One way kids learn is by repetition. Repeat something to them over and over again and it sticks. The word becomes ingrained in them (Strangely enough though, that system does not work with sports marketing executives). On the flip side, the one having to repeat words suffers from what is called semantic satiation. It is when a word appears to lose all meaning due to repetition. It’s phenomenon parents and coaches may very well be aware of. In this world cup, we have seen several instances of that – the International Cricket Council seeks to “engage” with families by setting up fan zones, reached an agreement with Ogilvy UK to push “engagement”, and entered into a partnership with Helo and TikTok to “engage” with social media users. The England and Wales Cricket Board ‘said’ it has “engaged” 1 million children just as their various sponsors are eager to “engage” the India fans.
That’s a lot of engagements already and truly, there are many ways you can “engage” with this tournament. From tidbits, snippets and clips on the ICC’s app toTwitter, YouTube, Facebook, the BBC, and ESPN Cricinfo, there seems to be much. However, it is not enough. Unless you pay £32 and above monthly for Sky TV’s coverage, there is no way you can fully “engage” with the cricket world cup by watching it live which is a fairly fundamental part of the whole experience. Just see other sports.
One thing the highlights, gifs, and tweets cannot do and only mainstream, live terrestrial coverage can turn a sporting event into a national event. So, while the online cricket community is busy (and content) seeing clips of Ben Stokes catch, and the World Cup is pulling in just about 500,000 viewers a match while the BBC’s coverage of the Women’s World Cup is sweeping up a whopping 6.1 million people. This basically means that Women’s football that not too long ago has been overlooked by traditional media outlets is now more popular than cricket – at least when it comes to TV ratings.
The reason for this is simple: Live cricket is restricted to Sky Sport’s paid-for packages while other sports are benefitting from free-to-air packages. In the mid-2000s, when cricket enjoyed the free-to-air status, high profile cricket matches often had up to 8 million viewers.
This has reignited the longstanding worry that despite heavy funding from Sky’s investment in the rights to air cricket on TV, it is undermining the broad appeal of the sport. Many fans and enthusiasts have lapsed; they no longer have the resources to keep up with the game. Social media clips and platforms cannot just have the same effect as traditional outlets.
One of the most engaging pieces of play of the tournament so far was last Thursday at Trent Bridge when West Indies Andre Russell Sheldon Cottrell and Oshane ThomasfacedUsman Khawaja Aaron Finch and David Warner. It was a gripping matchup, complete with fast and fierce bowling. It was a breath-taking 50 minutes game. The highlight clip was another story totally. For a match that went on for almost an hour, the clip showed just six balls. Khawaja’s dismissal – jumping away to leg in panic and hysterically slashing at a short, wide ball he could have left – could only have been appreciated if the bombardment of short deliveries that preceded it. Also, many people would have seen the clip of Cottrell amazing catch in the match to dump Steve Smith, but likely not how he had dropped him in the same position while fielding earlier in the innings.
Highlights are not a good substitute for live coverage. They are there for the people who missed the day’s play but want to watch it anyway. There are even football fans who, after watching live matches, enjoy it so much that they watch the highlights later as well. But what choice do cricket fans have? Mark Barber runs community cricket at Leicestershire County Cricket Club and is one of those people working in clubs, leisure centres and schools, trying to convince kids to get into cricket. When asked what he says to kids who wish to see more of cricket but do not have Sky subscriptions in their home. “‘Go on YouTube,’” he answered. “There’s always archive footage or highlights, they’re going to be able to see something.”That is better than nothing. Even betting companies have a concern about the dwindling betting on cricket events, and an official has linked that to the dwindling interest in the game, which in turn is linked to the poor broadcasting. If cricket betting is your thing, you can still follow on lives cricket scores updates on cricket-dedicated websites that can provide you with lots of information. You can also get Paddy Power promo codes to place your bet.
If truly the relevant bodies want to engage fans and children in cricket, this is a fundamental aspect they should consider. Hopefully, “engage” will not just become another word buzzword to death. The BBC intends to screen a competition, The Hundred, starting from the next summer in an attempt to revive interest in cricket among the wider public. However, until then cricket administrators may need to look to women’s football for inspiration.