China and cricket will be a good match

Updated: 2016-09-07 07:46

By Siva Sankar(China Daily)

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The Rio dust has settled. Time to ponder ways of boosting the future medal tally. Along with regular efforts, innovative thinking could help.

How about participating in, and excelling at, disciplines where China has little or no presence? Think soccer. Potential new opportunities? Think rugby and golf. How to intelligently anticipate, and prepare for, the future? Think cricket.

Signs are cricket, akin to baseball in some respects, could be part of the Olympics sooner than later. Its governing body International Criket Council has been globalizing the game. In recent decades, 14 teams, including Hong Kong, have joined six cricket majors in international cricket. Several neutral venues have cropped up. In all, 105 countries run ICC-recognized local competitions.

China and cricket will be a good match

Last week, neutral venue Florida hosted two Twenty-20 or T20 India-West Indies matches, the shortest but most popular of cricket's three formats. Japan is said to be not averse to cricket. A case can be made for China in cricket whose commercial potential is immense.

Before, during and immediately after Rio 2016, international and national-level cricket delivered hundreds of millions of viewers and spectators to broadcasters and advertisers. Driven by expatriate audiences, the global cricket economy is growing, in terms of geographical reach, telecast hours, viewer eyeballs and ad revenue.

This is not irrelevant to China. Chinese smartphone maker Vivo is the title sponsor of the Indian Premiere League or IPL, the showpiece T20 tournament that's comparable to England's England Premier League and Spain's La Liga. Gionee backs Kolkata Knight Riders, a title-winning Indian Premier League franchise. Oppo and Huawei have had cricket links.

Chinese gadget and appliance makers, and internet giants, already have, or would welcome opportunities to have a presence in the Indian market that comprises a billion-plus consumers and is second only to, and not very far from, China.

Nothing can match cricket's pull insofar as creating instant access to the Indian consumer is concerned. Conceivably, a three-hour India-China T20 match in the near future could create a five-hour prime time viewing bonanza for advertisers, with a potential to reach more than 2 billion consumers in both countries.

An Asian T20 tournament involving teams from China, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Afghanistan (maybe, even Nepal, Malaysia and Singapore) could hook billions of consumers.

The Asian middle class, always seeking bang for their buck, prefers entertainment and leisure activities that last a few hours at least. Cricket fits in nicely with this theme.

Chinese companies have been snapping up overseas football clubs to popularize the game in China. It's a matter of time before they seek more sports and games to sponsor, to make their brands stand out.

Cricket is not impossible to master. Sri Lanka played its first Test in 1982, and won the World Cup in 1996, finishing ahead of established teams such as Australia, England, India and Pakistan.

Given that Hong Kong has had a cricket culture, Chinese people could learn quickly and vie for two possible Olympic medals, including one in women's cricket.

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(China Daily 09/07/2016 page4)