India is Taking the Sports World By Storm through Cricket
By Claire Brown
The numbers don’t lie: India's sports scene has been growing at a significant rate over the past few years and cricket is at the forefront of it all. By 2027, it is projected to expand to five times its current size. This is due to a flood of sports funding, a large congregation of talented individuals who are committed to growing the sports scene, and over 1.4B people who all love cricket. As a result, India is taking cricket into the future. Women’s cricket is booming at an unprecedented level, technology platforms are revolutionizing the way fans engage, and American investors are seeing the potential.
Deeply ingrained in the country's culture, cricket remains one of the most popular sports in India. Cricket has a massive fan following in the country, with nearly 90 percent of the population closely following the sport. It is estimated that the Indian Premier League (IPL) generates a viewership of around 462 million in India alone. Cricket has an emotional attachment for many Indians, bringing citizens together and promoting unity. Victories in major cricket tournaments, such as the World Cup, are revered across the country, with people taking to the streets to celebrate.
Over the years, India has produced the majority of cricketing’s global icons. Players like Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, and Rohit Sharma, are embraced by cricket fans across the world. India is utilizing some of these icons to further the sport’s development and maintain its relevance on a global level. Rahul Dravid, for example, is a former Indian cricketer and is widely regarded as one of the greatest batsmen in the history of Indian cricket. He is currently the Director of Cricket Operations at the National Cricket Academy. Dravid's contributions to sports development in India go beyond his achievements as a cricketer. He has played an instrumental role in mentoring young talent during his time as head coach of the Cricket Youth National Team. He also promotes grassroots development, advocates for sports infrastructure, and emphasizes spreading sportsmanship values in the country. Dravid is one of many talented sports developers who are working to push cricket forward.
Women’s cricket is a huge factor fueling the sport’s development in India and abroad. The public’s interest in female cricket is growing, with last year’s ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup in New Zealand drawing sold-out crowds and record-breaking attendance. This year, Indian cricket officials capitalized on this momentum, launching the Women’s Premier League, a female version of the IPL. The five new teams sold at auction for a combined total of over $570 million dollars. The prices per team were astronomically higher than established American leagues like the WNBA. Due to the teams’ high valuations, female cricketers can expect increased salaries and greater opportunities in the league.
In conjunction with its new formation, the league secured the second-largest media deal for women’s sports. A new joint venture, Viacom18, between Paramount Global and Mumbai-based Network18, inked a five-year, $116 million media rights deal with the new women’s cricket IPL. As female sports garner more interest across the world, deals like these show India is committed to their development and that top media companies want a stake.
Between large investors and national events, women’s cricket is on track to becoming one of the most popular female sports in the world.
American Investors are starting to take note of cricket’s profitability potential. Private investment firm RedBird Capital Partners, known for their stakes in Fenway Sports Group, the Yankees’ YES Network, and the Italian soccer team A.C. Milan, have taken an interest in the cricket property. Alec Scheiner, a RedBird Capital partner, began studying cricket and noticed a parallel between today’s IPL and a 2000s-era NFL. RedBird Capital decided to invest $37.5 million, which has most likely quadrupled in value in just one year alone. Disney and Sony also noticed this potential in cricket and were among the bidders in the broadcast rights tender last year.
American Professional athletes are seeing this opportunity to invest in the sport, too. Last year, Chris Paul, Larry Fitzgerald, and Kelvin Beachum became minority owners in the IPL League cricket team, the Rajasthan Royals. When explaining his strategic move into the sports property, Chris Paul cited his confidence in the “value and scope for growth in the IPL.” This group of NFL and NBA stars may be the first American athletes to contribute to the world’s most popular cricket league, but other athletes and investors are sure to follow.
Sports betting is another factor helping to push cricket into the future as more fans look for new ways to engage with the sport. In 2018, the Supreme Court of India legalized sports betting, which has made the industry more accessible to people through the use of apps and in-person events.
India’s most widely used sports betting app is Dream 11. What began as a cricket fantasy sports company has now seen sports betting partnerships with the NBA and International Hockey League. In 2019, Dream 11 became the first Indian fantasy sports company to become a start-up “unicorn,” meaning a privately-held company valued at over $1B. By 2021, the company’s value had exceeded $8B. By enhancing the way fans engage, Dream 11 furthers cricket’s influence as a global sport and places the India-based company side-by-side with industry giants like FanDuel and DraftKings.
In addition to sports betting, India has been at the forefront of the rising stock market for athlete platforms. Sportiqo, a blockchain-based fantasy platform, has launched in India where, just like stocks, users can invest or trade in players. During Sportiqo’s beta launch this year, the app welcomed 32,000 new users. It expects 5 million by 2027 and is quickly looking to expand into the English Premier League.
Sportiqo’s power lies in its performance-ranking system. Using an AI-generated algorithm, Sportiqo analyzes a variety of statistics in order to assign an index rating to athletes. Former cricketer, Robin Uthappa, is the platform's newest ambassador. He stresses that Sportiqo is more than just a tech company– it’s a way to expand cricket’s influence, sharpen users’ sports IQs, and educate the youth on stock trading. As the India-based app grows, it’s sure to attract global investors and users alike.
India is one of several countries that are starting to invest significant time, money, and resources into developing their sports industry. Based on its current growth rate, India could soon contend as one of the most dominant countries in the global sports industry. It will be interesting to watch as more companies recognize India’s potential to progress sports, particularly cricket, into multi-billion-dollar properties and how this will affect countries with fully developed sports industries. With the U.S. sanctioning both Major and Minor League Cricket just this month, it’s clear India’s impact on the global cricket market is gaining momentum and pushing the sport forward.