New Delhi - The football World Cup may be attracting viewers
across the planet but cricket has a huge audience too, with a fan base of more
than a billion people, a major new survey says.
The report, conducted by Nielsen Sports for the
International Cricket Council, put the number of fans at 1.039 billion - mostly male, living in South Asia, and with an average age of 34.
However, 39 percent are female, the survey says, adding that
the venerable, five-day Test format remains popular, attracting interest from
70 percent of fans.
The ICC said it was the biggest market research project into
the sport, involving 19 000 interviews around the world with fans aged 16-69.
ICC chief executive Dave Richardson said it showed the sport
needs to retain its focus on all three international formats: Tests, 50-over
one-day games and Twenty20s.
"We get a number of doomsayers predicting the death of
Tests, even 50-over cricket, but actually the strategy to focus on all three
formats is still probably the right way to go," Richardson said in a
conference call from Dubai.
He added that the upcoming World Test Championship, starting
in July next year, will only enhance the popularity of the game's traditional
"I hope it (Test championship) will be a significant
rise in interest around the world and will add to the number of fans following
Tests," Richardson said.
The ICC also said that a "global strategy" was in
the works to make cricket "an easier sport to follow" - the arcane
"Laws of Cricket" published by Lord's Cricket Ground has 82 pages.
Jargon such as googlies, jaffas, maidens and chin music make
cricket notoriously inaccessible to newcomers, while the sport's support
remains rooted in its traditional markets.
"Passion for cricket in the sub-continent drives 90 per
cent of the fans," said Aarti Dabas, the ICC's head of media rights,
broadcast and digital.
The survey also identified almost 300 million active
participants over the age of 16, and said 87 percent of fans want T20 cricket
included in the Olympics.