No one questions the popularity of cricket in the subcontinent, especially India. Hundreds of millions of people are passionate about the sport and fill out stadiums. So, when the T20 World Cup was held in the UAE and Oman, it seemed like the perfect storm for the men in blue.  

Unfortunately for the fans and players, it didn’t turn out to be a positive experience since the Indians surprisingly didn’t make it out of their group. With this in mind, let’s look at how the nation’s performance affected supporter engagement via technology.  

The Grudge Match  

World Cups command audiences to tune in, which was the case with the 2021 T20 World Cup. In the UK, for instance, broadcaster Sky Sports recorded its highest-ever day of viewing thanks, in part, to the T20 final. An average of 1.2 million people watched Sky Sports channels between October 24th and October 25th.  

India was no different as one billion people were projected to watch a single game – India versus Pakistan. The arch-rivals squared off after two years of not meeting on the international stage, ensuring the contest was hotly anticipated. It didn’t disappoint because India lost early wickets to some superb bowling before Virat Kohli led India to a total that the Pakistanis chased with ease. Compared to previous editions of the tournament, the viewing figures show growth as cumulative in-home TV viewership in India reached 730 million in 2016, a 114% increase from 2012. One fixture blasted this total out of the water, highlighting the power of the rivalry between two of the biggest teams to play the sport.  

What’s even more impressive is the fact that the 2016 T20 World Cup was hosted by the BCCI, whereas the 2021 competition was in the Middle East. The Middle East isn’t too far away, yet it’s still not home to Indians, and everyone is aware of the boost home advantage gives to the hosts regardless of the sport. There are several recent examples, from Japan reaching the 2019 Rugby World Cup to Great Britain securing its highest medal tally (at the time) at the 2012 Olympics.  

Not Making the Semi-Finals  

Eagle-eyed readers will know that the Pakistan match happened during the Super 12s, a part of the tournament that was played out early on, before the semi-finals. At the qualifiers and Super 12 stage, Star Sports, the official 2021 T20 World Cup broadcaster in India, reported a viewership of 238 million. Even for India, the reach is incredible.  

However, things did begin to drop off significantly after Indian followers learned that their side wouldn’t make the last four. By Business Insider’s estimate, match viewership declined by 50% in the country. Indians enjoy cricket, yet it’s extra special when they can cheer on their men and women, and 2021 was one of the rare occasions when it wasn’t possible. Of course, half of 238 million is still 119 million, a figure that most cricket federations would be happy to secure because it signals that the sport is very healthy.  

Overall, the number of viewers dropped off once India learned its fate, which is to be expected. Still, the audience reach before that was record-breaking, and hundreds of millions of people continued to support the game when England, Australia, New Zealand, and Pakistan were left to contest the semis.  

How Do the Numbers Keep Improving?  

Year-on-year growth in India and the subcontinent is almost taken for granted, but it’s worth considering how the region carries on appealing to fans as passion only goes so far. After that, the BCCI’s digital strategy, including mobile app and internet streams, has transformed the way cricket fans consume games.  

For instance, the 2016 tournament laid a foundation that cricket has been building on since because Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram claimed 320 million video views. Facebook also secured 46 million engagements worldwide, while there were 5.75 billion impressions relating to the 2016 T20 World Cup on Twitter. By the 2019 ODI World Cup, 50 million digital-only viewers tuned in to watch India take on Pakistan, accounting for around 20% of the 273 million worldwide television audience. Two years later, Disney+ Hotstar, the official video streaming service in India, had a top concurrency of 12 million users. If that doesn’t showcase the impact of modern tech on cricket in the subcontinent, the Economic Times reported that the provider sold out its entire digital inventory. TV inventory peaked at 95%.  

Not only do the numbers encapsulate the popularity of Indian cricket at the 2021 T20 World Cup, despite the nation’s early exit, but they underline how social media and digital streaming offerings will push the audience figures to new heights in the future. The level of support means India is the favorite to lift the trophy at the 2023 ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup at +250 because an ODI World Cup is something that cricket fans and bettors alike look out for due to the anticipation and level of value on offer. This Betway review points out how seriously the operator, and many others, take betting on cricket when a major tournament rolls around because passionate fans want a viewer experience that is on another level to anything they’ve had before. Also, the review outlines another technological advancement that helps to boost supporter engagement as an app is a mandatory feature of a modern sports betting company.

All these elements are rounded off by the fact that the 2023 ODI World Cup will be in India, so the support will be at a fever pitch, making social media, digital streams, and betting brands doubly important.  

India didn’t perform to its usual high standards during the 2021 T20 World Cup. Thankfully for the fans, it’s nothing to worry about since the viewing figures suggest the health of the sport has never been fitter. 

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