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The Cricverse - Issue #3

The Cricverse
The Cricverse - Issue #3
By Simon Hughes • Issue #3 • View online
where cricket and business meet

The Clock is Tikking (sic)
If you are over 35 years old you may not be a TikTok user. But if you are a cricket fan you probably will be soon. Having already purchased the lead sponsor’s rights to both the Pakistan Super League and also the Pakistan v Australia Test series, the Chinese-owned video-platform are undoubtedly looking to expand their presence in the cricket world. Why? Because cricket has a potential audience of over 2 billion people, that’s why. Start with the vast south-Asian diaspora and grow from there. Apart from its long history, this is cricket’s greatest asset.
This development is potentially good news for English cricket. Rugby bosses have already seen TikTok’s potential. You may have seen the company’s banners round stadiums during the Six Nations. You might even have watched some of the ‘favourite moments’ in the history of the tournament, displayed on the platform which then allows you to swipe straight to the Guinness Six Nations site hosting a ton of excellent rugby action. 
There’s a multitude of opportunities for cricket here. For a start it’s a new free-to-air channel for the game. All sport is now visualizing its need to grow its audience through the FTA medium – viz both Emma Raducanu’s appearance in the US Open final snapped up by Channel 4 and their recent acquisition of matches in rugby’s Betfred Superleague. Sky have exclusive rights to England’s summer Tests and one day matches, of course, but cricket is a perfect fit for TikTok. It is essentially a game of 20 second ‘events’ (that is roughly how long a ball takes to be delivered, hit to the boundary – or caught - and replayed in slow motion.) It may sound sacrilegious to say this, but it is the ideal ‘snackable’ sport. TV rights holders will be under pressure to relinquish certain highlights to help grow the game, not forgetting that every county game (and many club games) are now streamed. Because of its AI algorithms identifying a user’s interests, TikTok is a marvellous learning tool, too. (My daughter has learnt to cook on it.)
TikTok has two other important advantages. One, it’s an excellent opportunity for sponsors, as Guinness and the Six Nations are already demonstrating. As pointed out by two media experts from Omnicom on the excellent Unofficial Partner podcast (below), “there is a significant digital gap in sponsorship” and a formal partnership with TikTok taps into the skills of a host of young creatives cleverly packaging brilliant moments or incidents under a sponsor’s banner. Also it’s the new place for that ugly-sounding but vital phenomenon User Generated Content (UGC) – the nirvana for sports marketeers as it creates multiple levels of engagement and its free. Get ready for new insights into players both professional and amateur, and even that private sanctuary – the “dressing room.” (Its not as tidy and glamorous as it sounds.)  And perhaps the first-ever intelligible explanation of reverse swing?
PODCAST | Unofficial Partner - Sports Business Podcast
Warwickshire's new pathway
Lancashire’s Saqib Mahmood made his Test debut this week. He is the third player of Pakistan ethnicity to play Tests for England (after Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid.) It is a well repeated fact that there is less than 4% Asian representation in professional cricket ranks, despite the recreational game being over 30% Asian. Great strides are being made at Warwickshire, whose last established player of Asian origin was Mark Wagh (capped by the county in 2001.) One of their junior coaches Tom Brown has done a PhD at Birmingham University on why so few Asian cricketers transfer out of talent pathways into the professional game. After four years of research (and fund-raising) he established the South Asian Cricket Academy (ambassadors include Mahmood and Wagh) and this group of talented 18-24 year olds play their first match early next month (a two day game against Worcestershire 2nd XI.)
Brown’s research and conclusions are hugely valuable. “I found we are very narrow as to how we look at certain things such as character, personality and coachability amongst young players. There are a lot of stereotypes of Asian cricketers – their supposed attitudes towards fitness and diet, not being good fielders and wanting to go off and be doctors and lawyers.” All these were disproved.
Attitude is another misinterpreted area. “Typically for instance you see Asian lads won’t make eye contact, they won’t question what they’re being taught. That gets wrongly equated to them having a poor attitude and not being coachable. Actually that’s is their way of showing ultimate respect for the coaches. Diversity of coaches is vital to establish and understand those differences.
Then there’s how you schedule and evaluate training. “Taking Ramadhan into consideration is important. When you come to the end of the year and you look at people’s performances, is it contextualized that one of those lads were fasting for a whole month and their performances were likely to dip? What we’ve found from the research is that if you’re really trying to build a performance environment round the individuals a lot of research shows that during Ramadhan sessions are better staged in the morning because energy levels will be a lot higher. We are in the process here at Warwickshire of designing a transparent and culturally aware age group pathway with new ways of measuring players performance and assessing things like resilience – which is measurable – rather than character.” 
The topic is explored in more depth on this Analyst Inside Cricket podcast
‎The Analyst Inside Cricket: Is racism endemic in amateur cricket? on Apple Podcasts
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Simon Hughes

the business of cricket

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