In some ways, the game of cricket is in rude health on a global level. Events like the IPL and BBL have ensured that cricket reaches new audiences and the game thrives under new marketing opportunities. But, at least parts of the traditional game of cricket, are changing, perhaps irreversibly. Obviously, progress and change can be a good thing. However, some changes might extinguish the factors that made us fall in love with the game in the first place.
Here are five issues facing the game today:
White Ball Vs Red Ball Cricket
The Ashes gets massive coverage when it comes around every couple of years, but can the same be said for the rest of Test and First Class cricket? Alex Hales recently signed a ‘white-ball contract’ with Nottinghamshire, who are, incidentally, 5/2 favourites to win the County Championship this season. This means the right-hander, who is not yet 30-years-old, will only concentrate on limited overs cricket. The question is will this type of move away from red ball become a trend? There is even talk of a schism within the sport. It’s a precarious time for the traditional game.
Not everyone believes in manmade climate change, but the fact that the weather has changed in recent years in places like the UK is undeniable: The facts are there. In a compelling piece, the team behind cricket betting from Betway have produced a study on how inclement weather is impacting cricket in England. The most eye-catching stat is that “The rate of rain-affected matches has more than doubled since 2011.” You might think a bit of rain won’t ruin the game’s future, but matches being constantly called off make fans reconsider buying tickets the next time around. It’s a thought provoking piece by Betway Insider and well worth a read.
Enough column inches have been spent talking about Cameron Bancroft, Steve Smith and David Warner in the last few months, but cheating scandals do not put the game in a good light, especially for those wanting to bet on cricket. Despite the bans, what real punishment will the trio receive? They will be back in ample time for the ICC Cricket World Cup next year. Australia still remain more or less the same price (9/2, Betway) to win the World Cup as before the scandal. Plus ça change and all that.
Statista reports that the number of people participating in cricket fell from 419,500 in 2008 to 278,600 in 2016. That’s a 33% drop in less than a decade. Again, like the problems with the weather, a lack of quality new players coming through leads to a decline in interest from the fans. On the bright side though, places like Australia are reporting a big rise in participation levels and the strides the women’s game has taken in recent years is also something to cheer.
The cricket world has always centred around India, Australia and England. There are, of course, plenty of other places where cricket is popular, but this trio hold the balance of power in the game. To thrive, it needs to move away from the idea of a sport for former Commonwealth countries and make itself a global sport. Check out the story of how Ireland, where cricket was historically abhorred, became a Test playing nation in recent years. If the game can plant seeds and grow on an island always reluctant to embrace ‘British’ sports, why not in the USA? South America? The rest of Europe?