Packed stadiums. Raucous crowds. Hooting vuvuzelas. The stage is ready for cricket’s largest carnival, which kicks off in India on October 5 with 10 nations competing for the World Cup over six weeks.
On the floor, the numbers counsel a world occasion: With over one billion fans, cricket is among the many world’s hottest sports activities. However virtually 5 centuries after the earliest recorded reference to cricket in southeast England, the game’s market largely stays restricted to a handful of nations, led by India.
The game unfold with the British Empire, with the primary worldwide matches performed within the second half of the nineteenth century. But, at the same time as cricket has developed over time with changes in rules and the introduction of recent codecs and competitions, it has struggled to broaden its attain past Commonwealth international locations.
India, Australia and England dominate as cricketing powerhouses on the sphere whereas additionally holding important positions of energy off the sphere within the governance buildings of the game. Other than the ‘Huge Three’, different main cricketing nations embrace Pakistan, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Bangladesh and Caribbean international locations that play collectively because the West Indies.
And that’s about it.
Soccer’s governing physique FIFA boasts greater than 200 member nations. The Worldwide Cricket Council (ICC), against this, has solely 12 full members, with dozens of different nations as affiliate members.
The 50-over World Cup, for lengthy cricket’s marquee occasion, has swung between accommodating extra groups – a document 16 participated within the 2007 version – and limiting participation to a choose band of top-performing nations, as would be the case this time round.
The subsequent version, in 2027, will see 14 groups battle it out, however that’s nonetheless a a lot smaller quantity than the 32 nations which have competed within the soccer World Cup since 1998. In truth, 48 will characteristic within the subsequent soccer World Cup in 2026.
So, can the World Cup fireplace up curiosity in cricket past international locations that already love the game? Or are shorter codecs, like 20-overs-a-side competitions – referred to as Twenty20 (T20) cricket – the automobiles that may propel assist all over the world? Does cricket also have a world future?
The brief reply: Cricket does have scope to develop, however it’s unlikely to turn into a world phenomenon anytime quickly. And greater than the 50-over World Cup, it’s the three-hour spectacle of T20 cricket that’s the method ahead, say consultants, particularly with the emergence of franchise leagues in new markets equivalent to the USA. Ladies’s cricket also can assist enhance the game’s world footprint, whereas a doable return to the Olympic Video games may function a lift.
Why has cricket not turn into world but?
Not like soccer, taking part in cricket includes excessive expenditure – be it shopping for the required gear, establishing stadiums or sustaining pitches.
“Cricket has a comparatively excessive barrier to entry in comparison with most sports activities, merely as a result of degree of apparatus required to play even a leisure recreation,” stated Matt Curler, assistant editor on the ESPNCricinfo web site. “In my opinion, that’s the principal motive that soccer has lengthy been a world sport: All you want is a ball and any small house.”
However there are different causes, too, behind cricket’s failure – by and huge – to broaden past its conventional markets, imagine some consultants.
One key issue? The game’s roots.
Jamie Alter, a cricket analyst and journalist, stated that cricket’s foundations in colonialism imply the very material of the game is tied to Commonwealth international locations. “The sport is just too intrinsic to the cultures of most of those international locations, and regardless of the efforts of the ICC to broaden cricket throughout the globe, it stays a reasonably restricted sport because it depends on too few international locations to correctly thrive and broaden,” Alter stated.
Historically cricket-loving nations like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh alone represent a market of almost two billion folks.
“Much more insular is the energy of cricket from a industrial perspective,” he added, referring to the financial clout of India and developed cricket-playing international locations like England and Australia. That insularity can blunt any sense of urgency to broaden the game’s attain amongst directors.
Nonetheless, it isn’t as if the pool of countries that play cricket has remained totally stagnant.
Although there are information of the British taking part in cricket in Afghanistan within the nineteenth century, the game actually took off within the war-torn nation amongst refugees who performed in camps in Pakistan prior to now twenty years.
Then, in its first-ever 50-over World Cup in 2015, the Afghan aspect beat Scotland. In 2019, the nation obtained check standing – the top of the game – and shortly defeated two different check nations: Bangladesh and fellow greenhorn, Eire. Afghan gamers at the moment are regulars in T20 franchise leagues internationally.
However there may be little to counsel that the game’s bosses have plans in place to duplicate Afghanistan’s success. In truth, some consultants imagine that directors are cautious of upstart groups upsetting main nations with large markets, particularly in occasions just like the World Cup.
‘Rising very slowly’
Cricket World Cups have usually attracted criticism over their small pool of taking part groups. The World Cups are poorly designed – too lengthy and with too few groups – stated Tim Wigmore, deputy cricket correspondent for The Each day Telegraph newspaper. The ten-team World Cup in India may have 48 matches spanning 46 days. The 2022 soccer World Cup in Qatar had 32 groups and but ran for lower than a month.
“Cricket has been extremely conservative within the variety of groups it has allowed in World Cups,” Wigmore, co-author of the ebook Crickonomics, stated.
And the explanations should not totally harmless, in response to him.
In 2007, the 50-overs World Cup had 16 groups. However Eire defeated Pakistan and Bangladesh beat India, pushing the South Asian nations out of the competitors on the group stage. Wigmore believes the variety of taking part nations was “perversely” decreased in subsequent tournaments “to make sure that sides from greater markets had extra video games”.
Like the lads’s recreation, the ladies’s World Cups additionally characteristic only a few groups. The primary version of the Ladies’s World Cup featured seven groups in 1973, and the participation fluctuated over time, reaching the very best rely of 11 in 1997. The newest Ladies’s World Cup in 2022 featured eight groups and the following version in 2025 may also have the identical rely.
“So permitting extra groups is lengthy overdue – although this yr’s ODI World Cup nonetheless solely has 10 groups and the quantity within the ladies’s World Cups is simply rising very slowly,” Wigmore stated. ODIs – One Day Internationals – are 50-over-a-side matches between worldwide groups.
Georgie Heath, a cricket commentator and presenter, stated that the World Cups additionally should be marketed in the appropriate solution to entice new followers.
“A lot promoting appears to be focused at those that are already cricket followers and are going to look at or attend video games anyway. There must be extra concentrate on how they’ll usher in new audiences, gamers and followers and what the game presents them,” Heath stated.
“Usually solely being on pay-to-view tv is a barrier to growth, too, and that is one thing that must be addressed in addition to among the extortionate costs usually charged for tickets.”
A chaotic ticketing system on the World Cup that’s about to start has annoyed followers. Ticket costs vary from 499 rupees ($6) to 40,000 rupees ($481) on BookMyShow, the official ticketing platform. Charges within the resale market are exorbitant, with the most costly ticket for the highly-anticipated India vs Pakistan match promoting for 25 million rupees ($300,545) on Viagogo, a multinational ticket alternate and ticket resale model.
In the meantime, questions over the very survival of the ODI format are mounting.
The longer term: 20 or 50 overs?
In July, the Marylebone Cricket Membership (MCC) – the custodians of the sport’s legal guidelines – really helpful limiting the variety of ODI internationals following the 2027 World Cup. The suggestion comes at a time when the 50-over format is shedding its relevance: Longer, five-day check matches stay the precedence for conventional followers, whereas informal viewers have embraced a faster and glitzier 20-over-a-side format that has spawned a number of franchise leagues.
Cricketers themselves are much less satisfied that it’s time to bid farewell to ODIs.
A report in 2022 by the Federation of Worldwide Cricketers’ Affiliation, the worldwide physique that represents gamers, stated that 54 p.c of cricketers nonetheless think about the ODI World Cup as the highest trophy to compete for, although the quantity had decreased considerably from 86 p.c of their 2018-19 survey.
“My view is that one-day cricket will probably be performed much less and fewer on the worldwide degree, however that the World Cup will stay a pinnacle occasion that gamers aspire to be a part of,” Curler stated. “The final concern for 50-over cricket is that bilateral worldwide cricket is more and more being squeezed by franchise leagues – and personal buyers clearly have restricted curiosity within the concept of 50-over leagues, seeing the velocity of video games as a key element of short-form cricket’s attraction.”
To Curler, the T20 World Cup – held each two years – is a “a lot clearer car for development”. With subsequent yr’s T20 World Cup set to characteristic 20 groups, its largest pool of members to date, Wigmore, the cricket author and creator, expects the match to be a giant catalyst for cricket’s development.
But it surely gained’t be simple. Decrease-ranked groups are prone to wrestle to stay aggressive as they obtain a really restricted share of central broadcast income from the T20 World Cup, Curler identified, limiting the assets that they’ll funnel again into popularising the game.
“Staging the match each two years additionally dangers killing the golden goose: the shortage of World Cups in different sports activities helps add to their status,” he added.
Different analysts imagine the long run lies in T20 cricket – not a lot in worldwide matches, however in franchise leagues.
‘Constructing a profitable enterprise’
In 2018, ex-ICC CEO David Richardson stated that it was “fairly clear” that T20 cricket can be the format by which the governing physique may “globalise and develop the sport worldwide”.
Quick ahead to 2023, and the T20 format appears to be flourishing. There are home and franchise leagues happening in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Oceania and a few components of Europe.
The Indian Premier League (IPL), which has an estimated model worth of $8.4bn, has constructed its standing because the world’s prime T20 competitors since its inception in 2008. Profitable leagues have additionally began in Australia, the United Arab Emirates, South Africa, England and Wales, Pakistan, the Caribbean and most not too long ago in the USA.
“T20 cricket has unfold the game, however for cricket to be a sustainable and world recreation, it’s going to be these leagues which are beginning up in every single place, like within the US or UAE,” stated Bharat Sundaresan, cricket author for the Cricbuzz web site. “Ultimately, we’ll attain a degree the place if there’s a window, new leagues may come up in different nations.
“And that’s personally how I see cricket rising much more in a world sense,” Sundaresan stated.
In July, cricket broke into the world’s wealthiest market, the US, with the launch of Major League Cricket, with six groups competing within the T20 format. The MLC assembled a formidable group of buyers, with 4 of its six franchises owned by enterprise entities that additionally personal groups within the IPL.
The US – together with the West Indies – can also be scheduled to host the T20 World Cup subsequent yr, providing a possibility for the game and format to develop there.
“All these IPL franchise homeowners, whether or not they have one of the best curiosity of the game in thoughts or not, the one factor they do know to do is to run a profitable enterprise,” Sundaresan stated.
“Their enterprise is so depending on their model being showcased for an extended interval through the yr reasonably than simply for 2 months, which is why they’re shopping for out all of the groups all over the world. It’s simply going to result in there being extra leagues,” he added.
Sundaresan additionally tipped ladies’s cricket as taking part in a key position in enhancing the game’s world picture. The primary full-fledged five-team Ladies’s Premier League (WPL) earlier this yr noticed a number of feminine cricketers witnessing the most important payday of their careers on the public sale.
In the meantime, the FairBreak Invitational T20 held its second version in Hong Kong this yr, that includes among the world’s finest feminine cricketers who took half within the six-team match.
“I believe ladies’s cricket will popularise cricket as a sport extra globally than what males’s cricket has been in a position to do within the final 150 years,” Sundaresan stated.
He cited the beautiful emergence of Thailand – a rustic with no identified historical past within the sport – as a petri dish of expertise within the ladies’s recreation. They certified for his or her first world occasion in 2020 after they competed on the Ladies’s T20 World Cup and the workforce has been ranked as excessive as tenth internationally.
Thai gamers have additionally grabbed consideration in franchise leagues. In 2020, opening batter Natthakan Chantham performed for the Trailblazers within the Ladies’s T20 Problem competitors in India, turning into the primary Thai cricketer to play in knowledgeable T20 franchise league. All-rounders Nattaya Boochatham and Sornnarin Tippoch, in addition to batter Naruemol Chaiwai, featured within the FairBreak Invitational T20 this yr.
“Abruptly, it’s a free-for-all, proper?” Sundaresan stated. “Like, you will be a part of a nationwide workforce in a rustic which doesn’t have an ideal commonplace of cricket, however you may have a match to go to and play.”
An Olympic medal subsequent?
The T20 format can also be firing greater ambitions for cricket. The game’s authorities have bid for cricket to be included within the Los Angeles Olympic Video games in 2028, having final featured on the 1900 Video games in Paris.
The proposal: A five-team T20 competitors, for each women and men.
However will cricket as an Olympic sport assist broaden its world attain? Not everybody is bound.
“I’d like to see cricket performed on the Olympics for the second time particularly as this can then embrace ladies taking part in cricket, too,” Heath, the commentator and presenter, stated.
“My reservations right here lie in contemplating what number of international locations will probably be included, what the qualification routes are, who performs, and the hazard that it simply turns into one other match of the identical international locations taking part in out as we at all times see.”
Different consultants agree that whereas Olympic involvement may give cricket extra world visibility, it’s unlikely to rework its footprint in a single day.
“A small T20 match won’t be transformative in itself and would seemingly be performed by just a few groups within the first occasion,” Curler stated.
An Olympic stamp in itself wouldn’t imply that cricket has gone world, Curler stated. “There are a variety of comparatively area of interest sports activities on the Olympics already, that are a lot smaller than cricket when it comes to participation numbers or viewers.”
Certainly, some analysts ponder whether cricket even must aspire for a presence in each a part of the world.
“I really like cricket and at all times will, however I don’t see the way it going to the Olympics goes to actually promote the game,” Alter stated.
“Does cricket should be a world sport? It’s profitable for over 150 years in its personal world.”