The Evolution Of The Role Of A
Pro Kabaddi League Analyst
Author: Gautam Varier
When the Pro Kabaddi League commenced all the way back in 2014, not many could have foreseen that it would turn out to be such a massive success. With the stakes now being higher than ever, many teams have turned to analytics to gain an advantage on the mat.
Analytics has now become part of the fixtures and fittings of many franchises, but, of course, that wasn’t always the case. It took a while for PKL teams to fully embrace it and here we take a look at how the role of an analyst in Kabaddi has evolved over the years.
There was a lot of uncertainty around the league itself in Season 1, so it was only in Season 2 that the idea of introducing analytics into the mix came in. We worked with Bengaluru Bulls that season and provided them with data-backed insights based on stats from Season 1.
This was still at a basic level, for eg: Highlighting raiders who excelled at do-or-die raids and things of that nature. We were also invited to a pre-season camp, where we got to learn more about how coaches look at the game and what they are seeking from an analyst.
Season 3 was when things started to pick up. Some teams started using this data for auction strategies and while an analyst might not be at the auction table, they would be involved in the discussions leading up to the big event. This was also the season when analysts started being sent to PKL teams. They would only be a part of pre-match discussions with the management, that would involve player evaluation and the data points that had to be in the picture.
PKL’s expansion from 8 to 12 teams in Season 5 led to player dispersion. It also led to teams involving analysts for the auction itself as the importance of data-backed decisions became more and more apparent. We got to work with UP Yoddhas in the process, and that was when we developed an auction tool for the first time.
Another type of analysis also came to the fore in the form of backend analysis. Teams wouldn’t have an analyst travel with them, but instead, the service would be provided to them remotely.
Season 6 saw the beginning of what is kind of the norm now. Teams started having analysts as part of their support staff and the individual would travel across the country with them. As time went on, more and more teams started adopting this approach.
Now in this role, what was key was establishing a good working relationship with the coaching staff. It helped in making them understand the value of analytics. Some coaches were forward-thinking and embraced it, but others obviously did not.
As time went on, though, more and more coaches understood the value that analytics brings to the table. This was, in part, due to teams having analysts travel with them, as it helped give the individual a clearer picture of what these coaches want. Once the coach started getting valuable information that had not been available in the past, they embraced it as a means to improve performance on the mat.
So What Is The Current Role Of A PKL Analyst?
The current role and responsibilities of an analyst in the PKL can be divided into three parts:
You may wonder what exactly does an analyst do when there are no games going on. Well, offseason work really revolves around scouting for New Young Players (NYP). There’s a lot of traveling involved in order to identify the best young talents that the team potentially needs to get on board.
In a salary-capped league like the PKL, nailing the NYP acquisitions is incredibly important. They are on very cheap contracts and if they can deliver on the mat, it’s a massive boost for the team. It can then strengthen other areas with the money saved to form the best possible squad.
In the pre-season, teams have a limited support staff, so the analyst has a variety of responsibilities. They need to keep track of the fitness data points as well as the training sessions that the players would have been involved in. Having data on past seasons also helps pinpoint the technical skills that players need to be trained on before the campaign starts.
It is also during this time that they lay down the foundations for opposition analysis by tracking the moves made by rival teams. Toward the end of the pre-season, video analysis sessions can also be held for the same.
During the season, one of the primary responsibilities is a SWOT analysis of the team you’d be facing. Armed with this information, the analyst assists coaches in formulating a winning strategy for the game.
In the training sessions that follow, the analyst keeps an eye on all the players. Inputs regarding the ones who are performing well are shared with coaches, who then further integrate them into the setup.
When the games actually start, only a few teams have an analyst in the dugout and they’re required to share some real-time data that the coach might be interested in. The rest evaluate the game in preparation for what’s to come next, post-match analysis.
Here they figure out what went right and what didn’t, with a proper review of the game. Based on this, the coaches then implement some changes in training to address the issues that might have popped up.
A great analyst nails this part of his role as it obviously helps improve performance on the mat in the future. There is absolutely nothing more rewarding than identifying the problem areas and then seeing how the team gets elevated to new heights after working on it.
At the end of the day, the players are the ones most responsible for a team’s success, but having a great analyst helps teams gain that little bit of an edge in these games, which are decided by small margins.
The whole operation sounds quite fascinating, doesn’t it? Well, if you’re interested in becoming a Kabaddi Analyst yourself, then fret not, for we have you covered. We are hosting a Kabaddi Auction Strategy workshop and are also offering a brand-new Kabaddi Analytics Course. To know more about them, check out SportsKPI EdTech.
Pic Credit: UP Yoddhas