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I Love Sports, And Where is My Cricket?

By Prashant Shukla On June - 21 - 2009

No matter where I go there’s no shortage of sporting action. I can sit here in Ipoh, Malaysia and get swept up in the 20/20 Cricket World Cup Final, watch Tiger’s struggles in the US Open, follow the upcoming NBA Draft and Free Agent season that’s about to begin, track the exciting and surprising Confederations Cup, and prepare for the start of Wimbledon in less than 24 hours.

I can go anywhere in the world and get caught up in whatever the local sports world is tuned into. Whether it be cricket, badminton, tennis, golf, soccer, rowing, you name it. Nothing will stop a true sports fan from getting involved and engaged, from forming bridges and alliance, from constructing emotional ties and rivalries and biases. Nothing. It’s truly amazing.

For instance, I would have probably not followed the 20/20 World Cup featuring Sri Lanka and Pakistan in the Final would it not have been for my cousins and uncles that love to follow cricket. The Confederations Cup would have been meaningless to me if I didn’t happen to be in a country that lives for soccer (football here, and in the rest of the world). The huge Tiger fans in my family have me pulling for him to win his 15th major championship at Bethpage Black.

It’d be interesting to see a world map with regional graphs of what sports carry the most weight. You’d probably see American football fade outside the shores of the US, baseball would be strong in certain parts of Asia and of course the Americas. Soccer would be strong almost everywhere in the world, and basketball would be strongest in the North American and European markets, although Asia has a growing basketball craze as we witnessed in Beijing last summer.

A lot of “American” sports like baseball, football, and basketball, are becoming more and more popular outside the United States, with the exception of football (which hasn’t really caught on). America has also been importing sports like cricket and soccer but they haven’t become major yet.

Some sports are carried by their international matchups, and some are carried by a local organization. The NBA is huge in the US and the rest of the world, arguably bigger than international basketball. The same is true with the MLB and obviously football. Those organizations tend to carry more weight than their international counterparts like the Olympics.

Cricket, since it doesn’t have one dominant large market like the aforementioned three sports do, is largely an international game. Soccer is huge both on the international circuit and on the club and local levels. Individual sports like golf and tennis don’t have local leagues but rely on international tournaments for their expression.

I read some interesting material on how cricket satisfies a lot of what the US market looks for in a sport, but for some reason it hasn’t caught on yet. I can see why the appeal of test cricket (a five-day match with a high likelihood of ending in a draw) would be low but one-day cricket is high-scoring, exciting, involves forms of batting, pitching (bowling) and catching, and always comes down to the final moments.

One likely reason is that the US will not follow a sport in which it is not dominant or very competitive in. America has only recently arrived on the world soccer stage (at least the mens’ team) so the following in there is limited. Cricket is another sport with large international appeal, but since they aren’t competitive as of now, it would be hard to form even a US local league to start the sports’ growth.

Basketball has taken off in countries like China, Argentina, and Spain due to international players making it into the NBA, and their countries doing well in international tournaments. One of these two causes are necessary for a sport that isn’t already local to start growing.

Cricket is far behind soccer on both of these fronts. The two causes actually tend to come hand-in-hand, where individual talent can lead to international success. Ginobili did it with Argentina in Olympic basketball, Yao popularized basketball in China, and Spanish NBA players marketed the game there. So what the U.S. needs for cricket to grow is some grassroots movements with some local stars to grab on to. I believe that the US market would love this game, if marketed and grown the right way.

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