Article: Does cricket need a new shot in the arm?


Does cricket need a new shot in the arm?

The global cricketing leadership needs to think about new ways of keeping the fire of the game alive among audiences
Does cricket need a new shot in the arm?

Every four years, for four weeks, the world of cricket is gripped by the sporting extravaganza of the World Cup. The game of cricket has evolved from its traditional structure where run slogs were fairly unorthodox and opposition teams competed against each other on patience and perseverance. Much like other forms of sport, the calm and calculative ‘Gentleman’s Game’ has been replaced by a modern-day tech-fuelled show of deadly accuracy, mortal aggression and insult-riddled sledging. For a follower of cricket, the game has turned ‘ninja’. If a game or a tournament does not make for a good story, it has catastrophic impact on the commercials. The business of cricket has, thus, transformed into a centre of modernization, innovation and intense competition. So how is it going to be this time round in World Cup 2015? Let’s explore.

Abolishing tradition

Orthodox batting and bowling traditions have gone flying out the window. The ‘reverse sweep’ or the ‘helicopter’ is now a part and parcel of every batsman’s armory, and it would not be a surprise if another new shot gets added to the list in this year’s edition. Batsmen are getting increasingly inventive in their attempt to have an element of surprise. The game will continue to see more breaches of orthodoxy or ‘improvisations’ in the coming times. The key question is: “For how much longer will human capability and endurance allow for more improvements and improvisations? Is there an end-point?” If there is any tournament that can potentially bring out a player’s most intense passions, it has to be the World Cup. The extraordinary achievements of this year’s edition will create new baselines of possibility in the game of cricket.

Like any professional function, what really differentiates cricket is ultimately the physical and mental aptitude of players. At some point in time, the leadership of global cricket will need to take decisions on how much they would like to push the boundaries of the game without risking the depletion of its differentiated value. In many ways, this is a strange conundrum that an organization leadership faces every now and then. Most organizations tolerate ‘mavericks’ or the ‘square-pegs-in-the-round-holes’ because of their ability to think and act beyond tradition. But it is also true that it is the leader’s responsibility to save the organization from disenchantment and disillusion by defining the absolute boundaries. In the absence of a differentiated value, it is easy for a different and equally competitive game to overtake cricket’s spot in the list of audience preferences.

Cross-industry competition is intensive

In a world where content dissemination is becoming increasingly end-user centric, the risk of cross-industry competition increases. Most already know Twenty-20 cricket’s direct impact on another mammoth Indian industry: Film. Twenty-20 cricket and IPL impacted user-behaviours by providing consumers a choice between a Bollywood movie and a three-hour adrenaline-filled extravaganza on a Friday night. What cricket did to Bollywood, the Indian Soccer League (ISL) or Indian Hockey League (IHL) could do in turn to cricket.

In early February 2015, Madonna created quite a stir when it was announced that her new music video would actually be released in the messaging service, Snapchat. In many ways, it can be quite a strategic masterstroke because of the reach and penetration of the service. This, sadly, could start a trend potentially signalling the demise of music television. Who would have thought! PWC’s 18th annual global CEO survey 2015 reveals that 56 per cent of CEOs believe that cross-industry competition is on the rise. Is the cricketing leadership listening?

For an industry that is growing so fast and where innovations are happening at breakneck speed, it will not be too long before the game starts demanding a new shot in the arm. If the day-night or the Twenty-20 formats pumped new blood into the game, the cricketing leadership of the world needs to collectively think about the next step changes.

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Topics: Leadership, Sports, Books & Movies

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