When most people think of cricket they may think of confusing rules, long games that end in a draw, and endless numbers that don’t make sense. This is how the uninitiated may see the game, but spending a little time digging into the history of one of the most popular summer sports reveals a long heritage of innovation and forward thinking.
First of all, let’s bust some myths. Globally, Cricket is the second most popular sport just behind Soccer, with 2.5 billion fans1. That’s a lot of fans all clamouring to get involved. Cricket is listed as 7th globally for participation and is played in 125 countries. That’s more than Baseball, Golf, Rugby, American Football, and Ice Hockey2.
In some form or another, cricket has been around for 400+ years. In that time it’s been able to adapt, evolve and innovate, and continues to do so. It has led the way for a lot of sporting technology that is now commonplace. We’ve decided to highlight a few different innovations that put Cricket at the top of the innovators pile.
Hawkeye – in 2001 this Sony-owned system was developed by Paul Hawkins for cricket, specifically for television replays to give insight into the movement of the cricket ball. Originally seen as nothing more than a gimmick, it is now used extensively across Tennis, Badminton, Soccer, Snooker, Gaelic sports and Aussie rules football.
DRS – also known as the Umpire Decision Review System, this system includes software such as Hawkeye and the gloriously named “Snickometer” to challenge the decisions of umpires in play. It was first used in 2008, and since its implementation and success, more sports have added this feature to play including challenges in tennis and VAR in soccer.
T20 – This format of the game was seen as a way to bring in a wider audience. Largely shocking to the vast number of traditionalists, this shorter format of the game has quickly become incredibly lucrative. In every country that has a league, a sway of international cricketers fly in for the short format tournament, focusing on shorter games, guaranteed results and all the spectacle that the sport can offer. This has reinvigorated the sport with increased attendance, viewership and participation.
The Hundred – Not content with T20, the game is redeveloping once more with another format change aimed at simplifying and appealing to the widest possible audience. Due to start in 2020, it will feature a simplified 100 ball game (hence the name) with American sport style drafts and a franchise system. No other sport evolves and adapts formats as rapidly as cricket.
Cricket doesn’t just change as a game itself, cricket is also a forerunner in innovation for fans. The iconic Oval in London is on course to be the first stadium of its kind to eliminate all single-use plastic. By taking small deposits fans hold on to a re-use cups and can recycle or donate the deposit to charity. This has resulted in the death of the legendary beer snake though.
It’s no surprise that cricket clubs are now looking at advanced software to help improve fan experience by tracking footfall and usage of food and beverage across their grounds. With the nature of the game, clubs have an engaged and captivated audience who are more than happy to use new technology to enhance their experience. 65% of cricket fans prefer to use other payment methods rather than cash, and 73% would prefer to have marketing content based on previous buying decisions3. Perhaps the next innovation is going cashless?