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Interview with Lakshmi Narayanan - Performance Analyst of Gujarat Lions

This interview is about how use of technology, performance analysis helped teams and players improve their performance.

Brendon McCullum’s Blitzkrieg at the start of innings was planned as counter-attacking move” - Lakshmi Narayanan

These days we often see one interesting thing in the dressing rooms or dugouts of the cricket teams. There is always a person sitting in front of the laptop. Often, there is curiosity about that person and the kind of work he does. Well, that person is the performance analyst of the team.

The role of performance analyst looks quite simple for the outside world but actually tremendous amount of backend work is involved in this. Gujarat Lions’ performance analyst and an eminent performance analyst himself, Lakshmi Narayanan talked with Sportskeeda about various interesting things related to his job in Cricket.

Q. Congratulations on finishing at the top of the table. How was your experience with Gujarat Lions?

It was indeed a wonderful experience. This was our first season in the IPL and we ended up with highest points in the league stage. Since I have worked with CSK before, I am familiar with some of the players in the Gujarat Lions squad.

We had an excellent coaching staff. I got a chance to work with new coach-Brad Hodge, Heath Streak- Bowling coach and Monty Desai who is our performance coach.

Lakshmi with MS Dhoni after winning IPL

Q. You were part of CSK support staff. Please give us some insights about working with MS Dhoni and consistency of CSK throughout 8 seasons.

I was with the CSK since its inception in 2008. I had a privilege of working with some of the brightest minds in cricket for 8 years. It was special to be a part of the team that performed so consistently. I am grateful that I got the opportunity to work with MS Dhoni.

We had a specific method of operation when it comes to performance analysis. I used to discuss bowling strategy with our bowling coach Andy Bichel. Then, we used to create a strategy with Fleming and Steve Rixon. At the end, the plan was presented to MS Dhoni.

It was routine before every match. It worked nicely for us. CSK was the team that retained the most number of players during 2011 and 2014 IPL auctions. It was a strategic move and lots of analysis went into it.

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Q. What is the opinion of players about the use of technology in sports? Does it really help them in improving performance?

It varies from player to player. I have worked with lots of players with different teams. Every time as a performance analyst my job is to help them analyze their game so that they can give optimum performance on the field.

In Gujarat Lions, for example, Dhawal Kulkarni likes to watch his videos to improve bowling technique and also studies data and videos of opponent players. Dwayne Smith first watches videos of all the good shots he played then, sees videos of opponent bowlers. Bravo likes to watch his videos with some music added in the background.

Similarly, different players want a different kind of music while watching the videos. I look for eclectic trends and patterns and convey it to the players and coaches.

Q. Is there any advancement in Softwares you use which will help players to improve performance on the field?

Since early 2000 various software are used for performance analysis. At the beginning, software were in inchoate form but now they are very efficient and potent in analyzing the performance and deriving the strategies.

There are lots of permutations and combinations in Cricket. Now, we are focusing on venue analysis before the match. For example, average winning score in last 7 matches this season at Chinnaswamy Stadium was 200. When we get to know that par score is 200 then we break it down further.

We look at what is the score needed in 1st 6 overs. Then what should be the score between 7 to 15 overs and, how much should we keep for slog overs. Then it is mapped to our batting line up to come up with the strategy.

We do the SWOT analysis (Strength, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats) for our team. This helps us in picking our playing 11.

Q. Yours is a very special job but lots of people want to know that how can a person become performance analyst?

(Smiles) It’s just like an iceberg. What people see is not even 1/8th of what actually it is. A performance analyst’s job is not just to travel with the teams and enjoy the IPL. There is no particular recipe for it.

In my case, I was a mathematics student and also played league cricket in Tamilnadu. Due to my family situation, I had to take up a job. But at the same time, I wanted to contribute to the sport as well. I learned some programming languages like C++ during that time.

Also, I completed video analyst course from the National Cricket Academy. I started working with Tamilnadu Ranji trophy team and later moved on to the ICC.

I was a performance analyst for associate teams like Canada, UAE etc. I have also worked with the India under-19 team and the India A team as a performance analyst. Currently, I am working with Agaram infotech as a director of operations and analytics. 

Lakshmi with CLT20 Trophy-CSK outplayed everyone in 2014 Champions League T20. 

Q. You have done performance analysis for various teams over a decade. Tell us some of the memorable moments in your career.

My memorable achievement was the under-19 World Cup in 2008. It was a major coup to win the tournament under Virat Kohli’s captainship. We then also won the Emerging players tournament in Australia in 2009.

The biggest achievement was indeed with the CSK when we won back to back IPL titles in 2010 and 2011. Also, I was part of CSK team when we won Champions League T20 in 2014. In fact, after 9 IPL seasons, Raina is the only player and I am the only one amongst all support staff to be a part of all 9 playoffs. I am very proud to say that.

I would like to thank CSK and Gujarat Lions management for giving me an opportunity to work with them and also the backend support team of Agaram infotech for their consistent inputs.

Q. Finally, you have seen so many videos and have worked with so many players. Who is your favorite player to work with as a performance analyst?

Well, that’s a tough one. I am very lucky to have worked with the likes of MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Hayden and Hussey who are greats of the game. 

I can’t pick one. For me every player is important and my job is to help that player to bring out the best in him by analyzing the data and videos. Be it an international cricketer, domestic cricketer or a junior cricketer, I will always try to add value to the player’s and ultimately to my team’s performance.

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