The T20 World Cup matches are set to move to the UAE after the initial group stage games in Oman. Interestingly, four matches were played in Abu Dhabi and while two games had batsmen scoring runs, two games saw low scores. And as the Sharjah Cricket Stadium gears up to host its first game of the tournament on Friday, all eyes are on the wickets -- not just at the venue, but also in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
The low-scoring games in the recently-concluded Indian Premier League weren't the best possible advertisement when it comes to building viewership. And stakeholders would hope for the ground staff to have worked some magic in the eight days -- the last IPL game in Sharjah was on Oct 13 -- leading into the first T20 World Cup game on Friday between Ireland and Namibia.
Industry sources in the know of television viewership patterns believe that while a hardcore cricket analyst might be as intensely connected to a low-scoring game as he/she is to a high-scoring T20 match, the general fans love watching sixes and fours and relevant wickets - top batsmen. And as a result, retaining viewers will be a challenge if pitches don't produce high scores.
"The difference in viewership isn't much between a game which has scores of 160-180 or a 150-180 score and a 200 to 250 score. But the difference between a game where only 130-135 has been scored and a game that has 170 is massive as the belief is that action for viewers to consume is sixes, fours and wickets. Nobody will mind a 180 all out with 10 wickets falling as there is a lot of action. But if you get 120 all out, that is perceived to be a boring game because not enough sixes and fours have been hit.
"A 90 all out in one way shows a lot of wickets, but there isn't enough fours and sixes, so the action is muted. Relevant action is sixes, fours and wickets that count - till batsman number five or six. A lower-order batsman hitting a six excites fans more than a number 9 batsman getting dismissed by a beautiful delivery," the source told ANI.
Another industry source went on to describe how the viewership pattern builds to further explain the reason for the need to have high-scoring games.
"T20 has to be accepted as a sport as an entertainment format first. And it isn't wrong to term it entertainment because even a good book can be entertainment for someone who loves reading books. You have to engage viewers. The way that viewership builds for a T20 is it starts low in the first over, keeps building and reaches its peak in the first innings towards the end and then drops a little in the break, then builds significantly higher to the end of the second innings, especially if it is a good chase."
"What happens in a game if a team scores only 30 in the first five overs or say three or four wickets fall? The impression a viewer gets is that it will be a boring game. Not every fan watches the full game, they watch it in sessions of 15-20 minutes. So, the impression the moment it is a low-scoring affair is that it will be a boring game and there is no point coming back unless it gets really close towards the end. You lose them in the middle part completely. And there might be no return once the attention has been diverted. It hampers viewership build-up during the game," the source explained.
A third industry source said the fact remains that 80 per cent of the most popular cricketers are batsmen and that is why fans want them to succeed.
"If you make the list of 20 most popular cricketers, 80 per cent are batsmen. If we count the three most popular cricketers in the IPL, they are Dhoni, Kohli and Rohit. This isn't cooked up. If you look at the foreign favourites, it is again Gayle, ABD and maybe Maxwell. So apart from a Bumrah or a Cummins, you see more popular cricketers being batsmen. So, if 80 per cent of your popular cricketers are batsmen, you would want them to do well. If there were more characters like a Bumrah and Cummins, things could have been different," the industry source signed off.
( With inputs from ANI )
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