At the very core of all sports, for them to become popular, they need to be both accessible to play and entertaining to watch. Cricket managed to spread across the old British Empire because it merely required a bat, ball, and a few wooden posts. However, as sports increasingly became entertainment industries, it could be argued that cricket failed to keep up with the times.
In 2008, the Indian Premier League was formed, changing the face of cricket forever. With the IPL, it became about flashy cricket, big scores, singing crowds, and massive contracts. The franchise teams like the Sunrisers Hyderabad and Mumbai Indians are now household names for cricket fans around the world, encouraging other cricketing bodies to adopt similar formulas.
Along with this, cricket has been quick to adopt key technology in the right way to bolster the end product. The increase in focus on high-octane action and the application of tech has helped power cricket forward away from the pitch, making it a rising popular social sport.
A more inclusive, tech-driven game for all to enjoy
In 2023, The Hundred will enter its third season, with most hailing it as a rousing success in its first two years. While its placement in August has disgruntled traditionalists, it’s impossible to deny the importance and success of the 100-ball league running the women’s game alongside the men’s tournament. This year, every single fixture will be a double-header, so those going for a day at the cricket will see the men’s and women’s games. The BCCI will also be launching the Women’s IPL in March 2023, with $572 million raised to purchase the five teams.
Cricket is also growing in markets where, before it would have been unheard of. On July 13, 2023, Major League Cricket will enter its inaugural season. A form of T20 cricket, there’ll be six franchises battling it out over three weeks of competition in Grand Prairie, Texas. It’s a small tournament, undoubtedly, but the short-form cricket will make it explosive and hopefully grow the market more in the US of all places.
Also helping the entertainment factor of the sport, unlike in soccer right now, is the tech implemented to ensure that the right decisions are made. Hotspot, Snickometer, and the slow-motion of Hawkeye have all empowered umpires to make the right decisions. To further enhance the use, captains or batters have to call when the tech is called into play, so if a call is wrong, it’s the player’s fault for not consulting the tech. The increasing inclusion and entertainment factor bolstered by good use of tech has, in turn, made cricket a much more appealing social activity.
Beyond the crease into the realms of social entertainment
Cricket seems to be taking a very important step away from the field to become a sport that people want to engage with on a much more social level. For a long time, fantasy line-ups have offered this kind of competition, with Dream11 often being the pick of the platforms. Now, online and social engagement has really taken off, with many other platforms seeking to offer ways to feed the cricket cravings.
Similarly to how fantasy sports pivoted into cricket, so too has the online casino platform in its live casino section. Live Cricket Roulette combines the classic luck-based table game with any cricket taking place during the game. As the game is streamed and played in real-time, it makes for a distinctly cricket-orientated roulette experience which also allows players in the room to discuss the sport amongst themselves and with the croupier.
Out and about, cricket has also become the basis of a somewhat surprisingly social event venue in the UK. The Sixes Social Club uses a giant augmented reality screen with footage of a bowler, fielders, and targets while a soft ball is bowled at the batter within an enclosure. It’s like a toned-down social version of going to the nets. The colorful venue can now be found in seven locations around the UK, with the latest opening up in Leicester on December 14, 2022.
In cricket’s hopeful new market, the US, this kind of social sports venue is already in full swing. You only have to look as far as iCompete Experience to see how popular tech-driven sports action can get. With digitally-scored darts, augmented reality gold, and batting cage simulators, it’s exactly the kind of place that could add a cricket option akin to Sixes in the future.
Over the last couple of decades, the entertainment that the general public seeks has truly been injected into cricket through tech.