While a lot of people outside South Asia, the UK, Australia, and South Africa might not know this, cricket is the second most popular sport in the world, only behind soccer. It is estimated that it has two and a half billion fans, mainly in England, Australia, Pakistan, and India. It is also one of the most popular sports for sports betting. The numerous scenarios of cricket allow bookmakers to provide odds on many facets of the game. But how popular is cricket? And what makes it so popular? Let’s find out.
Cricket’s Popularity Uncovered
How did cricket get started?
Cricket is a very old sport. Historians believe that it began as a game between children in the fields and forests of the United Kingdom in the 14th century. They threw balls trying to hit them with a tree branch or a piece of wood from the sheep pens.
Over the years, cricket became very popular outside of Britain, in the territories conquered by its empire in Asia, Africa, and North America. Colonization was a very important factor in the popularity of this sport. Outside of England, the countries where it is most practiced are India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Australia.
Is cricket easy to learn?
A very important reason for the popularity of cricket is that it is a very simple game to learn and practice. To start, you only need two players, a wooden stick as a bat and a ball. That’s all.
The simplicity of this game awakens the creativity of millions of fans to play it on the street, this is how the best players in the world have emerged.
What are some key rules associated with cricket?
It is played between two teams of 11 players on a rectangular pitch of a little over 20 meters in length. Each team has three sticks called wickets, which are placed on the ground at each end of the field. Teams take turns pitching and batting innings, a dynamic very similar to baseball.
The goal is to hit the ball to switch batting positions with a teammate and thus score the most runs.
How has cricket grown around the world?
The history of cricket began at least 300 years ago, but it is a sport that continues to evolve and is growing all over the world. So far there are 104 countries integrated into the International Cricket Council (ICC), the world organization in charge of regulating the sport. To better understand its function, we can equate it with FIFA for soccer, FIBA for basketball, or FIA for motorsport.
The biggest event in this sport is the Cricket World Cup, a tournament that takes place every four years with ten participating teams. The last edition was held in 2019 and was won for the first time by the England team, at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London.
The top winners of the Cricket World Cup are the Australians with five championships, followed by India with two. Coincidentally, India will be hosting the next edition of the Cricket World Cup in 2023.
Does cricket generate a lot of revenue?
The enormous popularity of cricket has also led to it becoming a very lucrative business with revenues of billions of dollars. For example, the 2019 Cricket World Cup brought in more than 350 million dollars in revenue.
It’s not just about the matches, the tournament involved more than 500,000 hotel reservations with 650,000 foreign spectators and 128,000 who traveled from other countries. To this, we have to add 4.6 billion fans who watched the tournament via streaming/on TV.
This economic capacity also allows expansion to more countries with thousands of potential fans. For example, a few weeks ago Major League Cricket in the United States raised $120 million in funding for the 2022 and 2023 seasons. Some of the investors are prominent Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and developers who are fans of cricket (perhaps the sizable Indian population in Silicon Valley has something to do with that).
So why is cricket so popular? It is a combination of a very old and easy to learn sport that has a great tradition in the countries that were British colonies. In addition, its organizers currently continue to innovate to bring their competition to new markets, with great economic income.
This is the case of cricket, the prestigious English sport that was invented back in the Middle Ages. However, despite being played by some of the largest countries in the world, the world as a whole lacks awareness of cricket. Contrary to popular belief, it is much more dynamic and fun than it seems, especially in recent years. And beware, it is getting closer to becoming the king of sports, both in terms of income and followers.
How complex were cricket’s beginnings?
Let’s go back in time a bit, more or less to the 18th century. In those days, cricket was already the national sport of England, consolidated with the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), better known as Lord’s, the London private club where the main matches were played. The term Lord’s perfectly reflected what cricket was at the time, a British gentlemen’s sport created by and for British gentlemen.
How did the rules of cricket come to be?
The MCC was instrumental in bringing together the rules of cricket in the 19th century. We will try to explain them as simply as possible. Two teams of eleven players on an oval field take turns batting. The team that throws the ball has all eleven players on the court, while the team that hits only has two batsmen on the field. The fundamental part of the game takes place in the central rectangle (pitch), where the batsmen are located, at both ends of the rectangle, and the bowler.
If the batsman hits the ball, he must switch positions with his teammate. Every exchange is a race. Meanwhile, the rival team will have to quickly catch the ball and return it to the bowler/wicketkeeper, at which point the turn ends. The bowler can only bowl six times, at which point he will make an over and give way to the next.
If the batsman hits the ball downfield, he is awarded four runs. If he sends it out of the stadium, six. The opposing team can eliminate the batsman in up to eleven possible ways. The most common is that the ball reaches the bowler before the batsmen certify the run, and that the bowler manages to knock down the wicket that the batsman defends. Now, what is the wicket? (Don’t worry, it’s not long now). The wicket is made up of three vertical sticks (stumps) and two crossbars (bails) that are placed behind the batsman, and he must defend as he can.
When a batsman is eliminated, he is replaced by another batsman from his team. When ten of the eleven of the team are out and it is impossible to make a pair, the tables are turned and the other team begins to bat. There can only be a maximum of two such changes, and then the team with the most runs wins in the end. Easy, right?
One of the main reasons that people use the terms “long and boring” to describe cricket is the original version of cricket i.e. test cricket. In that kind of cricket, the number of overs was unlimited, and the matches could last up to five days, at which point the umpire would rule it a draw.
How did cricket become popular outside the UK?
Despite this drawback, cricket dominated in England just as the British Empire did in the rest of the world. British soldiers practiced it in the colonies, and they spread their passion for the flat bat to these territories. Australia, New Zealand, India, the Caribbean islands… All the areas controlled by England turned to cricket, with the exception of Canada. Even the United States once played cricket, though it eventually replaced it with baseball decades after independence as a symbolic act.
Cricket in the 20th Century
Entering the 20th century, while the British Empire was transformed into the Commonwealth of Nations (Commonwealth), cricket became the ideal means to manage tempers and maintain alliances between England and the countries that were achieving their independence. Their cricket teams came to London, invited by the British, ready to show their former metropolis their strength. They were more than friendly, they had an emotional charge and a desire for revenge, so to speak, important.
How was the One Day International (ODI) born?
The International Cricket Council took advantage of this vein and created the Cricket World Cup in 1975, which was played at Lord’s. In order to make it more attractive to the viewer and to prevent the tournament from lasting longer than it should have, revolutionary changes were introduced in cricket after more than a century and a half of secrecy. The overs were finally not unlimited, but there was a maximum of 60 per team, and the maximum duration of a match became one day instead of five. It was the turn of the One Day International (ODI), which replaced the tests.
Not only in that did cricket change. Suddenly, and without really knowing how, the country that had invented this sport was no longer the best at practicing it. Of the first three editions, in which England was the host, only in one did it reach the final. It took them until 2019 to finally win their first World Cup. The West Indies (a conglomerate of Caribbean players) won the first two World Cups, and a surprising Indian squad won the third in 1983.
How did Cricket become so popular in South Asia?
That World Cup was the final push for cricket to become a mass phenomenon in the Asian country. The same thing happened 9 years later with Pakistan, who would win the tournament after beating England under the watchful eye of 87,000 people at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Australia. Thus began the great sporting rivalry between India and Pakistan, two countries that have fought four wars in the last 70 years and where cricket has become a matter of national pride. In fact, the duel between the two countries in the 2015 World Cup was watched by more than 1 billion people, entering the list of events with the most viewers in history.
The Caribbean, Australia, India, Pakistan… All the former British colonies have a powerful team and have won at least one World Cup, and a competitive national league behind it. Meanwhile, England lagged far behind. In addition, the one day cricket (ODI) did not end up connecting with the youth, who totally ignored the sport that their predecessors watched with enthusiasm.
While England was stagnating, its former colonies were getting better and better. As England stagnated, its former colonies got better and better.
How did T20 revitalize cricket?
It was then decided to give cricket a new twist, shortening its duration again and turning it into a livelier and more exciting sport. Twenty20, or T20, arrived, a modality where the maximum number of overs would be 20 and the match would not exceed three hours.
It was first tested in 2003 in England and spread to other countries. While it is true that the crowds increased, many criticized the attempt to turn cricket into a show instead of the traditional slow and thoughtful game. With the T20, cricket was no longer considered cricket by the purist.
In 2007 the first T20 World Championship was held, just at a time when it had the worst reputation. Lifelong fans considered it a second-class format, without much of a future. In India, where the ODI had the population totally dedicated, playing only three hours at most seemed silly. It attended the first edition forced by the International Cricket Council and decided to take a young team, without its top ODI stars.
Doesn’t seem like it was bad for them. The youngsters, although more inexperienced, knew how to play these types of matches, which was a clear advantage. Finally, and to everyone’s surprise, just as it happened in 1983, they would win the first World Cup of the new competition.
The impact of IPL on cricket
If India experienced a boom after winning the 1983 World Cup, the same thing happened in 2007, this time with the T20. A year later, the Indian Premier League was created, a revolutionary format that was able to connect the show on and off the pitch and that, in addition, allowed televisions to broadcast the entire clash without schedule problems. Profits skyrocketed. In just a few months, India’s cricket buffs had embraced T20 cricket wholeheartedly.
The country knew how to connect its two strengths, cricket and Bollywood, and many renowned actors and actresses were seen in the stadiums. Other countries in the area, such as Bangladesh and Pakistan, also created their own leagues due to the success of their neighbors, who added interesting novelties, such as a player auction before the competition began. The beginning of a new era.
How much money does the IPL make?
Today the hub of cricket is not England, but India. Its T20 league has revolutionized cricket, bringing its television rights almost on par with those of football. This is what the main leagues in the world of sports earn thanks to television:
- The NFL has a nine-year contract (2013-2022) valued at $39.6 billion.
- The NBA signed a contract in 2016 for which it will receive $24 billion over nine years.
- The MLB signed for $10.5 billion for seven years. In addition, some regional chains have signed agreements with clubs in their cities. The most ostentatious, the Los Angeles Dodgers with the regional chain Time Warner Cable, for which the baseball team will earn $7.3 billion over 25 years.
- The Premier League, the English football league, made over $5 billion between 2019-2022.
- Spanish football sold the fundamental part of its packages in the month of June for $3.42 billion in three years.
- The Indian Premier League will receive 2.5 billion euros for television rights from 2018 to 2023, thanks to the agreement with Star India, a subsidiary of 21st Century Fox.
As can be seen, the T20 competes hand in hand in profits with the Spanish LaLiga, and increasingly reduces the difference with the English league, since the three major US competitions are unattainable. And watch out, because unlike football, which seems to have reached its peak, cricket is still booming. The speed and emotion achieved with the T20 cause millions of followers to join the fashionable sport every year. To take an example, the brand value of the Indian Premier League is expected to increase by 20% in 2019, a huge figure.
Cricket is no longer the typical British gentleman’s game of yesteryear, it is a global spectacle poised to expand beyond Asia and Oceania and seize the throne of football, which still dominates Europe and South America. Who knows, the cricket world cup might be the world’s most watched sporting event in the next 50 years.