Big data: discovering new career opportunities in pro sports

By SFU's Justin Wong (video by Hans Goksøyr)

In the 2011 Hollywood film “Moneyball,” an under-resourced baseball team, the 2002 Oakland Athletics, demonstrated the power of sports analytics by forming a team using undervalued players. They finished the season first in the American League West with a record of 103-59, but fell short in the playoffs.

Today, big data is transcending the previous possibilities of analytics in professional sports, and is helping executives formulate championship-caliber teams.

SFU PhD alumnus Harsha Perera, who grew up in Sri Lanka and studied at SFU under renowned sports analytics professor Tim Swartz, has just published the first research to use big data for evaluating cricket players. His research is leading the way to creating a better team through science. His work has helped him launch his career in this new industry.

Cricket Fast Facts:

  • It’s the second most popular sport in the world with a fan base of 2.5 billion
  • The game originated in England during the 16th century
  • Originally, the standard match format could last up to five days
  • The first international game was played between Canada and the United States in 1844 at the grounds of the St. George’s Cricket Club in New York
  • In the 1960s, a shorter version of cricket was developed called ‘one-day cricket’
  • In 2003, Twenty20 (T20) was created to shorten the length of each match to two to three hours, imitating the length of other popular sports
  • In 2008, the Indian Premier League (IPL) commenced its inaugural season using the T20 format
  • The IPL brand is worth approximately $3.2 billion USD