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.


Disappointment for Saudi team in first match of ACC Men’s Premier Cup

Disappointment for Saudi team in first match of ACC Men’s Premier Cup
Updated 14 April 2024
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Disappointment for Saudi team in first match of ACC Men’s Premier Cup

Disappointment for Saudi team in first match of ACC Men’s Premier Cup
  • Saudi Arabia now play Hong Kong in a must win match on day three

AL-AMERAT: On April 12, the men’s Asia Premier Cup got off to a flying start on Oman’s two side-by-side turf grounds at Al-Amerat, Muscat.

This excellent facility provides the opportunity for two matches to be played on each turf a day. The press tent is situated between the two grounds so that both matches can be observed simultaneously.

Prospects of upsets were high. In Group A, Oman, one of the favorites to earn the top place and progress to the Asia Cup in 2025, were run close by Bahrain, who fell four runs short of victory. Oman had been given a scare and an upset avoided.

Another contender for top spot, the UAE, was subject to a steady top-order batting display by Kuwait, who posted 178 for 8. At 26 for 3, the UAE innings was on the back foot, but an unbroken fourth-wicket partnership of 153 avoided another potential upset.

Nepal twanged the heartstrings of their supporters against Malaysia, who posted a creditable 143 for 3. Captain Virandeep Singh anchored the innings with an unbeaten 72, supported by S. Muniandy, Nepal, using eight bowlers. Nepal made heavy weather of its reply, wickets falling at critical times, before a sixth-wicket partnership of 30 runs sent their delirious supporters into raptures. No other team in this tournament has this boisterous, enthusiastic support. There seemed to 100 or so, all working in Oman, making a noise far beyond their numbers. Crucially for them, another potential upset had been avoided.

In their performance, Malaysia had given a warning that they represented a strong challenge for Saudi Arabia on Day 2. Choosing to bat first, Malaysia lost Virandeep Singh in the first over, bowled by Ishtiaq Ahmad. Tight bowling by Saudi’s quicks reduced Malaysia to 53 for 5 after 10 overs. Several smart catches were taken but there was some ragged fielding.

At this critical juncture in the innings, Saudi needed to turn the screw. However, the left-handed A. A. Wahid rebuilt the innings, with help from V. Unni, and a late flurry of scoring in the last two overs took Malaysia to 146 for 7. This target looked achievable on a good batting pitch.

Saudi’s start was steady, but the introduction of spin at both ends stifled the scoring. In the sixth over, Saudi attacked but then lost two wickets in the seventh over, the score 47 for 3. Then came drama. First there was the dismissal of the captain, H. Shaikh, who was adjudged to be stumped, and then K. Abbas was caught behind in the same over, the batter being unimpressed to be out.

At 91 for 5 in the 15th over, the game was in the balance. A profitable over of 12 runs then ensued off a left-arm quick. The return of slower bowlers brought extra pressure and, despite several lusty blows, the lower order all gave straightforward catches in their attempts to find the boundary. As a result, the innings closed 12 runs short on 134 all out, with 5 balls spare.

It is a match that Saudi will be disappointed to lose. At 53 for 5, the Malaysian innings was in deep trouble, but they managed to wriggle free and then post a competitive score. The Saudi batters had difficulty in scoring sufficiently against the slower bowlers. Even so, to finish 12 runs short with 5 balls remaining suggests that some improved game management will be beneficial. Overall, the Malaysian team probably fielded better. The margins are so tight in T20 cricket that fielding often makes the difference.

In the other matches of day two, Kuwait made light of Cambodia’s 141 for 5, reaching the target in the 12-over for the loss of only 2 wickets. The UAE totalled an imposing 236 for 6 against Bahrain, who responded in positive fashion, particularly Ali Butt and I. Anwar with some superlative straight hitting. Ultimately, they perished and the team fell short by 37 runs.

However, the real fireworks of the day were provided by Nepal who scored 210 for 7. Before the last over, they had scored 174 for 7. Dipendra Singh Airee then smashed 6 sixes to place himself as only the third player to do that in T20I cricket. The others were Yuvraj Singh in 2007 and Kieron Pollard in 2021. Qatar replied with a spirited 178 for 9 and will wonder how much closer they might had been, but for Airee’s blitz.

At the end of Day 2, the UAE and Nepal lead their respective groups, each with two wins from two matches. Saudi Arabia play Hong Kong in a must-win match on Day 3.


Shimron Hetmyer seals IPL thriller for Rajasthan Royals over Punjab Kings

Shimron Hetmyer seals IPL thriller for Rajasthan Royals over Punjab Kings
Updated 13 April 2024
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Shimron Hetmyer seals IPL thriller for Rajasthan Royals over Punjab Kings

Shimron Hetmyer seals IPL thriller for Rajasthan Royals over Punjab Kings
  • Royals cemented top spot in the IPL table with third straight win

CHANDIGARH: Shimron Hetmyer provided the finishing touches to Rajasthan Royals’ last-over win against Punjab Kings in an Indian Premier League thriller on Saturday.
Punjab needed 10 runs from the last over, and Hetmyer (27 not out off 10 balls) held his nerve against death-bowling specialist Arshdeep Singh. After two dot deliveries, Hetmyer hit 6-2-6 to help Rajasthan cross the finish line with a ball left.
Rajasthan finished with 152-7 in reply to Punjab’s 147-8.
The Royals cemented top spot in the league with a third straight win, while the slumping Kings were handed a fourth loss in six games.
Put in to bat, Punjab missed Shikhar Dhawan and English allrounder Sam Curran stepped in as skipper.
The hosts were pegged back regularly by losing wickets.
Rajasthan’s spinners squeezed the scoring rate. Yuzvendra Chahal took 1-31 in four overs and Keshav Maharaj picked 2-23. Maharaj dismissed Jonny Bairstow (15) and Curran (6) and helped to reduce Punjab to 52-4 in 9.3 overs.
Jitesh Sharma anchored Punjab with 29 off 24 balls, including two sixes, but it was impact player Ashutosh Sharma who gave Punjab 147 to defend by scoring 31 off 16 until he was dismissed by Trent Boult (1-22) off the final ball.
Tanush Kotian replaced Rajasthan opener Jos Buttler and combined for 56 runs with Yashasvi Jaiswal. Jaiswal, in a slump, scored 39 off 28 balls with four fours.
As opposed to Rajasthan’s spin, Punjab’s pace did the heavy lifting and got the vital breakthroughs. Kagiso Ramada dismissed Jaiswal, and in-form skipper Sanju Samson for 18.
Liam Livingstone bowled Kotian as Rajasthan’s chase was struggling at 89-3 in the 14th over.
At 115-5, Hetmyer and fellow West Indian batter Rovman Powell took charge. Powell 11-off-five cameo gave Rajasthan the impetus that Hetmyer used to finish with a flourish of three sixes.


Jake Fraser-McGurk shines on IPL debut as Delhi Capitals thrash Lucknow Super Giants

Jake Fraser-McGurk shines on IPL debut as Delhi Capitals thrash Lucknow Super Giants
Updated 12 April 2024
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Jake Fraser-McGurk shines on IPL debut as Delhi Capitals thrash Lucknow Super Giants

Jake Fraser-McGurk shines on IPL debut as Delhi Capitals thrash Lucknow Super Giants
  • Australian’s 55-run knock, studded with five sixes and two fours, came to an end when he holed out to Arshad Khan
  • Delhi moved to ninth in the 10-team contest after registering only their second victory

LUCKNOW: Jake Fraser-McGurk smashed a half-century on his Indian Premier League debut as Delhi Capitals thrashed Lucknow Super Giants by six wickets on Friday to reignite their hopes in the money-spinning T20 competition.
Fraser-McGurk, who had celebrated his 22nd birthday on Thursday, shared a 77-run partnership for the third wicket with captain Rishabh Pant (41) to help Delhi overhaul Lucknow’s 167-7 with 11 balls to spare.
Delhi moved to ninth in the 10-team contest after registering only their second victory from six outings.
Lucknow, who came into the match with three wins out of four, are now placed fourth.
“Spent five-six games on the sidelines itching to get out there,” said Fraser-McGurk.
“I’m so happy to be here, different world in terms of cricket. Never seen anything like it, to be able to savour eight weeks, hopefully more, is amazing.”
Delhi lost opener David Warner early with the Australian dragging a ball from Yash Thakur on to his stumps soon after he was attended to by the physio for a blow he took on his knuckles.
Prithvi Shaw (32) was caught brilliantly by Nicholas Pooran at deep midwicket off Ravi Bishnoi but Pant and Fraser-McGurk steadied the innings with their stand.
Fraser-McGurk, who went unsold in the IPL auction but came in as a replacement for Lungi Ngidi, hit Krunal Pandya for three huge sixes in a row in one over to underline his power-hitting prowess.
The Australian’s 55-run knock, studded with five sixes and two fours, came to an end when he holed out to Arshad Khan, but by then Delhi needed just 28 runs off 32 balls.
Pant went past 3,000 IPL runs before being stumped off Bishnoi for 41 off 24 balls including two sixes and four boundaries.
“We were about 15-20 runs short, we should’ve capitalized to get to 180,” said Lucknow skipper K.L. Rahul.
“McGurk was very unknown. We’ve watched a lot of videos of him but he hit the ball really well, credit to him.”
Earlier, Lucknow were off to a fine start after electing to bat but they stumbled after the powerplay, losing two wickets in two balls to left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav (3-20).
Yadav, 29, had missed Delhi’s last two matches due to an injury.
The slow bowler struck to send back Rahul (39 off 22 balls).
Rahul tried to slash the ball which was turning away and a Delhi review confirmed a nick.
Lucknow were tottering at 94-7 in the 13th over but Ayush Badoni top-scored with an unbeaten 35-ball 55 and shared 73 runs for the eighth wicket with Arshad Khan (20 not out) to ensure a fighting total on the board.
It was the first half-century this IPL season for Badoni, who hit one six and five fours.


UAE, Oman make winning starts to ACC Premier Cup as Qatar fall to Hong Kong

UAE, Oman make winning starts to ACC Premier Cup as Qatar fall to Hong Kong
Updated 12 April 2024
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UAE, Oman make winning starts to ACC Premier Cup as Qatar fall to Hong Kong

UAE, Oman make winning starts to ACC Premier Cup as Qatar fall to Hong Kong
  • Saudi Arabia’s cricketers will get their bid for Premier Cup glory underway on Saturday when they host Malaysia

LONDON: Oman and the UAE got their Asian Cricket Council Premier Cup campaigns off to winning starts on Friday as they both look to qualify for next year’s Asia Cup.

The Emiratis beat their Gulf rivals Kuwait by seven wickets at Al-Amarat with two and a half overs to spare.

The Kuwaitis notched up 178/8 from their 20 overs, with Clinto Anto top scoring on 54 from 23 balls.

After a shaky start and a golden duck for captain Muhammad Waseem, the UAE were rarely troubled in their quest to chase down 179, with an imperious 90 runs from 48 balls from Alishan Sharafu, ably supported by Asif Khan’s 74 from seven overs, steering them home.

The Omanis, making the most of the Premier Cup competition being played on home soil, saw off Bahrain in a thriller.

Aqib Ilyas top-scored for the hosts with a solid knock of 62 from 53 deliveries as they reached 177 for the loss of three from their 20 overs.

The Bahrainis fell just four runs short of their 178 target as eight wickets fell in their innings.

Also on Friday, Qatar were resoundingly beaten in the other group of the tournament as Hong Kong set a daunting target of 202 for victory.

The Qataris started well, with opener Saqlain Arshad reaching his half-century inside six overs, but they started to lose quick wickets and ended up losing by 26 runs.

Saudi Arabia’s cricketers will get their bid for Premier Cup glory underway on Saturday when they host Malaysia in Al-Amarat.


Kishan and Bumrah lead Mumbai to 7-wicket win over Bengaluru in IPL

Kishan and Bumrah lead Mumbai to 7-wicket win over Bengaluru in IPL
Updated 11 April 2024
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Kishan and Bumrah lead Mumbai to 7-wicket win over Bengaluru in IPL

Kishan and Bumrah lead Mumbai to 7-wicket win over Bengaluru in IPL
  • Chasing 198 for victory, Ishan Kishan smacked 69 off 34 balls and then Suryakumar Yadav smacked 52 off only 19 balls
  • Mumbai finished with 199-3 in reply to Bengaluru’s 196-8 in 20 overs with Dinesh Karthik scoring 53 not out off 26 balls

MUMBAI, India: A whirlwind batting performance powered the Mumbai Indians to a stunning seven-wicket win over Royal Challengers Bengaluru in the Indian Premier League on Thursday.
Chasing 198 for victory, Ishan Kishan smacked 69 off 34 balls and then Suryakumar Yadav smacked 52 off only 19 balls as Mumbai crossed the finish line in 15.3 overs.
It finished with 199-3 in reply to Bengaluru’s 196-8 in 20 overs with Dinesh Karthik scoring 53 not out off 26 balls.
Put into bat, Bengaluru’s batting faltered against Jasprit Bumrah who picked 5-21 in four overs and restricted the visitors to an under-par score.
Bumrah broke through in the third over and had leading run-scorer Virat Kohli caught behind for three runs.
English batter Will Jacks had been drafted in for Australian all-rounder Cameron Green, but he too fell to Bumrah for only 8.
Skipper Faf du Plessis and Rajat Patidar put on 82 off 47 balls for the third wicket. Du Plessis found form again and scored his first half-century of the season — 61 off 40 balls, including four fours and three sixes.
Patidar scored 50 off 26 balls as Bengaluru’s innings seemed to correct course. But Mumbai struck back with Gerald Coetzee getting the breakthrough to send back Patidar.
Another big moment followed when Glenn Maxwell was out lbw for a four-ball duck to spinner Shreyas Gopal.
Bumrah returned to sink the remaining Bengaluru lineup — he was on a hat trick twice, but missed out on both. He had du Plessis caught in the 17th over, and then Mahipal Lomror for a duck in the 17th over. Two overs later, he picked another brace off consecutive deliveries.
Karthik held one end together though, hitting four sixes and five fours to prop up Bengaluru from 153-6 in 16.5 overs, falling just short of 200.
It wasn’t going to be enough on a dewy Wankhede wicket, but Mumbai seemed to be in a hurry.
Kishan put on 101 off only 53 balls with Rohit Sharma (38), as he blazed seven fours and five sixes.
Bengaluru’s bowling had no response, or respite, with Mumbai crossing 100 in the ninth over.
Kishan was finally caught in the deep, but Yadav walked in to further torment the visitors. He hit four sixes, and another five fours, scoring 50 off only 17 balls.
Sharma was dismissed in the 12th over, even as it didn’t slow down proceedings. Yadav was out caught in the 14th over, with Mumbai on the cusp of victory and duly won the game with 27 balls to spare.
It was Bengaluru’s fifth loss in six games, along with a major hit to its net run-rate, as it sunk to ninth in the points’ table.
Mumbai moved up to seventh with four points from five games.