Cricket in America

The ICC’s Twitter feed posed the question this morning of whether cricket could catch on in America and how best to popularise it. This is something about which I rarely think (American Armchair Cricketer tends to have more on it) but I could hardly have failed to make a few observations.

First off is that the popular perception of the American span being too short for Test cricket is, whilst not entirely baseless, not entirely accurate. There are certainly people, and a lot of them, who would not be interested. But there are a very substantial minority who would. I don’t like using anecdotes; they are not rigourous. But in this case, where there is no overall data at which to look, I think they might be useful. And I can say that I know several people even in my fairly small circle of friends who definitely have the attention span for cricket and have even expressed an interest. It’s actually very similar to football: years ago most Americans regarded it as a dull, foreign sport as well. It has since been shown, however, that they definitely are willing to watch in great numbers. I accept that a thirty hour Test match is different to a two hour football match, but I think the same applies: give them something interesting, make it easily available and see what happens.

What should not happen is to flood the market with T20. If one tries to ‘Americanise’ cricket to get it into the market one will only attract those who are unlikely to be ever be interested in Test cricket. I expect that there would be a very low conversion rate. Looking at football again, it did not change anything about the basic game in an effort to get into the American market. Cricket must not either, there is no point setting up what amounts to a bait and switch with T20. If one wants to maximise the appeal of cricket in America, one will have to introduce all forms of the game in a way that people can see them and decide whether or not they are appealing.

The best way would probably be to set up youth leagues. The fact that young children could play football very likely caused its increase in popularity as those children grew up. If children start to play cricket and are given the opportunity to watch it on telly they are more likely to become engaged with the sport.

3 comments

  1. Ansser Sadiq says:

    It would be hard for cricket to gain popularity as Americans simply view it as similar to baseball. So any American who played cricket, even as a kid, would more than likely switch to the vastly more popular sport baseball as they get older.

    As for tv viewing, it would be possible to attract more attention but at first you have to get it on tv. The only channel available is Willow.tv and that costs 15$ on top of cable packages. No one other than cricket fanatics are going to pay for that channel. Even they, most likely, use illegal online streams to watch on their computers.

    Unless games are broadcast on certain channels there will never be an understanding of the sport. You cannot just start up youth leagues. Who will go (besides Indians, Pakistanis who play anyway)? Americans dont know the first thing about cricket. Maybe if they see it on tv at some point they will find it interesting.

    • Bandon Decker says:

      I don’t think your notion about people switching over to baseball is true at all. I happily watch both and they are different enough to both be appealing. I think anyone who had become familiar with cricket would feel the same.

      I’m very familiar with Willow, having been a subscriber for a few years now. It is certainly the case that cricket (especially matches in Australia and New Zealand which have the best time difference) needs to be on standard cable packages, either on ESPN or on a specialist channel like the MLB Network.

      The question of who would play was also asked about junior football leagues. That worked well enough. And it’s not true that American’s don’t know the first thing about cricket, after all I know quite a bit about it! And I’m far from the only one. As I said above, I have found clear interest, but with no way for it to be realised.

      • Ansser Sadiq says:

        I dont mean switching over in terms of watching. I mean if you are an american kid and you join a junior cricket league or whatever, and you are decent at it, theres a chance you might be good at baseball too. after all, both games involve hitting a ball with a bat. yes they are both different i have played both, but there are similarities. i just mean that i dont think very many kids would play cricket as a sport for a long time, they would much rather play baseball competitively.

        and why i think its more important to get cricket on tv is to get americans to understand it. you know cricket, but as a percentage how many americans know the first thing about cricket? VERY few. most know its a sport, and know roughly what goes on in it but hardly any would ever even have seen 5 minutes of a cricket game.

        if cricket were on channels such as espn that people get in regular cable packages, the viewing might improve. even if it were a late night/early morning thing, at least some people would watch. no one other than existing cricket fans would pay for cricket packages. the only way you can INCREASE a sport’s popularity is to get it out there for people to see it. if people watch it they might even want to play it. they are not going to start playing it unless they feel some sort of connection to it in terms of having seen a cricket match.

        and i dont think you can compare soccer to cricket. while soccer was never very popular in terms of watching (recently its going up a lot) there was always lots of soccer played among kids and in schools. cricket is a different story where an almost unknown sport (to majority of people) has to be introduced. without it being on tv screens, nothing will happen :)

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