By Rex ClementineWhen US educated Indian industrialist N. Srinivasan became the President of International Cricket Council, he observed that cricket needed to spread across the world if it to reach new heights rather than being limited to a few countries. The growth of the sport is happening in three ways. The first of that is to have more countries playing cricket.
The ICC had a handful of full members and less than 100 Associate members at that point and although those numbers have not changed significantly, the game has certainly reached many parts of the globe since the need to have more cricket playing nations was agreed on.
One of the moves to bring in more nations to play the game was by giving international status for T-20s and as a result, you find football powerhouses Germany involved in a game against Italy in the European region while rugby giants Fiji and Tonga going head to in another encounter at the same time in a different time zone. All these games are part of the pathway for the next T-20 World Cup where US and West Indies will welcome 20 teams, four more than that featured in Australia in this World Cup.
In every continent, the ICC has put in place a team that provides countries that are new to cricket assistance on governance of the sport and high performance. Chosen players are given exposure at the ICC academy in Dubai. There is also lot of emphasis on cricket at grass root levels in these countries. Although ICC grants largely help these new nations to run their cricket, now it has been stressed that a vibrant marketing strategy has to be in place to make the game sustainable.
Secondly, in the last ten years, women’s cricket has grown by several folds. There’s dedicated 50 over and 20 over world cups for women while next year we will see the introduction of an Under-19 World Cup for women. While women’s cricket was fairly established in Australia and England, the interest for the sport in Asia has mushroomed.
Televised cricket is the main reason for this while there are also well structured domestic and school cricket competitions in the Asian region now in place that has helped women to chose cricket as a discipline. Funding by cricket boards has seen schools offering cricket as a sport too in the last five years in the Asian region.
Indian cricket board’s recent announcing that both their male and female cricketers will get the same match fee has been welcomed by all and sundry. This means that there is a decent pay package in domestic cricket too. This will further increase the numbers of girls taking up the sport.
Thirdly, T-20 cricket is popularizing the sport and with dozens of league cricket taking part in the world, the sport has brought in a new audience. The younger generation in particular were losing interest in cricket as it was a time consuming affair. But a three hour T-20 game is most welcoming for them and they too have started embracing the sport.