India, under the captainship of M S Dhoni has played some good cricket in the ICC Twenty20 (T20) World Cup. Interestingly, some numbers that TAM Media Research data throws show that not only have the India matches rated well, even the non-India matches have given ESPN-STAR Sports (ESS) huge market shares in the telecast hours. Even as this has rescued India from its post-World Cup gloom and promises more numbers to ESS in the India-Pakistan T20 World Cup final on September 24, 2007, it also means that the T20 format is here to stay.
Senior media analysts are excited with the numbers that T20 matches have thrown, more so for non-India matches than India matches. On the broader level, however, the industry is of the opinion that the T20 format is the cricket of the future, and with an entire game completing in just over three hours, some even predict that if there was a way cricket could be in Olympics, T20 is that way. Some experts state that T20 would do to the 50-50 ODI, what 50-50 did to Test cricket, and that T20 would increase audience participation in the game as well.
Himanshu Shekhar, General Manager, MindShare Fulcrum, said, “When the 50-50 format was introduced, many media observers and even cricket lovers called it ‘pyjama cricket’. However, we have seen the 50-50 over ODI format becoming the mainline game, attracting more attention and advertiser revenue than Test cricket. In days to come, with the kind of changes that we are seeing in the audience behaviour, there is nothing stopping the T20 format from becoming the main game, simply because of its compact format.”
Starcom Worldwide’s MD, North and South, Manish Porwal, observed, “Test match will still stay, but would become ‘classic’ cricket and would be more for the purists and for variation. However, I have my doubts on whether it would get any viewership. The T20 or ‘pop-corn cricket’ format is just another vertical in saying that audience is attention-challenged. There may be people who think that this format doesn’t have the purity, but that’s the way anything changes. However, I see both 50-50 and T20 attracting interest and moolah. T20 is renaissance cricket – it has to evolve, it is a format of the future.”
Porwal added, “Audiences would no longer catch up cricket results only on news, it’s becoming like football, and the big thing is that it would take people to the stadium as well, which would then have a ripple effect and people would be more involved in the game. In addition to reach and penetration, this format brings global acceptance, so we would see more countries getting involved in cricket. This is the only way, if at all, that cricket would get into the Olympics.”
TME’s Vice-President, Divya Radhakrishnan, seconds that T20 is the format of the future. She said, “T20 has also been fortunate because the format has been introduced through a World Cup and India is playing well. There was a lot of scepticism for the format, but one thing is clear – that Cricket is Cricket in any form, and shorter the better. Key cricket TG such as the male TG also doesn’t have the time to spend eight hours to follow on a game. They would catch some bits of the game live, some may be at work on the Internet, and then some highlights on news. When the game will get over in about three hours, chances are they will watch all of it.”
Ajit Varghese, Managing Director, Maxus, added here, “The numbers are marginally better than what we had expected, and we had worked on flexible ratings for these matches, which is based on different situations of how India progressed in the match. I am happier with the non-India numbers, and I think that credit can be given to the T20 cricket format.”
“Probably more countries would take it in the first class level, that is, even in the internal matches, and more countries will play the game because the format is faster. And then it is not hard to imagine that one fine day, T20 cricket can even enter the Olympics. More importantly, the 50-50 over games may become more interesting. Cricketers now are hitting 180 to 200 runs in 20 overs, some may think why not go for 350 runs to 400 runs in the 50-50 format. Since it is the same players in both the formats, it would be interesting to see how the player mindset changes given his experience in T20 and 50-50,” Varghese further said.
One can only imagine the excitement of the advertisers and media agencies given the India-Australia semi-final match, to be followed by an India-Pakistan World Cup final. The bigger point, however, is that the new format has created excitement among the younger players, which is reflecting in the matches. Just as Test cricket stayed, 50-50 over matches would do too, but with the BCCI also launching T20 format matches, there is a lot more of this newer format that we are set to see.
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