ECB enlists Bangor University scientists to help with cricket talent testing

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has turned to sports scientists at Bangor University to assist them in creating a talent forecasting model to help identify future generations of world-class cricketers. 

The ECB/ Bangor University research teamThe ECB/ Bangor University research teamThe aim of the research project between the ECB and the University’s School of Sport, Health & Exercise Sciences is to validate a model for predicting cricket talent. This will be used to help selectors and coaches assess and identify promising young players and increase their conversion rate into successful international cricketers.

The move is part of ECBs’ wider strategy to study best practice in talent identification and selection across different sports over the past three years. No stone has been left unturned in the establishment of the ECB’s new talent recruitment strategy for the England Cricket Pathway. The aim is to ensure cricketers selected for the England Development and Performance programmes are confirmed as having the potential to become world class players.

The benefits of mass talent testing have been examined through the NFL Combine and UK Sport’s Pitch to Podium programme. Major League Baseball Teams, Premier League football clubs, NFL and NBA franchises and have all been visited to explore talent recruitment processes, A relationship has been established with the Baltimore Ravens, an NFL franchise,  to learn about talent prediction models including scouting systems and psychological profiling.

As a result of its findings, ECB is now implementing an innovative talent recruitment strategy which includes the Cricket Talent Test, a standardised scouting system and, cutting-edge talent prediction research.

ECB’s Head of Science and Medicine, Simon Timson, said:

“Professional and Olympic sports are all competing to attract the most gifted children from a relatively small talent pool. The ECB is bringing together the best minds in cricket coaching and talent science to establish the most precise talent identification and selection system possible. The partnership with Bangor University to produce a talent prediction model should identify attributes which differentiate young players with the potential for senior international success. Bangor University is providing the specific expertise required to handle huge data sets of young cricketers’ test results, practice histories and performance statistics required to produce the model. Hopefully, the outcome will help our national network of junior coaches select and focus their energy on the players with the greatest likelihood of making it.”

The research generates £44,000 in grant capture over 4 years from the ECB for annual cricket talent testing and a Ph.D. studentship.  The research is led by Professor Michael Khan, who specialises in reaction time and skill acquisition. 

“Cricketers at the highest level are required to make rapid decisions and execute superior error free skills in extremely high pressure situations,” said Professor Khan. 

“Understanding the requirements to meet these challenges as well as creating development pathways of cricketers will be key to developing a talent prediction model that can identify players who have the potential to be the world’s best,” he added.

Professor Lew Hardy of the School, who has worked with the British Army as well as the ECB, will supervise the psychological component of the talent testing and the statistical analyses.  Also collaborating on the project is Australian Professor Bruce Abernethy from the University of Hong Kong.  Professor Abernethy has pioneered research in the area of anticipation and expertise. 

Ed Barney is the Ph.D. funded student on the research project that will take four years in the first instance.  Ed Barney (28) completed his undergraduate degree in Sports Science at Exeter University before recently graduating from Loughborough University with an MS.c. in Sports Science.  Ed will split his time between the National Cricket Performance Centre in Loughborough and Bangor University.

“Under 13, 16 and 19 players from England and Wales will be ‘talent’ tested over the next three years. The combination of this data with performance statistics and scouting reports will feed into a model for early prediction of potential future world’s best players. In addition to identifying talent, this model will be used to inform coaching practice for those players who could potentially be England and Wales’ stars of the future. ”explained Prof Khan.

Publication date: 9 March 2011