The face of cricket has changed almost beyond recognition since the turn of the century. The advent of Twenty20 has revolutionised the sport, not only increasing its commercial power but also reinventing how the game is played – even in the Test format.
While traditionalists may yearn for a bygone era where the players all wore white and run rates barely crept above two an over, there’s no denying that the changes over the past two decades have been largely for the better.
Smaller boundaries and more powerful bats mean that in the one-day game especially, there is a greater focus on entertainment value. And thanks to various initiatives and modern technology, that product is being seen by a wider range of people – on a global scale. Here’s how:
A record-breaking CWC19
The men’s 50-over World Cup in 2019 was the most watched ICC event in history. The tournament will long be remembered for its thrilling finale, when hosts England tied with New Zealand after a Super Over and only lifted the trophy due to a superior boundary count.
And the drama on the field certainly captured the imagination around the globe, with a unique broadcast audience of 706 million people across the entire tournament – an increase of 22% on the 2015 finals. In terms of broadening the demographic of cricket fans, 41% of that audience were female, while almost one-third were aged between 18 and 34.
Unknown talents shining on the big stage
Franchise tournaments such as the Indian Premier League and the Big Bash have also unearthed a few gems and provided previously unheralded names with a global profile. Afghanistan leg-spinner Rashid Khan is a prime example. He burst onto the scene by making his IPL debut in 2017 and has since gone on to become one of the most potent bowlers in white-ball cricket.
The same goes for Nepal’s Sandeep Lamichhane, who has enjoyed two stellar seasons with the Melbourne Stars in the BBL and looks set for stardom. The impact both Rashid and Lamichhane have had in raising the profile of cricket in their countries cannot be underestimated and is a huge factor in the game’s growing global appeal.
A women’s game in rude health
The 2020 women’s T20 World Cup final, contested between Australia and India at the iconic MCG, saw 86,174 fans come through the turnstiles. That was the highest attendance for any international T20 anywhere in the world, and the highest for a women’s cricket match.
Not only that, but the tournament’s total of 1.1 billion video views was more than 20 times the figure reached during the previous edition of the finals. With more and more people going to matches in person and watching around the world, the flourishing women’s game is reflective of the enhanced global pull of the sport as a whole.