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World Cricket Connects at Lord’s brings the global game together

Posted: 8 July 2024

The inaugural World Cricket Connects event, held at Lord’s on Friday, brought together some of the most prominent and influential figures in the game to discuss, provide opinion and debate some of the major opportunities and challenges facing modern cricket.

The debate generated a range of ideas for those attending to help shape the positive evolution of the game.

The event saw participation from a significant breadth of the most influential voices in the game, who collectively provided thought provoking insights into the evolving landscape of the sport.

Attendees included chairs and CEOs from ICC full Members representing Australia, England, New Zealand, South Africa, West Indies, and associate nations Scotland and Oman.

The IPL had strong representation with the CEOs of the Rajasthan Royals and Kolkata Knight Riders, as well as some of the prominent names from the world of broadcast bringing the IPL to billions worldwide.

Leaders from the Professional Cricketers' Association, Australian Cricketers' Association, SA20, and IL20 were also present. MCC's World Cricket committee members such as Kumar Sangakkara, Graeme Smith, Clare Connor, and Jhulan Goswami attended, along with cricket legends such as Kevin Pietersen, Brendon McCullum, Heather Knight, Barry Richards and Ravi Shastri.

The event, hosted by MCC President, Mark Nicholas, was created to support the Club’s work for the good of the game, using its independent voice to create a global forum for a diverse audience of cricket’s most powerful stakeholders to create open and honest dialogue for the betterment of the game.

A video shot behind the scenes at Connects, interviewing several of the guests on the day can be viewed, below.


The day was split into four sessions: Cricket’s Future, A Question of Economics, Cricket’s Growth Opportunity and It’s a Players’ World, featuring keynote addresses, panel discussions and opportunities to take questions and comments from the floor.

Key highlights and discussions from the day:

Section One: Cricket's Future

This section addressed the rapid changes being experienced in cricket over the past couple of decades and the where the game’s future lies.

Greg Barclay, Chair of ICC, kicked off the event with a thought-provoking introduction on the state of the game. He highlighted the unsustainable pace of the current cricket calendar and the looming challenge of balancing the sport’s global growth with economic realities. Barclay stressed the need for collaboration and compromise among cricket's leaders to navigate these challenges effectively.

This was then complemented by Manoj Badale, lead owner of the Rajasthan Royals, who reflected on media consumption in sports. He emphasised the importance of adapting to the changing viewing habits of younger generations driven by technology. Badale warned that the future of cricket would be decided by supporters and stressed the necessity of making the sport relevant and accessible to the next generation.

A panel discussion then ensued which saw SA20 League Commissioner Graeme Smith discuss Test cricket's evolution, noting it is primarily played by six nations and advocating for a strategic approach to its future. He cautioned against oversimplified solutions like creating dedicated windows for the format.

Ravi Shastri, former Head Coach of India, highlighted the balance of power and economic realities in modern cricket, referencing England and Australia’s former dominance being replaced by that of India. He noted the importance of the BCCI sharing resources more generously and proposed a competitive Test structure with promotion and relegation to maintain interest. Shastri also stressed T20 cricket's financial importance and the ICC's role in managing the Future Tours Programme.

Sanjog Gupta, Head of Sports at Star & Disney India, brought fascinating insights from the world of broadcast and entertainment, emphasising the focus on fans in cricket's evolution, tying media rights value to a strong fanbase and advocating significant investments in marketing and storytelling. He stressed balancing commercial interests with regulatory measures and enhancing the overall fan experience to ensure the sport's sustainability.

Section Two: A Question of Economics

A Question of Economics examined the financial landscape of cricket, ranging from the importance and quality of bilateral matches, maintaining fan interest, grassroots investment and the unique challenges faced by cricket in different parts of the world.

The discussion among cricket administrators highlighted key issues and opportunities within the sport. Sourav Ganguly, formerly the President of the BCCI, emphasised the complexities of cricket administration and the need for high-quality, context-rich games, particularly bilateral matches. ECB Chair Richard Thompson stressed the importance of inclusivity and meaningful competitions, warning that fans lose interest when top-tier teams don't compete regularly. He also highlighted the role of market demand and timing in commercial success.

Chair of Cricket Australia Mike Baird underscored Test cricket's historical significance and called for humility and stewardship among administrators. He advocated for learning from other sports' marketing and grassroots investment strategies. Trudy Lindblade, Chief Executive of Cricket Scotland, discussed the financial struggles of associate members, highlighting the need for more high-quality cricket, and for expanding the game beyond the big three nations.

Ramiz Raja, who formerly chaired the Pakistan Cricket Board, spoke to Pakistan cricket's resilience in the face of crippling costs, the after-effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the inability to play lucrative matches against India, meaning the importance and broader success of PSL in bolstering Pakistan’s cricket economy. He questioned the current Test series scheduling and called for better stadium facilities and innovative formats like triangular series.

Former COO of IPL Sundar Raman pointed to untapped potential in markets like fantasy sports and advocated for innovative revenue sources, while Johnny Grave, CEO of Cricket West Indies, discussed the logistical challenges in the Caribbean, the benefits of World Cup investments, and the importance of not limiting major events to the big three nations.

Section Three: Cricket's Growth Opportunity

Cricket finds itself with an opportunity to grow further than ever before, accessing new markets and new fans at home and abroad. A fascinating and insightful presentation by New Zealand Cricket Chair Diana Puketapu-Lyndon highlighted the strides made in women’s cricket in New Zealand, including pay parity, increasing participation and the huge opportunity for top players to participate in the Olympic Games.

Former MCC President Clare Connor underscored the importance of visibility and a holistic approach to women's cricket, emphasising pathways for girls in various roles within the sport. She highlighted the success of the Women's Premier League and the need to consider the role of associate members, citing Brazil's balanced gender participation. There was also discussion from Connor and from the floor regarding the current plight of the Afghan women’s cricket team.

Sir Andrew Strauss, the former England captain, focused on promoting cricket to new audiences, stressing the importance of understanding and catering to fans' needs. He pointed out that growth should now be a priority, especially at the grassroots level, as traditional revenue sources like TV rights have plateaued. Strauss also noted the potential of the Olympics to introduce cricket to new audiences.

Venky Mysore, CEO of Kolkata Knight Riders, spoke about the importance of pushing boundaries for growth, stressing the need to globalise cricket brands and fanbases to create year-round engagement and new market opportunities.

Section Four: It's A Players' World

The final section, It's A Players' World, focused on the choices and pressures faced by modern players. There was scepticism expressed about the sustainability of Test cricket windows in the face of growing franchise competitions.

Kumar Sangakkara and Heather Knight, of the MCC World Cricket committee, and Lisa Sthalekar, President of the World Cricketers' Association, discussed the future of various cricket formats and the increasing significance of franchise cricket. They emphasised the need for balance and the importance of players' voices in shaping the sport's future.

While Jos Buttler and Kevin Pietersen, two of the most exciting batters to have represented England, shared personal reflections on the impact of different formats on their careers and the importance of engaging younger audiences.

Upon conclusion of the event, the overwhelming response from attendees was that World Cricket Connects is a positive addition to the game, facilitating open and honest discussions that might otherwise not take place, and providing a platform that will lay the groundwork for forward-thinking conversations on some of the opportunities and challenges facing cricket.

MCC anticipates that some of the debates will be taken away and discussed between associations, boards, players, broadcasters and team owners. This was the ultimate aim of World Cricket Connects, to bring people together, create thought provoking conversations and further outputs from the event.

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