The sport we all love and can watch all day long,played in some of the biggest and most aesthetically pleasing stadiums in the world; and has a billion strong fan-base - is not even close to being the most popular sport in the world- football (or soccer) takes center stage in most countries around the world. Why is this so? What makes cricket less attractive? How can we change this? How is it being changed? Read on and find out...
The money factor
Cricket never had any humble beginnings. It was a game, invented by the English, played by wealthy gentlemen who could actually afford the plethora of equipment that cricket requires. If you're a child in Africa or South America with virtually no money, which would you choose? One: Kick around a ball or Two: Try to obtain a bat, a ball, padding, a helmet etc. to play cricket. The question need not be answered. The bottom line is cricket is an expensive game, and is only accessible to a selective few.
Anybody who has watched or played cricket will know that it is one of the most , if not the most, complicated games to understand. There are hundreds of laws, from the length of the pitch to the action of the bowler to the various methods a batsman can be given out, and then there's still those "unwritten laws". The rules of cricket are perpetually changing and it causes unnecessary confusion such as in the 2007 Cricket World Cup Final when the umpires baffled everyone with their decision about the light. The rules take time to grasp, and a more simplified approach by the ICC would be more warmly received.
Nobody likes to watch any sport when the outcome is a given. The dominance of Australia over the last decade has done no good for the sport- in fact killing it further. Winning the last three world cups and demolishing every team along the way goes to show their unparalled dominance. What we need is more nail-biting finishes, more games that go down to the wire, and more brave performances by teams like in the "438" game between Australia and South Africa. There's no question about it- cricket can be the most exciting game that ever existed. Fortunately, for the sake of cricket, it looks like Austrailia's long dominance is on the decline.
Hate it or love it, the shortest form of the game is here to stay and it is the most likely form of the game that will take the world by storm. The most exciting part of a 50-over ODI match is the first ten overs and the last ten. What Twenty20 cricket did was take these two periods and gel them together seamlessly. What do you get? More runs, sixes, wickets, excitement and it also gives "weaker" teams a better chance which results in less predictive matches. Twenty20 is definitely taking the game to new heights, and looks to be the brightest future for cricket- no doubt about it.
The Asian Powers
The billion plus fan-base in India cannot be ignored. Where there is passion for the game- the game can only get better. Furthermore; Pakistan, Sri-Lanka and Bangladesh all have strong sides. The potential in Asia is massive- and it must be exploited if cricket is to gain in popularity. Thankfully the ICC seems to be doing this right with the highly successful Indian Premier League, and also the next Champions Trophy and World Cup will take place in Asia.
The best players in the world- in any sport- are those who innovate and don't merely do everything exactly as it is in the coaching manual. Innovation translates into entertainment; and entertainment means more spectators, television audiences and money; but most importantly it results in more people wanting to play the game. Recently, Kevin Pietersen's left handed shots caused much controversy but things of that sort will certainly uplift the game rather than doing any harm to it.
Cricket may never overtake football in the next hundred years or it might be the biggest sport in the world in the next decade. It all depends on those in power, that is the governing body of cricket or the ICC which is headquartered in Dubai. Centuries old the game of cricket might be; it's still an unpolished gemstone with many impurities; and those need to be perfected soon.
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