018, much of the discussion centred around how the company could turn TV commentary – largely reactive until now – into a predictive and prescriptive experience.

This season, as part of the coverage, Star Select Dugout was launched to enhance engagement with the fans, an idea that had been in the pipeline for a while but was put together recently.

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On the sidelines of the 2014 World Twenty20, Star TV executives, following interactions with coaches and teams, concluded that their approach to the game was fundamentally changing. It was being driven a lot more by data analytics, strategies and match-ups, who’s best-suited to bat at what position and who should play a given number of deliveries. With the team making use of the data available to it to influence on-field strategy, the broadcaster tried to do the same, albeit in a different fashion.

Star strengthened its hold on TV and digital coverage by retaining worldwide rights to Indian cricket for $944 million for the period 2018-23.

The emphasis for Star TV is on storytelling, and the numbers are just a way to bring the story alive. For instance, why has M.S. Dhoni succeeded in hitting wide deliveries for six, or why is Rashid Khan more effective at the death or during the Powerplay? The numbers here are just the output matrix. The broadcaster’s motive is to show viewers what happens in an actual team dugout by replicating the conversation between the coaches and captains.

The in-house analytics team typically sits an hour before the game and has an editorial discussion on what would work at what point in the game. The focus: what are the stories, the timing of the stories and their presentation, which would include augmented reality graphics, Hawk-Eye and archived footage. Before the game, the experts for the day are handed a 65-page preview document that is a collection of all potential stories from the match – the likely playing XI, analysis of the teams’ batting and bowling in phases – from which to pick.

Star TV’s think tank also held discussions with the Fox Entertainment Group about sabermetrics – the statistical study of baseball – to better understand its experience while figuring out what analytics work best for cricket.

As the 11th edition of the IPL draws to a close, the priority will be to gauge whether the Dugout has a future beyond the T20 format and just how much of it can be carried over into Test and One-Day Internationals.

But for now, the juggernaut rolls on.

The author was at the Dugout studio on the invite of the Star Sports Network.