Cricket going global? Think again

February 17, 2011

As the cricket World Cup gets under way, the jury is out on the relevance of such a tournament in a developing region, and for a sport played seriously in only a dozen countries.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) has worked hard to expand the game’s reach across the globe, but that attempt is yet to show substantial results. The popularity of the game is so limited globally that the word still means a bug to the non-cricketing world.

The primary argument is that cricket is mostly popular only in former British coloniesCRICKET/ and there is hardly any chance for the game to take the world stage, particularly when its classical format lasts for five days.

A lot has been said about Afghanistan’s emergence as a cricketing power and how it signifies cricket’s glowing clout in the world arena. ICC chief Haroon Lorgat told Reuters recently that cricket leagues help in selling cricket to the world, citing the example of Afghanistan.

But with the emergence of 20-over cricket, a format that gets over in three hours, there is a big question mark over the future of the one-day game itself — the nine-hour format applied in the showpiece World Cup.

Even in India, where jokes abound about the country’s productivity going down during Team India’s matches, the buzz is missing this time. If India exits in the initial rounds, as they did in the 2007 edition, advertisers, sponsors and broadcasters are bound to face extensive losses.

It will be a herculean task for the ICC to take the game to a global audience, particularly when Twitter and Facebook are abuzz with Arsenal playing Barcelona, and not the biggest event in cricket.

Many claim the World Cup has lost its relevance as the showpiece event, with dull matches failing to retain viewer interest. Australia dominated cricket for a decade and a half, and now just 4-5 teams keep winning every other game.

The ICC is hoping that a changed format for the tournament will eliminate the worries of previous editions but that remains to be seen. As Rob Bagchi writes in the Guardian, “If there is no pinnacle, there is no point.”

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