If you talk about the biggest T20 league in the world, well, chances are high that the most agreeable answer is the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Starting as an idea to make domestic T20 cricket ‘fun and competitive’, the IPL has not only revolutionised the global concept of 20-overs cricket but has become a national asset with its attractive model project.
Having learnt and adapted its various learnings in developing talents and business sense since 2008, we now see the IPL add a new page to its enormous legacy as a ‘brand’ by entering foreign waters.
What does this mean? The IPL has taken a giant step to invest in the growth and future of cricket in multiple countries like South Africa (SA20), the West Indies (Caribbean Premier League) and the UAE (ILT20). This, in turn, has given a new face to the IPL Ecosystem.
January to May: New honeymoon period for cricket lovers
Previously, India and T20 franchise cricket had a fixed honeymoon period of cricketainment between March and May, thanks to the Indian Premier League.
But, with the introduction of SA20, ILT20 and the upcoming Tata Women’s Premier League (WPL), there will be five months of non-stop cricket action from late December or early January until the end of May.
Does this help? Yes. For whom? The fans and broadcasters. Why? On the one hand, cricket fans will have their fill of T20 league action for an extended period. And as for broadcast networks, there won’t be any audience saturation.
Additionally, India’s primetime window from 7.30 pm to 11.30 pm is platinum for leagues and advertisers. That’s why both the new leagues are vying for the same.
Which are the new T20 leagues?
The SA20 marked the return of South Africa as a host of international cricket events after a quiet decade. The tournament is the country’s third offering in the T20 circuit after Global T20 League and the Mzansi Super League (MSL).
ILT20, on the other hand, is the UAE’s first major T20 league with confidence from the successful hosting of the Abu Dhabi T10, IPL (the pandemic-hit 2020 season and a few games in the next year) and the 2021 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in the recent past.
The SA20 and ILT20 promoted themselves heavily in India, especially the latter, as they roped in Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan, former India opener Virender Sehwag and a few social media influencers to keep the momentum of the excitement going.
SA20, on the other hand, saw its popularity increase due to the familiarity of Proteas stars like Kagiso Rabada, Quinton de Kock and Anrich Nortje with the Indian cricket fanbase. How? Because of their extraordinary exploits for franchises in the IPL.
After years of deliberation, the Women’s Premier League will finally begin in 2023. Women’s cricket has seen a significant increase in recognition and popularity, especially with India winning the Women’s Under-19 World Cup. The WPL, like the IPL, is identified as a path-breaker for T20 franchise cricket, and one can expect the upcoming competition to live up to it.
Impact of IPL Ecosystem
Throughout its 15-year history, the Indian Premier League has created an ecosystem not only as a platform to scout emerging cricketing stars but also in improving the sports industry in India.
Business conglomerates like Reliance, GMR, JSW and Adani have purchased IPL teams and studied their investments to expand to other leagues. The process guarantees a strong long-term impact on the growth of cricket in India and markets in major cricket-playing nations.
Has the investment worked?
In a nutshell, yes. Besides the subcontinent, most Indian audiences are also based globally; thus, effective outreach via engagement by Indian-owned franchises has helped reap quality returns from early investments.
Furthermore, the Indian fan following for teams spread across SA20, ILT20 and CPL has pushed viewership count across broadcast platforms. For instance, Zee Entertainment Enterprises has cited BARC India to say that 108 million individual viewers watched the opening nine games of ILT20 2023 on its linear channels.
Enhancing long-term off-field engagement in overseas leagues is possible
The IPL teams that own franchises in international leagues must build a local connect. Having community programmes for the youth elevates the popularity of the franchise teams in their city, as done by Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian cities of Mumbai, Chennai and Bengaluru respectively.
In conjunction with broadcasters and the leagues organising activities like over-by-over predictor games, multiple fan parks, matchday contests etc., this will help bolster the crowd strength at the various venues.
T20 cricket is somehow seen as the future of the sport, given its short span and fast-paced nature. And the Indian Premier League, in particular, its flag-bearer. The legacy that the IPL has created and continues to do so plays a vital role in the sport's development and the country’s economy.
As long as it remains functioning, the Indian Premier League will be the most popular T20 league in the world and a blueprint for many more competitions in the future.
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