A new breed of cricket — shorter, faster and louder — is springing up in India, reports Tariq Engineer in the Wall Street Journal (5/9/08). It is called Twenty20 cricket, so-named because, unlike traditional cricket, playtime is limited to “20 sets of six pitches to each side,” for a game lasting about three hours. That’s much different from cricket’s original format, in which “team members dressed in white play eight hours a day for five days, with breaks for lunch and tea.” It’s also different in that the spectator experience includes singing and dancing along with Bollywood songs, and provocatively attired cheerleaders, trained by the Washington Redskin’s cheerleading squad.
India already dominates cricket, enjoying “about 70 percent of global revenue for the sport.” Initially, the sport’s authorities in India resisted Twenty20’s innovations, but that changed “when the Indian team returned from South Africa after winning the first Twenty20 World Cup last year” and “an estimated two million fans packed the streets to greet them.” The game is only about five years old, having originated in the U.K. in 2003, but now India has a league of eight teams, populated by “80 of the world’s best cricketers” that “will compete in 59 games over six weeks.”
Various business moguls and entertainment starts have bought up all eight teams, spending a combined total of some $700 million on them. Then there are the 10-year broadcast rights, for which Sony Entertainment and a sports agency called World Sport Group paid $918 million. Games will be broadcast globally on WillowTV, “across television, radio and the internet.” That kind of money has made a difference for the players, too. For example, Ishant Sharma, a 19-year-old cricket star, was snapped up for $950,000 a year. “His father makes a $150 a month and lives in a one-room house,” says Lalit Modi, the executive who created the league. “It is a life-changing scenario,” he says. ~ Tim Manners, editor