The ICC are set to discuss an ambitious global strategy plan with BCCI and Supreme Court-appointed Committee of administrators today in Delhi. It will present a SWOT analysis. They have identified eight key areas: Fans, Particpants, Women and Girls in cricket, Financial Sustainability, Cricket’s Products. Integrity & Values, Technology, Cricket’s purpose. SRIRAM VEERA looks at the salient features in the strategy document.
The document lists financial overreliance on Indian cricket and its fans as a weakness in the SWOT. They state that cricket is “not a truly global sport – heavy dependence on revenues and fans from India” and further add that “Lack of aggressive expansion/growth strategy to counter overreliance on India.” Outside the SWOT, they frame the Indian question thus: “How does cricket diversify its existing commercial revenue profile and/or better exploit rights (e.g. collective sales, OTT platforms, develop new markets, develop new revenue streams) to reduce over-reliance on key individual markets (e.g. India broadcast income, ICC distributions)? “
Moving away from the Anglo-Saxon view of cricketing world
Spirit of cricket features in the strategy document with an interesting twist. Listed under weakness in the swot analysis is “Anglocentric norms”. It states that “the Spirit of Cricket is often seen as a fundamental part of the sport’s attraction but does not always translate identically in different cricketing cultures. Furthermore, the regulation of the international game is exclusively in English and decision-making is undertaken in English.” There isn’t much else on the topic in the document but the fact that they plan to address it would be welcomed in the cricketing world. It will be interesting to see how they plan to address the cultural differences. Recently we have seen Australia talk about an imaginary line in behavioural terms, but the others saw it as a hypocrisy on part of Australians in drawing that line.
How to tackle the cricket’s demand for turf pitches at higher levels
Turf pitches is listed as weakness, and ICC is looking for ways to counter it—be it through drop-in pitches, artificial turfs to take cricket beyond the traditional markets where cricketing turf pitches are a luxury and not easily available, and can act as a deterrent in kids picking up the sport.
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Time for shortened forms of games?
The document lists “time it takes to complete the game” as weakness, and it’s difficult to presume what they mean by that. Are they talking about four-day Tests? Or they stressing the need to introduce really short versions like T10. T10 does feature separately under threats, and also gets a mention as opportunity. ICC believes T10 can be great for attracting new audiences in non-traditional cricket markets. In their words, “cricket as a sport should continue to capitalise on shortened format opportunities like T10”. They also mention the need to tap the “relatively high disposable income of south Asian migrants in the US and some other markets (more revenue per fan)”. They also ask this question: “What other formats of the game should cricket focus on to increase participation (e.g. T10, Indoor, Street, Tape Ball, Beach, Disability, eSports etc.) and why?”
How to better use digital mediums like Amazon and Twitter?
The ICC mentions the new entrants in commercial space—digital and data driven companies, and gives examples of Facebook, Twitter and Amazon. The ICC is looking at them for two things: to drive fan engagement and for commercial monetising the game through these mediums. The ICC is also looking to tap younger audience through various mediums and new technologies. “Increasingly young population in developing countries provides opportunity to engage with new fans and participants.” They want to enable new technologies to help “provide new and engaging ways to view, consume, engage with, innovate and monetize the sport”. ICC seems keen on E-sports/ gaming and believe it would “drive new fans”.
Gender equality in cricket— batters in, batsmen out?
The ICC wants to work out a way to better integrate women and girls across all aspects— structures, management, committees, formats and terminology. There are a few questions that the documents asks: “How do we get more females in key decision making positions? • How do we encourage more women and girls to play the game? • How do we encourage more women and girls to become fans of the game? • How do we create more, better qualified female coaches and match officials? • What are the optimal structures, calendar, products and playing conditions for women’s games?” Should World Cricket aspire to have more competitive teams and if so why and how? ICC is now asking a fundamental question: “Should cricket aspire to have more competitive teams, and if so why and how?” And months after they decided to restrict world cup to 10 teams, they have also listed this under weakness: “10 team Men’s ODI World Cup i.e. not a global ‘World’ Cup. Through the document, the effort to try spread the game outside traditional markets has been stressed but it’s more about increasing fan base, using the diaspora of south Asians, and also get kids from new markets to start playing the game. All that is different from inclusion of more associate teams at the highest level – ICC is trying to answer that question. The misgivings come across in another “weakness” topic: “Lack of strength and depth of competition beyond top nations.”
Lack of context/structure to international cricket scheduling
The ICC admit that there is a “lack of context/structure to international cricket scheduling”. They are also wondering how to address it: “How do we create a co-ordinated global calendar for the game that enables the ideal structure and balance to be implemented?” is how the document puts it. They are trying to find the right positioning of all the three formats, and want to first identify and add other “traditional or shorter formats of cricket (if any) that can be included”.
Cricket, what is it good for?
They are even posing existential questions such as the purpose of cricket. They want to “explore and understand the overall purpose of cricket in society and leverage the power and influence of cricket for the greater good”. The document asks whether cricket should be usued to influence health, lifeskills, economic empowerment, education, racism, child Welfare/poverty, teamwork, tolerance, inclusion (ethnic, religious, gender). In a nutshell, they want to seek the answer to – “Why does cricket exist – what’s its primary purpose in society?” If you have the answers, send a postcard to ICC.