IS Twenty20 cricket on the slide worldwide? Has it got too big for its boots? No one in Australia is really worried about who wins the ICC World Twenty20 final tomorrow. The footy and Bathurst have easily won that battle. My family and friends are still talking about the close finish of the Ryder Cup and yet not a word about Australia’s performance in Sri Lanka.
It started to make me think. Has the T20 revolution burst its bubble? Watching the World T20, I noticed the stands were empty in Sri Lanka at first, but the crowds seemed to grow as we got deeper into the tournament.
The interest wasn’t there in the Sri Lanka Premier League a month before, and it seems to have carried on into this tournament.
So why is this event not getting the public attention it deserves? Was it the constant rain, the ridiculous scheduling of poor matches or was it the rubbish Duckworth-Lewis system ruining the games?
Is there just too much T20 cricket played around the world? Who knows? One thing is for sure, T20 cricket is on the slide somewhat.
Since the first IPL, every country has been trying to organise its own domestic T20 tournament. Now we have 15 T20 tournaments played throughout the world each year – like the Big Bash League, Sri Lanka Premier League, Bangladesh Premier League and so on. Throw in the other formats of 50-over and Test cricket, and the marketplace – or the fans, as I call them – is confused and is getting very choosy on what it wants to watch and follow.
The initial interest from the fans for the Sri Lankan and Bangladesh leagues was poor and grew as the tournaments progressed. And this response has put the brakes on the upcoming Pakistan Premier League, Arabian Cricket League and a proposed US T20 League – which were scheduled for the next seven months.
Today, TV companies and other media outlets are very careful on where they spend their money. They are on the lookout only for tournaments that have sustainable growth and impact for their viewers, readers and, ultimately, their advertisers. The same applies to companies that want to buy major naming rights.
The biggest juggernaut of all T20 competitions is the Indian Premier League. The IPL started with a bang and everyone loved it. But now we are seeing change with the fans. They are starting to not watch or have any interest in the tournament’s happenings.
From my point of view, this year’s IPL was the best yet, but the average television-viewer ratings for the first 16 games was down 9 per cent from the same point last season.
Television ratings for the IPL have continued to fall compared with last year, but media outlets are saying that the IPL is still a ”very successful media property”.
The second biggest T20 tournament in the world is the Champions League, which starts next week in South Africa. Domestic teams from around the world, who have qualified through their own competitions, play off against each other for $2.5 million.
The Australian, Indian and South African cricket boards own the rights to the Champions League. ESPN Star Sports paid $900 million for the global broadcasting rights for this tournament for 10 years – compared with Sony Entertainment Television’s purchase of the IPL rights for $1.1 billion.
Now rumours are spreading fast that ESPN wants out of the Champions League contract. Major sponsors are leaving the IPL and Champions League, and cricket authorities are very concerned.
My sources tell me that the Champions League must be played in India, and not South Africa, for it to succeed. Everyone now is expecting empty seats in South Africa and the reason for this is simple: there is just too much cricket being played.
With all the Test and one-day internationals being played, alongside the plethora of T20 tournaments, the fans are voting with their feet and ultimately with their money. Cricket needs T20 but it needs to find the right balance.
I was coaching some kids recently, and I asked this question: which would you prefer to play in for your country – one Test match, five one-day internationals or 10 Twenty20 matches? They all said they would prefer to play Test cricket. Maybe the kids have seen through the skin of this T20 phenomenon. Or just maybe the kids just want to play some quality cricket. There is hope.
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