As the 13th edition of the ICC Cricket World Cup goes underway, PressXpress got a chance to catch up with well-known cricket expert and entrepreneur Vishal Yadav on the much-talked-about low footfall at the opening matches, and the potential for women’s cricket in India. Yadav is known for being a passionate supporter of women’s cricket. He is the CEO and founder of Female Cricket, a platform dedicated to driving the women’s game, with a community of more than 500,000 women cricket enthusiasts. Yadav also runs a cricket academy and has trained more than 400 girls in the game. Excerpts from the interview:
You can also read: World Cup Cricket: Has T20 overshadowed ODI charm?
How do you view the empty stadiums at Ahmedabad and Hyderabad right at the start of the World Cup? There was no opening ceremony as well.
Yadav: Regarding the World Cup opener, let’s avoid giving the impression of “empty stadiums”, because that’s not the case. However, it is accurate to say that the Narendra Modi Stadium (in Ahmedabad) wasn’t packed.
There are several factors to consider:
- Men’s One-Day cricket has been losing its appeal and struggling to maintain interest. Better marketing for the tournament was needed.
- Hosting the match on a mid-week day meant fewer people were willing to attend, especially families with children who had exams to prioritize before the upcoming Dusshera festival break.
- The scorching hot weather in Gujarat (for the opener match) discouraged people from coming to the stadium when they had a comfortable option to watch from home for free. The expenses of tickets, travel, and food further discouraged stadium attendance.
But as the day progressed, more people flocked to the stadium, especially after schools and colleges were done for the day, and the sun began to set.
Efforts of those who tried to mimic and show a false image of “empty stadiums” fell flat as it turned out to be a record high of 47,518 attendees, the highest ever for a World Cup opener.
While packed stadiums are great, considering these factors and the fact that two overseas teams are competing on a neutral venue, it’s unrealistic to expect a full house.
Should the World Premier League and the popular Indian Premier League have moved to the winter, and the World Cup be held in the summer? Yes. The daytime attendance would remain low, but in the evening hours, the count potentially could have reached 80,000.
Regarding the opening ceremony, it’s strange that it didn’t happen as planned. I’ve read that it’s been rescheduled for 13 October, a day before the India-Pakistan clash.
Again, this seems like a miscalculation on the part of the BCCI. While an IND v PAK match doesn’t need extra hype, the World Cup opener certainly did, given the home team wasn’t competing.
Could an opening ceremony have attracted more attendees? Yes, but probably not significantly more.
Do you see a shift in the way women’s professional cricket is now received by sponsors and audiences in India?
Yadav: Certainly, it’s a booming industry, a sleeping giant for a long time, and it’s now experiencing exponential growth.
The turning point for women’s cricket was the 2020 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Final, where a staggering 86,174 spectators filled the Melbourne Cricket Ground. This marked the initial signs of women’s cricket beginning to thrive.
In terms of viewership, the game captivated 1.2 million Australian viewers, while the Indian audience added another 9.02 million. The tournament also excelled in the digital realm, amassing over 1.1 billion video views on the ICC’s digital channels, making it the second-highest figure for any tournament at that time, trailing only the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019.
Fast forward to the 2023 T20 World Cup, and it made history as the most-watched ICC women’s event to date. Global viewing hours for the event reached a remarkable 192 million, a 44% increase from the 2020 World Cup in Australia. The viewership figures this time around shattered previous records, boasting a staggering 790% increase in fans tuning in for the World Cup compared to the 2020 edition.
On ICC’s digital channels, there was a significant uplift of 26% in video views across all channels. The ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2023 achieved a remarkable 1.39 billion video views compared to 1.1 billion for the 2020 edition in Australia.
These remarkable trends extend beyond ICC events. Bilateral series such as the Women’s Ashes consistently saw packed stadiums in England. Viewership numbers have soared, with a peak of 795,000 viewers during England’s victory at Lord’s, the highest ever for a women’s T20I, and an average of 285,000. Even the five-day Test, the first in 30 years, garnered nearly 400% higher viewing figures compared to its 2019 counterpart, with the T20 series enjoying a 135% increase.
ODIs were particularly impressive, resulting in the first sold-out series in English women’s history. As of July 7, over 94,000 tickets had been sold for the multi-format series, nearly three times the 32,000 total attendance for the Women’s Ashes in 2019.
The Women’s Premier League (WPL) has achieved a remarkable valuation of $150 million in its inaugural season. Notably, Viacom 18’s media rights deal at $23.4 million per season is the second most valuable broadcast contract globally for women’s sports leagues. The title sponsor, Tata Group, invested $20 million in a 3-year deal. Furthermore, the sale of the five WPL franchises fetched a staggering $572 million for the BCCI.
These figures represent just a glimpse of what’s in store.
The trajectory of women’s cricket promises to reach unprecedented heights.