The gentleman’s game of cricket is growing all over the world. The sport, as we know it, consists of three different official formats, those of Tests, One Day Internationals (ODIs) and Twenty-20s (T20).
The International Cricket Council (ICC) is focusing upon globalising T20 cricket, something they have been trying hard to include in the Olympics as well.
But, on the other hand, the ICC has scrapped down the number of participants in the Cricket World Cup to 10, which is a let down for many of the associate members.
However, the arrangements and the proposed division two model will provide enough chances to the associates to grow as a cricketing nation. Afghanistan is a prime example of coming of age as a cricketing nation.
The newly-formed World Test Championship will add more purpose to the popularity of the so-called purest form of cricket. Day-Night Test matches is a big step forward, and has added much needed oxygen to the Test format.
The elevation of Afghanistan and Ireland as Test Playing nations is another step in the right direction towards globalising cricket.
The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) announced that women’s T20 cricket has been confirmed for inclusion at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games following a joint bid by the ICC and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).
Eight teams will compete across eight match days, as cricket returns to the Commonwealth Games for the first time since 1998, when South Africa won Gold in a men’s 50-over format competition in Kuala Lumpur.
All eight matches will be held at the Edgbaston Cricket Ground.
Cricket was last played in the Games at Kuala Lumpur in 1998 when the men’s 50-overs-a-side competition was won by South Africa and featured icons of the sport including Jacques Kallis, Ricky Ponting and Sachin Tendulkar.
The Commonwealth Games will be a fantastic platform to showcase the exciting sport of women’s T20 cricket and continue to help grow the game globally.
The solution to generate more global outreach has been to develop a format that is easier to digest. Five-day cricket was the only international form of the game until 1971, when shorter matches were introduced that wrapped in a day.
In 2003, the first Twenty20 cricket match was played, a radically cut-down version lasting about three hours. The simplified game proved a hit with fans and broadcasters, sending a huge cash injection into the sport.
India established a glitzy new T20 league called the Indian Premier League that soon proved a cash cow and became a template for other nations.
In 2011, Australia’s Big Bash League was founded and was able to win sponsorship deals from companies that wouldn’t dream of supporting staid Test cricket.
The ICC threw its support behind Twenty20, giving approval for all members to play international matches.
The nature of the T20 game is such that it constantly moves in different directions, and that too at a rapid, almost breathtaking pace.
Each inning only lasts 20 overs, and new twists and turns keep happening every few overs. It is this fast-paced nature of the game, which appeals to the youth and youngsters.
Cricket is a batsman’s game (or at least it has turned into one), and as such most cricket followers love to see plenty of explosive hitting and a bunch of 4s and 6s.
T20 cricket provides all of that, and more; the games are mostly played on batting friendly wickets, and regularly see big shots being attempted by the willow-wielders.
The crowd watching on the ground loves to see that, as do the young TV spectators. The barrage of boundaries gives an adrenaline rush to everyone watching.
The new additions to the T20 cricket circuits like the Global T20 League, the Euro T20 and the Afghanistan Premier League have proved to be brilliant commercial ideas so far from its infant time span so far.
Canada, Europe and Asia, in general, have seen an influx of immigrants over the years and the subcontinental dwellers are quick to take up cricket as something more than a hobby and more so, as a serious vocation.
As a result, the game has seen exponential growth in these areas and it has opened up new avenues and vistas for cricket to spread across the global arena.
Cricket first spread because of the rapid expansion of the British Empire. More recently, economic migration from subcontinent countries such as India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka has taken the game to new territories.
And now, Afghanistan. A love for the game fostered in exile, and initially taken back to their homeland by returnees, has since flourished elsewhere via a new wave of Afghan migrants.
In 2002, the year after Taliban rule was ended, nearly two million refugees returned to Afghanistan, according to UN statistics. But political and military instability since has meant out-migration has remained constant, too.
In the European migrant crisis of 2015, refugees from Afghanistan numbered more than any country other than Syria.
Official records show that 46,292 Afghan refugees were based in Germany in 2016, the third-highest amount in any country after Pakistan and Iran. One, admittedly trivial, by-product of the mass movement was on cricket.
There were 70 cricket teams in Germany five years ago. Now there are over 340. The rise is in part due to increased numbers of Indian students signing up to German universities, but that it is mainly because of the refugee aspect.
While the vast majority of the population concern themselves with the fitness of Manuel Neuer, and the decision to drop Leroy Sane ahead of football’s World Cup, the relatively small cricket community are looking ahead with optimism.
Cricket is definitely growing as a global sport, and it remains to be seen how the ICC would adopt plans to get it the maximum outreach possible.