England, the birthplace of the gentlemen’s game, cricket, revolutionised the sport in 2003. The country that founded the Test format yet again conceptualised a new, shorter, fast-paced, and exciting version of the game — the T20 format.
Since the inception of the format, it has grown by leaps and bounds. The thrilling format gained quick popularity among cricket fans, with the game reaching every corner of the globe.
In my previous article, I listed down the most popular T20 leagues, and those leagues, in one way or another, have contributed to further skyrocketing the growth of the shortest format.
Now, in this article, I will break down the exponential growth of T20 cricket.
In the early 2000s, the landscape of cricket viewership was changing in England. The traditional First Class County games were facing a decline in crowd attendance. But how did that happen in a country where the longest format of the game is admired the most?
You see, England has a deep following for Tests or First-Class cricket, at least among the older generation. But the younger generation found it a bit boring and time-consuming.
So, to bring the younger audience to the stadium, England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) marketing manager Stuart Robertson came up with an idea. What idea? To organise 20-over games.
Robertson put forward a proposal to all counties, and it was approved by 11-7 votes in favour of the new exciting format.
Once the ECB got approval, things started moving rapidly, and the first T20 game took place on 13 June 2003. The game witnessed a rapid rise among young audiences, ensuring that the format is here to stay.
With the overwhelming response to T20 cricket, the authorities pushed for its presence on the international level. The first men’s international T20 match was played between Australia and New Zealand on 17 February 2005.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) then capitalised on that rising popularity and held the first T20 World Cup in 2007. An inexperienced young Indian team lifted the inaugural trophy in South Africa. This victory garnered a billion fans for the shortest format in a single night.
Now, it was India’s turn to put T20 cricket on another level.
T20 Leagues Taking it One Step Forward
Lalit Modi — you must have heard this name a lot. Modi took the T20 revolution a notch further by conceptualising a professional T20 league in India. And that’s how the Indian Premier League (IPL) took off.
The IPL stood up to expectations by delivering a thriller of an experience to the crowd. The mix of thrill and entertainment made sure the league garnered billions of fans across the world.
After the success of the IPL, other cricket boards followed suit by launching their own T20 leagues. The crowds in those countries also witnessed breathtaking matches, which just added to the rising popularity of the format.
Other T20 Leagues like the Big Bash League (BBL), Caribbean Premier League (CPL), Pakistan Super League (PSL), and T20 Blast rose to prominence quickly, providing fans with a world-class experience.
This then prompted the ICC to take the shortest format to non-cricket playing nations.
Global Expansion of T20 Cricket
In 2018, the ICC granted T20I status to all its members. Previously, only the full members and a few associate members had T20I status. But after this decision, all the associate members, along with the full members, got T20I status.
This historic decision allowed the game to reach more countries outside of the full member nations. With more countries coming onto the cricketing map, the T20 format became the most sought-after as the associates also established their T20 leagues.
The most recent example of this would be Major League Cricket (MLC), launched by USA Cricket in the USA. Now, the MLC will help the sport establish itself in one of the biggest sports markets in the world.
And this is just the start of the global expansion, with the sport looking to feature in the Olympics.
Stuart Robertson’s idea was to bring the crowd back to the stadiums. The T20 format not only brought back the audience but also brought glory and money.
Even Robertson wouldn’t have thought about the level the game would reach in the future. And now, with immense money and popularity, T20 cricket is only going to reach new heights.
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