Could Cricket eSports Take Off Soon?


Five years ago, few gamers or sports fans could have imagined just how popular and prolific eSports leagues would become worldwide. The Dota 2 International event in 2021 included a prize pool of over $40 million. Prize money aside, these major events also draw in huge audiences. 

For example, last year’s Free Fire World Series in Singapore drew in over two million concurrent viewers in its one-hour match time. The League of Legends World Championship drew in a staggering four million concurrent viewers (and that’s excluding spectators watching from China).

The Case for Sports Simulations

Compared to these leagues, sports simulations like FIFA and Madden NFL (both from developer EA Sports) see smaller audiences. Still, each game has millions of players worldwide and commands huge numbers in viewership for their leagues. These games have also helped build interest in actual leagues like the Premier League and NFL.

For example, the ePremier League was launched to boost marketing for actual Premier League teams, many of which own their own eSports groups and teams. The idea was to onboard video gamers who enjoyed FIFA by pitting them against other players who represented different sides of English football. The same goes for the NFL’s Madden Championship Series.

What began as marketing has turned into cross-promotion for the leagues and their associated video games. Last year, around nine million players regularly played FIFA, while around five million players competed in Madden NFL. Clearly, both football and American football have huge followings.

But compared to the latter, cricket has a much larger global fan base. So when will cricket get its own eSports league? Let’s take a closer look.

The Primary Obstacle: A Worthy Title

Worldwide, cricket fans are spread out across 180 different countries. Competitions like the ICC World Cup are only outperformed by football in the FIFA World Cup. Clearly, there’s huge interest in cricket—so why hasn’t an eSports league been formed yet?

Cricket fans who are also gamers know the answer. There hasn’t been a solid cricket game in the market. Back in the early 2000s, the ICC penned a deal with EA Sports, the developer that created both FIFA and Madden NFL. Working together, the ICC created an agreement with players that would allow EA Sports to be granted name, image, and likeness rights to bring to life the world’s top cricket stars.

However, this partnership lapsed in 2007—and neither side has displayed interest in rekindling the flame.

Luckily for cricket fans and gamers, Big Ant Studios released Cricket 19 back in 2019 with NIL clauses from the ICC. For the first time in over a decade, fans had access to a quality title. Though Big Ant Studio had also released Big Bash Boom in 2018, Cricket 19 had the look and feel of an eSports-caliber sports simulation. But will it be enough to catch on?

The Case for India & Cricket 19

If there’s one country that can’t get enough cricket, it’s India. According to market research conducted by the ICC back in 2018, cricket has over one billion fans worldwide—the vast majority of which are located in India, where cricket culture often extends to books and films. But lack of an established cricket game, at least until the release of Cricket 19, has delayed the rollout of an official eSports league.

But that’s not stopping local groups preparing for the future. The Electronic Sports Federation of India (ESFI) was founded back in 2013. Today, the group helps lead the country to regulate its budding eSports leagues and ventures. It works in accordance with the International Esports Federation (IESF), Global Esports Federation, and the Asian Electronic Sports Federation to maintain eligibility for Indian eSports pursuits.

In 2021, ESFI began to rank domestic players for top titles like Call of Duty: Mobile, Garena Free Fire, and Valorant. While it has yet to pivot to sports simulations like FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer (PES), they’re likely to be covered in the coming years—and Cricket 19 might not be too far behind. 

Unfortunately, the Big Ant Studios Cricket 19 includes accurate kits and faces for players from Australia, England, and the West Indies. Indian players, along with those from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, South Africa, Pakistan, and New Zealand, include unlicensed teams that aren’t quite as convincing in terms of play. Could this hinder the game’s fruition into an esports title? Time will tell.


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