The game of cricket is a big deal in India. Perhaps that’s an understatement for a country that treats the sport and its players as cornerstones of the culture. Earlier in 2014, India awarded the Bharat Ratna, the country’s highest civilian honour, to Sachin Tendulkar, a retired batsman to the world of cricket but a legend to India.
But now that American football and basketball have targeted India as their next market, the days of cricket being the country’s lone obsession are long gone.
“Cricket is huge, but it’s not really a sport that utilizes the best athletes in India,” said Evan Rosenfeld, director and producer of Birth of a Sport. “The strongest, biggest and fastest. They have to play other sports, but those sports don’t pay. American football pays, and is already supporting families all over India.”
Those who doubt the potential of cricket truly becoming obsolete one day may not understand the financial value of sports like football or basketball. Television viewership alone is a $100 billion market in India. Add in the NFL’s track record in terms of sustained success, and it makes sense that a league like the EFLI could follow suit. As of 2013, the average value of an NFL franchise was $1.17 billion.
Indians love sports, and games like football and basketball will provide more entertainment than anyone in India could imagine.
“India is in desperate need for another sport,” Rosenfeld said. “I mean, they watch field hockey and badminton on TV. Those are all sports for the older generations, the young people want something for themselves. Right now this is a new sport and it will take years to develop.”
Just as it took the NFL decades to compete with and surpass MLB in America, the process will be similar in India — just quicker. For example, social media use of NBA India grew 400 percent last year within months of the NBA sending players and legends to different cities in India to promote basketball.
Cricket may never be erased from history, but competition from other, more stimulating sports will make it obsolete sooner or later. Most likely, sooner.
“This isn’t going to catch fire overnight. It already has the people talking, though,” Rosenfeld clarified. “When the Mumbai team practices on Juhu Beach, huge crowds form. Young kids, old lads.”