OPINION: Cricket should be talked about more

Apr 15, 2024 | OP-ED, Opinion, Sports

The game of cricket is not being showcased much in Canada, despite it being one of the most viewed sports around the world.

Even though Canada has a team competing internationally, their matches are not being shown on major Canadian sports cable stations, including TSN and Sportsnet, as well as local news publications.

Cricket, however, is most popular in countries such as Australia, England, the Caribbean and India, which ideally makes sense for it to be showcased in North America.

According to a ranking by roadtrips.com, the Cricket World Cup is the third most-viewed sporting event for 2023 with 2.6 billion viewers.

In a news release from the International Cricket Council (ICC), the Men’s Cricket World Cup in 2023 broke both broadcast and digital records worldwide, making last year’s World Cup the biggest ever.

The FIFA World Cup and the Tour de France are ahead of cricket’s World Cup. The FIFA World Cup ranked first with five billion viewers and the Tour de France followed with 3.5 billion viewers in 2023.

Narrowing down the sport of cricket, India hosts an annual tournament called the Indian Premier League (IPL), which is sponsored by the TATA Group and is played in 20 overs.

The television broadcaster of the TATA IPL 2023, the Indian-based network Disney Star, announced that the tournament last year was the biggest season ever recorded with just more than half a billion views on television.

According to data from the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India, the television impressions for the 2018 installment of the IPL tournament grew to 46 per cent over the 2016 campaign and a 16 per cent increase in the 2017 campaign.

Brain Lepp, the coordinator of sports information and marketing for the Humber Hawks, said cricket isn’t a varsity sport in the Ontario College Athletic Association (OCAA), however, Humber does offer the sport as part of an extramural sport.

Obaid Ullah, the head coach of the cricket club at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU), said he founded the cricket club at the institution in 2014 when he attended TMU as a student.

“There were a group of students who were playing [cricket] prior to that, but we formalized the process and the structure back in 2014 and since then, we’ve had an official competitive club,” he said.

“We’ve had about a thousand students over the last 10 years go in and out through the cricket program, from all levels, recreational, competitive, intramural, so we have great demands through that,” Ullah said.

He said at the university level, they have a competitive club which allows those involved to compete in competitions representing the university, however, it’s not considered to be varsity.

“It’s almost like an extramural approval, but they don’t call it extramural because as a club, you can kind of choose how you compete,” Ullah said.

He said credit has to be given out to the Canadian college and university cricket as an organization that’s been creating the infrastructure at the post-secondary level for the last decade and for creating the space and hosting national championships and regional tournaments.

“I think cricket has really grown exponentially…so many tournaments have taken place, so many students compete in the outdoor hardball [T24 match],” Ullah said. “For cricket to grow, we just need more institutions to support the cricket program and endorse more activities and programming.”

Canada will play in the Cricket World T20 tournament in June, in which Ullah said it’s not being promoted.

“It’s not shown as much because I think we don’t really have enough education about the sport, the demand is there,” Ullah said.

“There’s a vast number of athletes that follow the sport or vast number of followers of fanbases that support the sport, but there’s just no infrastructure and [place] to be watching it from a media perspective,” he said.

Ullah said more institutions and teams need to keep supporting the sport to have cricket recognized more in Canada and North America.

“The more teams that officially play, compete with one another, the more they promote their sport, the more high schools promote the sport,” he said.