When I was young, cricket was a staple part of my sporting diet. From playing in the backyard to watching it on television all summer and even the then limited coverage of overseas winter contests, it was never far from my life. Back then, there were but two formats of this most magnificent of sports; the one-day game and the venerated and oft still considered pinnacle of cricket, the test match. From the UK to Australia, New Zealand to South Africa, and in the cathedrals of cricket at which Indians worship their beloved sport, test match cricket was king and one day games were a secondary enjoyment, but enjoyed, nonetheless.
Times change, of course. That is not to say that cricket does not have a globally secure and still growing audience of devoted fans. Not at all. But when I say things change, I am talking about the necessary and sometimes challenged evolution of the sport in the face of competing sports and leisure activities.
Part of that evolution has been predicated on, it will come as no surprise to learn, the online world. The internet has become a place for entertainment, among many other things. From online gaming competitions with global players to the dizzying and fantastic array of exciting virtual online casino games, society is often about instant gratification and round the clock enjoyment. Though it has been slow at times, the sport of cricket has had to acknowledge, embrace and submit to the fact that it is competing with so much more than it used to when it comes to reinvigorating existing audiences and enticing new ones. But change it has, and those changes are working, it would seem.
T20 Cricket: Revolutionising the Sport, Reinventing for Maximum Entertainment
In 2003, the cricketing format world was transformed. No, test matches were not replaced or relegated, but a new form of crowd-pleasing, heart-pumping, high velocity and big-hitting cricket was brought to market. One look at the current global cricket schedule will attest that there are now T20 leagues around the world, but when it started as a format this was never guaranteed. For some, this was a dilution of their hallowed sport. For others, it was the boost that cricket needed. Opinions may have varied, but with the first international T20 in 2004, it was clear that this was a format that had legs, potential, and marketing magic.
As we now know, the IPL has become the ultimate in the T20 world. Not only has this format engaged a whole new, often younger fan base and audience, it has become major business and a financial, money-making behemoth. And then some. Before you even delve into the money and audiences from the Big Bash in Australia, the T20 Blast in Britain, the relatively new SA20 in, (yes, you guessed it) South Africa, and the Caribbean Premier League, the IPL must be acknowledged as the leader in this ever-growing field. If you don’t believe me, take a look at global audiences: over 400 million watching the IPL alone, and that may not even include some of the online markets.
One thing that motivated this transformation and revolutionising of cricket was to make it a pure form of dynamic, enthralling, crowd-attracting, and high-octane entertainment, pure and simple. Yes, some of the stuck in their way purists and test match lovers were upset, but the number of those unwilling to adopt this new format paled in relation to the millions who fell in love with it. With this newfound cricket romance came the money, with IPL teams now bidding over a million dollars for some players in the annual draft. That’s real money for real entertainment.
Format Frenzy as Cricket Woos and Wows New Fans
Thanks to the global and meteoric success of the IPL, and other franchise-based cricket competitions now enjoying growth and popularity around the world, new formats are now emerging. T20 is not just domestic, it is now a regular part of international fixture lists. It is now fully embedded in the sport, and the hearts and minds of its legion of fans. With this format fixed in place, the market seems ripe for further developments. In all this, cricket as a sport continues to thrive.
Cricket is already loved worldwide, but with this new format and the promise of others, it is becoming even more popular. In the UK, a new competition has already been conceived, introduced, marketed and delivered. It is called The Hundred. If you thought T20 was an entertaining, which it clearly is, this slightly more truncated format is taking off. The simple concept of 100 balls for each team, with the highest score winning well, it’s proving to be popular already.
Simple, entertaining, still keeping the overall rules of cricket in its purest form, and a marketing and advertisers’ dream. Thankfully, the supporters are young and old and, dare I say it, even some traditionalists are enjoying it. I suspect it is but a matter of time before other cricket-loving nations forms their own leagues for this too. That is what happened with T20, so there is form for following. I would be shocked, amazed, and flabbergasted if further formats were not forthcoming as the carnival of cricket continues to revolutionise this global game loved by billions. Long may it continue, bring on the funky formats!