Jon Lewis using AI to help with ‘borderline’ England selection decisions

England head coach Jon Lewis has revealed how he is using AI as a selection tool and credits the technology with helping his side draw last summer’s Ashes series.

Lewis was first exposed to the work of London-based PSi when he took charge of the Women’s Premier League franchise UP Warriorz in India and now uses the company to bolster the decisions he makes about squad make-up, team balance and in-game match-ups.

Explaining the system, which plots projected outcomes depending on the composition of each side, he said: “I can send multiple different line-ups to the PSi in London and they run, I think, about 250,000 simulations per team that I send, with all different permutations that could happen through the game.

“We are able to run simulated teams versus the simulated opposition to give us an idea about how those teams may match up against each other. I came across it during my time at UP Warriorz and it’s something I looked at and thought it could add some value to the England Women’s cricket team.

“I always go with a people first approach: understanding people, understanding players, understanding where they are at in their own minds, then be supported by data and information.

“What data can do is give you a really objective view of what could happen and what has happened previously. I think it will help with borderline decisions in terms of selection and match-ups.”

Lewis, who has spoken to England’s rugby union coach Steve Borthwick about his own use of the PSi model, feels he has already seen the benefits after leaning on the data-set at a key moment during last year’s series against Australia.

“It played out really last summer…we used it very successfully in the Ashes,” he said.

“There was one selection particularly last year, one period of the Ashes that we targeted as a team. There were a couple of selections where AI really helped because both players I was thinking about picking were both in really good form and were both really selectable and it did help with those selections.

Sophia Dunkley finds herself out of both England squads after struggling for form.
Sophia Dunkley finds herself out of both England squads after struggling for form (Bradley Collyer/PA)

“We saw a real strength in Australia and we matched up our strength to that. That worked really, really well and it helped us win the T20 series in particular, which got us back in the Ashes.”

Lewis was speaking at the announcement of England’s first squad of the summer, for T20 and ODI series against Pakistan later this month.

Sophia Dunkley has been dropped from both squads after an indifferent run of form and Maia Bouchier’s breakout performances in the recent tour of New Zealand have cost Tammy Beaumont her T20 place.

Freya Kemp is included as a specialist batter, still not fit to bowl due to ongoing back trouble related to a previous stress fracture, and Linsey Smith holds her place as an extra spin option. Eighteen-year-old seamer Mahika Gaur, who was handed a debut last season, has been omitted in part to focus on her A-levels.

Explaining the challenge facing Dunkley, who has become an increasingly senior figure in the last couple of years but now has a battle to win back her place, Lewis said: “The message I’ve sent to her is I’d like to see her back playing her best cricket.

“My view on Sophia at the moment is she’s just a little bit out of rhythm. We’ve decided to give her the space, away from the bigger limelight of the Pakistan series, to go and find the rhythm of batting. I still have a really strong belief that Sophia’s got a big future playing for England.”