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Moneyball: MBA Uses Big Data To Help Indian Premier League Cricket Pros Reach Their Peak

Matt Dwyer runs his own sports science consultancy alongside an MBA at IE Business School

Matt Dwyer works with some of the most prestigious names in the world of cricket. Alongside an MBA at Spain’s IE Business School, he runs his own sports science consultancy, which provides specialist fitness and nutrition services for cricketers across the globe.

Since founding Cricket Specific Fitness four years ago, he’s worked closely with Indian Premier League players and top international cricketers including renowned Indian batsman and former captain Rahul Dravid, South African batsman Herschelle Gibbs and West Indies all-rounder Kieron Pollard.

The use of big data analytics is becoming increasingly prominent in sport, and Matt thinks baseball’s “Moneyball” concept is set to take the cricketing world by storm. In fact, he’s already using data analytics to help nurse his clients back to full fitness and ensure they reach their optimum levels of performance.

Matt worked in investment banking in Australia before embarking on his decade-long career in sports science. Now, he’s enjoying a cutting-edge, blended learning experience at IE Business School, and bowling for a career in strategy consulting after his MBA.

How did the idea for Cricket Specific Fitness come about?

I was working as a sports scientist in Australia when the opportunity came to work with the Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League. It was very clear that the sports science industry in India was well behind Australia, and that there was an opportunity to provide these services to Indian cricketers.

I spent two seasons working with the Baroda Cricket Association in Gujarat, India, and I’ve had clients from typical cricketing countries as well as from more non-traditional places like Japan!

What specific types of fitness are required for cricket professionals?

Cricketers need a combination of strength, speed and endurance to allow them to be able to bat with power over long periods of time, bowl faster and with greater accuracy, and to field athletically.

Cricket is a unique sport in that there are three different formats of the game - twenty20, one-day and multi-day - that require different physical requirements, and significant differences also exist in cricketers’ fitness requirements depending on their role in the team.

How have you helped some of your more high-profile clients?

The most rewarding work that I’ve done is getting professional cricketers back onto the field after a significant injury. Whilst the initial work is done by a doctor or physiotherapist, the player spends the majority of their recovery time progressing through their rehabilitation program with the sports scientist.

I also find it very rewarding when young players who I’ve worked with get picked for major tournaments like the Indian Premier League, or when they make their debuts for their national teams.

Are you increasingly utilizing statistics and data in your work?

Cricket is similar to baseball in the sense that there is an enormous amount of data collected and available to maximize the performance of the team and individual players. Many teams are using this data, but we are only at the very initial stages in our understanding of how to use it.

To some extent, it’s already happening. But in the future, the auction process for major tournaments will rely more heavily on data analysis in putting together the right team at the right price; effectively a “Moneyball” concept for cricket.

What advice do you have for MBAs looking to start their own specialized consultancy?

You need to be passionate about your niche and an industry leader in the field.

But you need to do your homework: your niche industry needs to be large enough to require consultancy services at a level that can be profitable for your business, and most importantly, have customers who are willing to pay for such a service. Many specialized consultancies fail because the market simply does not need, or is not willing to pay, for such a service.

Why did you decide to pursue an MBA?

I’m looking for an opportunity to leverage my previous experience as a strategy consultant, particularly in the areas of life sciences and healthcare, or media, sport and entertainment.

An MBA is the perfect opportunity to refresh and further develop my business skill set while also expanding my knowledge in areas where I have had no formal training.

Why did you choose to study at IE Business School in particular?

I wanted the flexibility to be able to study from wherever I may be in the world, but I did not want to be in a fully online program. IE’s blended delivery format is competitively ranked globally, but with fees that are significantly more affordable than those schools ranked at a similar level.

The diversity of the class, both in terms of culture and backgrounds, was another reason. In our class we have students from 25 different countries and a very wide range of industries.

How have you profited from your MBA experience?

The course has allowed me to fill the gaps in my knowledge. I’ve really valued the opportunity to work in diverse teams and the challenges that this has posed for my own leadership skills.

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