Meet Saurabh Walkar, the Indian analyst that New Zealand will bank on for ODI World Cup 2023 success
Saurabh Walkar, a performance analyst from India, joins the New Zealand cricket team to assist with data analysis and strategy, particularly for the upcoming ODI World Cup 2023.
The New Zealand cricket team is gearing up for the upcoming ODI World Cup 2023, and they have an Indian performance analyst, Saurabh Walkar, who is familiar with Indian conditions and possesses valuable data to assist them. New Zealand's strategy will need to adapt to different oppositions and venues during the tournament.
Walkar sees this opportunity as significant, considering New Zealand's strong team, which reached the finals of the last two World Cup editions. His expertise in Indian conditions and experience working with Indian players made him an attractive choice for the team.
"It is a big opportunity for me as New Zealand is a very strong team, and they were finalists in the last two editions of the World Cup. It is a big challenge but I have confidence in my preparations," Walkar told PTI in an interview.
"They were looking for a performance analyst who knows Indian conditions. Someone who has the experience of working with Indian players. New Zealand coach Gary Stead gave an audience to me, and it went really well," Walkar added.
New Zealand's World Cup campaign begins with a match against defending champions England in Ahmedabad on October 5. They will face another stern test when they play against hosts India on October 22 in Dharamsala. Walkar's familiarity with players from both teams and his extensive data bank on them could prove invaluable.
"I have worked with players like Rohit Sharma and Suryakumar Yadav during my time with the Mumbai Ranji team. It was also a fanboy moment for me as I had watched them only on TV earlier. I have also associated with England cricketers like Jos Buttler during the Hundred at Manchester Originals. So, the New Zealand team will require some high-level input from me during the World Cup. My duty will be to provide that to Stead. I believe I have the data for it," said Walkar, who had worked eight years with the Mumbai Ranji side.
Notably, this isn't Walkar's first association with a national team. He worked with Afghanistan during the ICC T20 World Cup 2021 in the UAE. "Lance Klusener (then Afghanistan coach) interviewed me after applying for the job (of a performance analyst). I saw the job vacancy on their website. He was impressed with my presentation. It was a great experience as Afghanistan were also a very new team, and they were coming from a very different background. The whole team was very enthused about technical things and it was terrific to work with some talented players like Rashid Khan," he stated.
Walkar's journey as a performance analyst in cricket began when he decided to pursue his passion for the sport, giving up his engineering course in Electronics and Telecommunications in 2006. His early exposure to England's nets at CCI (Brabourne Stadium) and the presence of a performance analyst with the team sparked his interest in this career.
He got his big break when he joined the Rajasthan Royals during the inaugural IPL season, working alongside legends like Shane Warne. "It was a remarkable experience. Shane Warne was not big on numbers, as he believed in keeping players motivated through a speech or a personal talk. Darren Berry (former RR technical director) was dealing with data and numbers," Walkar remembered.
Walkar continued to adapt and evolve with the changing dynamics of cricket. He noted that IPL franchises and players have become more receptive to the importance of data in the sport. With over 16 to 17 years of player data available in 2023, his role as a performance analyst has become even more critical.
"Working at Lucknow (Supergiants) was a different experience as Andy Flower was a man of numbers and data. But what I have noticed is that the IPL franchises and players have opened up to the importance of data in cricket, something they looked down upon in the first two or three editions," he said.
"It is also about adapting yourself to the needs of players and teams that you associate with. In the earlier years, we also did not have too much data. But in 2023, we have a solid base of 16 or 17 years of data (of players) to bank on," he added.
Walkar has a hands-on approach to developing the database, not limiting himself to boardroom presentations but actively participating in net sessions. This approach not only provides more data but also strengthens the bond with the players.
As New Zealand prepares for the World Cup, they have a performance analyst in Saurabh Walkar who brings a wealth of experience and valuable insights to their campaign. His knowledge of Indian conditions and familiarity with key players could be pivotal in their quest for success in the tournament.