Rising attendances, TV viewership reflect popularity of franchise cricket

Rising attendances, TV viewership reflect popularity of franchise cricket
Spectators crowd to enter the Narendra Modi Stadium to watch the Indian Premier League Twenty20 final cricket match between Gujarat Titans and Chennai Super Kings in Ahmedabad on May 29, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 22 February 2024
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Rising attendances, TV viewership reflect popularity of franchise cricket

Rising attendances, TV viewership reflect popularity of franchise cricket
  • India’s IPL unquestionably world’s most watched brand, DP World ILT20 claiming 2nd

In the helter-skelter world of international franchise cricket, now is peak time.

Betway SA20’s (South Africa’s Twenty20 cricket league) final was played in front of a full house at Newlands, Cape Town, on Feb. 10.

A week later, the final of DP World ILT20 2024 attracted a packed house to the 25,000 capacity Dubai International Stadium. And on the same day, the first match in the Pakistan Super League took place in Lahore. The final of the Bangladesh Premier League is scheduled for March 1.

A start date and schedule for the Tata Indian Premier League is awaited, as these are dependent on the yet-to-be-announced schedule of the national elections, which are to be held in April.

The most touted start date is March 23, with match locations and dates rolled out in phases once the polling schedule becomes clear. A date for the final is rumored to be May 26, which is barely a week before the International Cricket Council T20I World Cup commences.

While the IPL is unquestionably the most watched cricket franchise league on and off screen, the DP World ILT20 lays fair claim to be the second.

According to the Broadcast Audience Research Council India, the 2023 edition of the IPL registered 505 million television viewers, its biggest ever level. Hindi-speaking markets contributed two-thirds of the audience, an increase of almost half compared with 2022. Some of the increased interest was generated by children, whose propensity to view rose by an astonishing 64 percent.

The DP World ILT20 operates within a four-week window compared with eight weeks for the IPL. Match attendances were up by 300 percent in 2024.

BARC figures revealed that the first 18 matches of ILT20 2024 attracted 161 million views, with 46 percent of the audience women and 56 percent aged under 30. A 12 percent increase was achieved among urban audiences in India compared with the previous year.

In 2023, 255 million fans were reached in India and 367 million worldwide unique viewers via TV and digital channels.

Clearly, ILT20’s appeal is growing, India representing the most significant market. Final audience figures are awaited with anticipation.

The audience profile for SA20 displays different characteristics. Nielsen Sports SA reported a 36 percent rise in viewership within South Africa across the first 19 days of the 2024 edition, compared with the inaugural tournament in 2023. Remarkably, almost two-thirds of the audience was reported to be over the age of 50.

League officials are also looking to tap into the Indian market, given that all six franchises are Indian owned. In 2023, 131 million people were reached there, more than 100 million less than achieved by ILT20. Again, final figures are awaited for SA20 2024 before an assessment of relative appeal can be made.

Any comparison needs to account for the Pakistan Super League, which is also building its brand.

A claim by a former chair of the Pakistan Cricket Board that the 2023 PSL had outperformed the IPL in terms of digital ratings – 150 million viewers on digital platforms compared with 130 million – were not helpful and widely derided.

Nevertheless, the size of Pakistan’s population and the popularity of cricket in the country combine to ensure that viewing figures will compete at the top end of franchise leagues.

Audience figures are not the only criterion to judge the attraction of franchise leagues. Prize money, salary levels, broadcasting revenues, sponsorship, standard of play, strength of competition, and quality of facilities must all feature in any assessment.

The development of local talent is another factor being addressed differently by the franchises. In the case of ILT20 it is an imperative. Each franchise must have at least four UAE players, of whom two must feature in the playing 11.

In 2024, the standout UAE performer was Pakistan-born Muhammad Waseem. He scored 321 runs opening the batting for the MI Emirates, the fourth-highest aggregate in the league. It included 43 in the final that set the MI Emirates on their way to victory. The performance enhanced his credentials which had received a boost in 2023, when he was also the UAE’s leading player in ILT20 2023. In March last year, he was appointed the UAE’s captain.

A further boost was in prospect as, during ILT20 2024, Islamabad United signed him for the PSL. However, because of his involvement in ILT20’s knockout stage, it left only a short gap between the final and the UAE’s Cricket World Cup League 2 matches against Canada and Scotland in Dubai between Feb. 28 and March 9.

This year, the most successful of the players who have grown up in the UAE were 20-year-old Zuhaib Zubair, who claimed 11 wickets for the Gulf Giants, and 21-year-old Alishan Sharafu, who scored 220 runs, including an undefeated 82. At 18 years old, Aayan Afzal Khan already seems like a veteran, having captained the UAE under-19 men’s team, and debuted for the senior side aged 17. This year he claimed six wickets for the Gulf Giants.

In an amendment to the tournament conditions for 2024, franchises were allowed to include players who are serving residential qualifications to be eligible for the UAE.

Haider Ali made an impression, taking seven wickets for the Dubai Capitals, as did the unknown left-arm fast bowler, Mohammed Rohid, with nine wickets. Some of the other locals did not get the chance to play much but will have received a cricket education from the established international players.

More anomalous was the low number of appearances afforded to some overseas players. One example is 22-year-old Englishman, Will Smeed, who played only two matches for the champions, MI Emirates. His career, so far, is an unusual one. After impressing observers as a teenager in white ball cricket, he decided in November 2022 to focus on that format. Effectively he retired from red ball cricket without playing a first-class match.

He is a fully signed-up member of the franchise helter-skelter but surely game time is needed to stay on it to showcase such talent.


Records galore as Hyderabad beat Bengaluru after IPL best 287

Records galore as Hyderabad beat Bengaluru after IPL best 287
Updated 15 April 2024
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Records galore as Hyderabad beat Bengaluru after IPL best 287

Records galore as Hyderabad beat Bengaluru after IPL best 287
  • Hyderabad went past the previous mark of 277 they made last month after a 41-ball 102 by Travis Head and Heinrich Klaasen’s explosive 67
  • Virat Kohli (42) and skipper Faf du Plessis (62) gave RCB a blazing start before Dinesh Karthik smashed 83 off 35 balls as Bengaluru ended on 262-7

BENGALURU: Sunrisers Hyderabad amassed 287-3 for the highest-ever Indian Premier League total and beat Royal Challengers Bengaluru by 25 runs on a Monday full of records and featuring a century by Travis Head.
Hyderabad, who were invited to bat first by hosts Bengaluru, went past the previous mark of 277 they made last month after a 41-ball 102 by Head and Heinrich Klaasen’s explosive 67.
The new high was the second best in a T20 match after Nepal bludgeoned 314-3 against Mongolia in last year’s Asian Games in Hangzhou.
The match produced the highest aggregate for a T20 game with a tally of 549 runs.
Virat Kohli (42) and skipper Faf du Plessis (62) gave RCB a blazing start before Dinesh Karthik smashed 83 off 35 balls as Bengaluru ended on 262-7.
Skipper Pat Cummins and spinner Mayank Markande broke the back of the Bengaluru chase with five wickets between them.
“Against Mumbai (Indians) a few weeks ago I thought it won’t happen again, but it has happened again,” Cummins said after his team’s third straight victory and fourth of the season.
Batters ruled at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium as Hyderabad smashed the most sixes in an IPL innings, with 22 hits flying over the fence.
Head reached his ton in 39 balls for the fourth-fastest hundred in the competition as he set the tone for the assault and named man of the match.
He put on a 108-run opening stand with Abhishek Sharma, who hit 34.
Head, who was Australia’s match winner in the final of the ODI World Cup in India last year, struck nine fours and eight sixes.
After his departure Klaasen took charge with his 31-ball blitz. The South African was nearly as punishing as Head as he smashed the ball to all parts of the ground before being dismissed by Lockie Ferguson.
Fellow South African Aiden Markram (32) and Indian hitter Abdul Samad (37) put together 59 off 19 balls for the final storm.
Samad smashed England left-arm fast bowler Reece Topley for three fours and two sixes in a 25-run 19th over before he and Markram finished off with 21 runs from the final over.
Hyderabad posted 277-3 against Mumbai Indians at their home ground on March 27 to go past the 263-5 by Bengaluru in 2013.
Earlier this month, Kolkata Knight Riders posted 272-7 in a crushing 106-run victory over Delhi Capitals.
In-form Kohli attempted to set up the chase with a powerful start as he struck six fours and two sixes in his 20-ball knock and Du Plessis kept up the charge till his departure.
The steep run chase made wickets tumble but Karthik once again came up with a late assault to reduce the losing margin for bottom-placed Bengaluru, who slumped to their fifth straight loss.
“One thing really important is to freshen your mind, it’s such a mental game,” said Du Plessis.
“Sometimes it feels like your mind is going to explode. A little bit of (an) uphill task for us at the moment.”


Saudi Arabia’s ACC Premier Cup semifinal hopes intact after action on day 4

Saudi Arabia’s ACC Premier Cup semifinal hopes intact after action on day 4
Updated 16 April 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s ACC Premier Cup semifinal hopes intact after action on day 4

Saudi Arabia’s ACC Premier Cup semifinal hopes intact after action on day 4
  • Nepal’s victory over Hong Kong cemented their place in the semifinals
  • Outcome of Group B, as with Group A, will go down to the wire

AL-AMARAT: More rain arrived to influence the ACC Premier Cup competition on day four. A shower at about 8 a.m. caused a late start in the two morning matches, reduced to 18 overs per team.

In the Group A match between Nepal and Hong Kong, the latter was asked to bat. A steady start to 48 for two after seven overs became 82 for four from 13 overs. After that, wickets tumbled, the innings subsiding to 114 all out.

In reply, Nepal raced to 68 for no loss from five overs. The loss of two wickets in the sixth over did little to stop the charge, 117 being reached in the 13th over. Nepal’s victory cemented their place at the top of the group and a place in the semifinals.

The second Group A match of the day saw Malaysia face Qatar, who had yet to register a win. Malaysia were asked to bat, reaching 82 for two in 11 overs. Despite losing two quick wickets, the fifth-wicket partnership prospered so well that a total of 151 for five was achieved.

Qatar’s response was positive and, at the midway stage, half of the required target had been scored. Slow bowlers then stifled Qatar’s progress to 113 for four from 13 overs, with the result in the balance. In the next three overs the required acceleration was injected, so that only five runs were required in the final over, duly achieved with a straight six.

This result injected a new dynamic into Group A, in which four teams each have two points. At the end of day four, Saudi lead the way by virtue of a superior net run rate, with two matches left to play, against Qatar and Nepal. If Qatar are beaten, then Saudi are likely to qualify for the semifinals. If not, the door would be open for one of the other sides, each with one left to play. One unpredictable variable is the possible influence of rain on match completion.

The rain returned after the morning matches on day four. The distant hills to the south were not visible. Oman’s experienced curator, who has had eight years in Oman, revealed that he had never seen rain like this in April. Normally, rain comes from the west, but the current rain is arriving from the south and southeast. Fortunately, it cleared after an hour, and two Group B matches, reduced to 15 overs per side, commenced.

On Turf A, Oman asked the UAE to bat. Prolific batter Alishan Sharafu was out second ball, a second wicket falling in the second over. Muhammad Waseem was then partnered by Asif Khan in an 88-run stand. Khan continued in his attacking mode until a last-ball dismissal for 66 saw the UAE total 145 for five, Bilal Khan claiming three for 11.

Oman’s response was dismissive, Kashyap Prajapati and Naseem Khushi racing to 67 in 4.4 overs, before Khushi was dismissed. Khalid Kail continued the onslaught, scoring 50 from 23 deliveries, while Prajapati eased to 53 not out from 147 for the loss of a single wicket, with 14 deliveries to spare.

Two of the UAE’s ILT20 bowlers, Aayan Khan and Junaid Siddique, were heavily punished.

Oman’s comprehensive victory means that they top Group B, with six points from three games, to almost certainly secure a semifinal slot. The UAE have four points from three matches, with a final match against pointless Cambodia, whom they are heavy favorites to beat.

On Turf B, Kuwait were asked to bat by Bahrain and lost five wickets in reaching 79. No. 3 batter, M. Bhavsar, held firm with 54 before being the seventh wicket to fall. Late hitting by B. Tahir, 40 not out, took the total to 161 for seven.

In reply, Bahrain lost two early wickets for 24 and a third on 35, all to Yasin Patel who conceded only eight runs. Some middle-order hitting was not enough and the innings closed on 135 for six.

The result puts Kuwait on equal points (four) with the UAE. Kuwait have a superior net run rate, but have to play Oman in their final match. The outcome of Group B, as with Group A, will go to the wire.


Rohit Sharma century in vain as Chennai Super Kings beat Mumbai Indians in IPL

Rohit Sharma century in vain as Chennai Super Kings beat Mumbai Indians in IPL
Updated 14 April 2024
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Rohit Sharma century in vain as Chennai Super Kings beat Mumbai Indians in IPL

Rohit Sharma century in vain as Chennai Super Kings beat Mumbai Indians in IPL
  • Set 207 for victory, five-time winners Mumbai finished on 186-6

MUMBAI: India’s Rohit Sharma hit an unbeaten 105 but his Mumbai Indians fell 20 runs short as they tried to chase down a big target set by holders Chennai Super Kings in a battle of IPL heavyweights on Sunday.
Set 207 for victory, five-time winners Mumbai finished on 186-6 even though Rohit raised his ton in 61 balls at his home in Wankhede Stadium.
Skipper Ruturaj Gaikwad and the in-form Shivam Dube powered Chennai, who won their fifth title last year, to 206-4.
Gaikwad hit 69 and Dube smashed an unbeaten 66 before warhorse M.S. Dhoni smashed three successive sixes in the 20th over to take Chennai past 200.
Dhoni came in to bat with four balls left and scored 20. He smashed Mumbai skipper Hardik Pandya for three sixes and finished with a two to end a 26-run over.
“Our young wicketkeeper scoring three sixes down the order helped a lot and I think that was the difference,” Gaikwad said of the 42-year-old Dhoni.
Sri Lanka quick Matheesha Pathirana then took four wickets to push Mumbai to their fourth loss of the season and Gaikwad said he bowled “exceptionally well and nailed those yorkers.”
The two teams are on contrasting runs after changes of guard this season.
Pandya replaced Rohit as Mumbai captain while Dhoni surprisingly handed over the Chennai leadership to Gaikwad.
Gaikwad had his fourth win as captain after he set the pace for his team with his 40-ball knock laced with five fours and five sixes.
He put on 90 runs with Dube before falling to Pandya, but Dube and then Dhoni’s cameo ensured Chennai finished strongly.
Mumbai started well with Rohit and Ishan Kishan putting on 70 runs for the first wicket before Pathirana hit back.
Pathirana, known “Baby Malinga” for his slinging action similar to former Sri Lankan quick Lasith Malinga, sent back Kishan and then Suryakumar Yadav, for his second duck this season, in the space of three balls.
He later dismissed Tilak Varma for 31 as Rohit attempted to keep up the charge in his 63-ball knock and his second IPL ton.
Pathirana was named man of the match and Pandya said the Sri Lankan “was the difference.”
Tushar Deshpande got Pandya out and the home crowd cheered in another sign of growing unpopularity of Mumbai’s choice of captain.
In the first match of the day, Phil Salt’s rapid 89 and three wickets for Mitchell Starc helped Kolkata Knight Riders race to a crushing eight-wicket win over Lucknow Super Giants.
Starc’s 3-28 kept Lucknow down to 161-7 at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens, with the other Knight Riders’ bowlers putting in disciplined performances after their side elected to field first.
The Australian left-arm quick became the most expensive buy in IPL history after Kolkata shelled out $2.98 million for his services.
Opener Salt then steered the two-time IPL winners to their target in 15.4 overs for their fourth victory in five matches this season.
The English wicketkeeper-batsman put on 120 runs with skipper Shreyas Iyer, who made 38, smashing 14 fours and three sixes in his 47-ball knock.


Saudi Arabia display resilience to secure notable ACC Premier Cup victory

Saudi Arabia display resilience to secure notable ACC Premier Cup victory
Updated 14 April 2024
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Saudi Arabia display resilience to secure notable ACC Premier Cup victory

Saudi Arabia display resilience to secure notable ACC Premier Cup victory
  • Match likely to represent a landmark triumph

AL-AMARAT: On the evening of the second day of the ACC Premier Cup, my taxi driver rubbed the tips of his fingers together, not in anticipation of money but to indicate that something was in the air.

If he meant rain, he was correct. People woke early in Muscat on day three, Sunday, to the sound and sight of medium to heavy rain. Forecasts indicated that it would die away by 11 a.m. This turned out to be the case. The ground staff got to work on turf two at Al-Amarat, clearing the covers, rolling the wicket and preparing the outfield, which had dried very quickly.

Fortunately, only two matches were scheduled for day three, both on turf two. The first was Oman v Cambodia; the second, Hong Kong v Saudi Arabia. Play commenced at noon on turf two with Oman batting in a match reduced to 11 overs per side.

Prior to that, at 11:45, the covers came off turf one, the roller went to work, along with associated preparations. Perhaps turf one would be used for the second game of the day, thus allowing a full quota of overs for the first match. However, it seemed that, despite those preparations, turf one would be rested. The day’s second match was to be played to the 20 overs per team. It would have been interesting to see how the matches would have been balanced in terms of overs had four games been scheduled for day three.

Oman were asked to bat first, and lost a wicket in the first over. Undeterred, the batters sought to score quickly, given the reduced number of overs. Seventeen came off the third over, 18 off the fifth, largely off the bat of Naseem Khushi, who finally perished with 69 in the eighth over. Further hitting in the final two overs propelled the total to 154 for five.

Cambodia made a steady start in the first five overs, scoring 44 runs, but their innings unraveled in dramatic fashion in the sixth over, bowled by Aqib Ilyas. The first ball was scooped to deep square, where the fielder could not get his hands to the ball. However, off the next ball, Viraj was caught at deep midwicket, Beukes came in and was bowled first ball, followed by Godara, who misread the delivery, cutting it onto his stumps, to give Ilyas a hat-trick.

After that, wickets continued to fall, only captain Luqman Butt displaying resistance in a lone fight, ending undefeated on 41 out of 91 for seven.

There had been little danger of an upset after the first five overs of the game, but the scene was set for Saudi Arabia to achieve the first one of the tournament, after a disappointing defeat in the first match. The team elected to bat and a different intent was visible from the outset. Although S. Khan was dismissed in the fourth over, Abdul Waheed, who could easily have been run out in the same over, stroked his way to 77 in partnership, first with F. Khan, 30, and then with Manan Ali, 44, whose straight hitting was instrumental in Saudi reaching an imposing 202 for eight.

It was the team’s second highest T20I total after the 221 for three against Bhutan on Feb. 15, 2024. Indeed, the team’s top five T20I totals have all been scored in 2024. Signs, perhaps, of a team on the rise.

In Saudi’s first match on day two, the bowlers had impressed. If a defense of 202 was to be achieved, they needed to impress again. Despite an early success for Ishtiaq Ahmad, who pinned Y. Murtaza lbw, the opening bowlers were not at their best, conceding 57 runs in five overs. The introduction of captain Hisham Shaikh turned out to be inspirational. Out of nowhere, for no reason, A. Rath skied a catch, and two balls later B. Hayat pulled a shortish ball into the deep but straight to a fielder who took a fine catch above his head.

In the first match Saudi had reduced Malaysia to 53 for five after 10 overs, but failed to make that advantage count. In this match, the introduction of slow left armer Zain Ul Abidin was responsible for restricting the progress of Hong Kong. He bowled four overs and claimed three wickets for only 16 runs. When his spell ended, Hong Kong were 106 for six after 13 overs, requiring another 97 runs in seven overs at 14 per over. This was beyond the capabilities of Nizakat Khan, who made a defiant 73 in a lost cause as the innings closed on 147 all out, 55 runs adrift.

This is likely to represent a landmark victory; a sign of a team adapting to the demands of a higher level of competition, especially after the day two defeat.

Perhaps that has galvanized the team. It does mean that in Group A Nepal lead the way with four points from two matches, followed by three teams, each with two points — Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, and Hong Kong — with Qatar bottom with no points. The stage is set for a probable three-way battle for second place.


Big bucks Mitchell Starc, Phil Salt help Kolkata Knight Riders thrash Lucknow Super Giants in IPL

Big bucks Mitchell Starc, Phil Salt help Kolkata Knight Riders thrash Lucknow Super Giants in IPL
Updated 14 April 2024
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Big bucks Mitchell Starc, Phil Salt help Kolkata Knight Riders thrash Lucknow Super Giants in IPL

Big bucks Mitchell Starc, Phil Salt help Kolkata Knight Riders thrash Lucknow Super Giants in IPL
  • Starc's 3-28 kept Lucknow down to 161-7 at Kolkata's Eden Gardens

KOLKATA: Phil Salt's rapid 89 and three wickets for Mitchell Starc helped Kolkata Knight Riders race to a crushing eight-wicket win over Lucknow Super Giants on Sunday.
Starc's 3-28 kept Lucknow down to 161-7 at Kolkata's Eden Gardens, with the other Knight Riders' bowlers putting in disciplined performances after their side elected to field first.
The Australian left-arm quick became the most expensive buy in IPL history after Kolkata shelled out $2.98 million for his services.
Opener Salt then steered the two-time IPL winners to their target in 15.4 overs for their fourth victory in five matches this season.
It was the English wicketkeeper-batsman's second half-century in the current IPL edition after he scored 54 in his team's opening win last month.
Salt held the chase together despite Kolkata losing two wickets including opener Sunil Narine for six.
He put on 120 runs with skipper Shreyas Iyer, who made 38, smashing 14 fours and three sixes in his 47-ball knock.
Players have been jostling to impress their national selectors ahead of the upcoming T20 World Cup starting June 1 in the West Indies and the United States.
Starc started slowly, leaking 10 runs in his first over, but came back strongly and sent back Deepak Hooda in his third with the help of a diving catch at backward point from Ramandeep Singh.
Mystery spinner Narine choked the flow of runs and returned figures of 1-17 before Starc bowled the 20th over for just six runs and two wickets.
He got the dangerous Nicholas Pooran on the first ball, caught behind for 45, and finished with a yorker to bowl Arshad Khan.