Monday, June 10, 2019

Introducing Reality Cricket on the Golf Course

    US COPYRIGHT CASE # 1-7772044197

- Intended for International Sports Agencies -

The game of cricket is almost a religion in most cricketing nations, especially in South Asia. While Australia, England, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, West Indies and Zimbabwe are the other major cricketing nations, it enjoys some popularity in number of other countries like Bermuda, Canada, Kenya, Malaysia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Scotland, Singapore, Tanzania, UAE, etc.    

Though there are some similarities between Cricket and Baseball, the major playing nations are almost mutually exclusive. Baseball has always been popular in advanced nations like Canada, Japan, Netherlands, South Korea and the United States. Thus far, the marketing efforts to expand cricket into the major baseball nations have been marginally successful, at best. Even when an exhibition cricket match is played in the US, the audience is mostly the immigrants from the cricketing nations, making it commercially unviable to attract any major TV channel to carry it live.

For cricket to be a viable alternative to baseball in major baseball nations (and vice versa down the road), it has to be lot more entertaining to the viewers at large. While the cricket fans consider the shortened T-20 format very entertaining, it’s not so at all for their baseball counterparts. In fact, the baseball lovers will still find it quite “boring.”

The only way cricket can be sold to the major baseball world is by reinventing the format itself. From the entertainment point of view, the two-innings format is fundamentally backward-bending, offering little to virtually no incentives to the commercial media in the all-baseball world, because more often than not, this format makes an on-going match far too predictable, thus destroying the fun and thrill of it. For example, when the team batting first collapses or even performs sub-par, the outcome is more or less predictable. So, who would stick around for the second inning? Not the TV viewers, at least – which is the primary viewership.

While the traditional format cannot be changed overnight, a highly entertaining and thrilling “Reality” format could be invented and tried in the baseball world. If it becomes successful there, it would be equally, if not more, successful at home as well.
Reality cricket – by design – must be lot more entertaining and thrilling than the traditional variety. In addition to supporting the standard 2D smart TV, this form and format will also be 3D TV-friendly, thus attracting new generations of media audience who are otherwise unaware of or are indifferent to the world of cricket. Again, it’s not going to be the garden variety club cricket which will be commercially unappealing to the futuristic media.

Once the Reality version starts to gain commercial momentum, the makers of virtual sports will quickly jump in, taking it to the next level where viewers can virtually play along “live.” The Virtual 2.0 will be AI-friendly, allowing the virtual batters to try out different “timing” and “striking” options which the actual on-field batter could only wish. Similarly, the virtual bowlers will be able to try out a combination of various “line” and “length” options which, again, the actual on-field bowler could only wish.

So, what’s the new “Reality” cricket? Here it is…

1. Playing Field: Instead of the traditional flat cricket grounds, it will be shifted to the professional Golf Courses, preferably 18-hole Resort Golf Courses, with magnificent surroundings, for an added TV attraction. By switching the venue to a golf course, the so-called home field advantage will cease to exist. Since the makeup of each golf course is somewhat different, players will encounter new challenges each time they take the field. Also, the net practice and the practice matches will be arranged on smaller courses, keeping the thrill and unpredictability of playing on the big course alive. The same cricketing bat and ball will be used for now, with a usual cricketing pitch. Down the road the ball will be remanufactured with synthetic material to make it less susceptible to wetness. Pre-fab drop-in pitch will be ideal to maintain the portability from course to course locally, even regionally. Other than the pitch, the rest of the course remains unchanged which will help keep the costs under control. But, unlike in traditional cricket, only one batter will come in and bat at a time so only one set of wickets will be used. Should the course comprise actual water hazards like artificial ponds or lagoons, they must be netted using modern technology to get the ball out of the net promptly, without having to deal with the ball getting wet. Rain will stop play as is customary in the traditional format. Obviously, it is going to be played during the day only, differing from the short One Day International (ODI, usually day/night) or T-20 (mostly under floodlight) formats. Timeouts will be necessary to keep the ad dollars flowing.

2. Playing Format: In terms of the number of overs, the Reality format will initially share the T-20 (i.e., 20-overs) format. But, instead of the cricketing 2-innings format, the Reality format will be split up into 4 batting innings per side (5 overs per inning) to a total of 8 innings, thus allowing each team to bat for four rotating innings, meaning the team that opens the batting will return again to bat out the 3rd, 5th and 7th innings, respectively. Needless to say, the same team will take the bowling/fielding for the alternate 2nd, 4th, 6th and 8th innings, respectively, when the opposition bats. The problem of the one-batting-inning per side is that the match often becomes far too predictable early into the second inning; for instance, if the side batting first does not put up enough runs on the board, the match becomes quite predictable within 5 to 7 overs into the second inning – to the utter dismay of the attending fans and the media audiences at large. As the new Reality data points come in and get adequately mined, the format could be later expanded to 25 or 30 overs, adding innings proportionally.   

3. Player Format: While all cricket formats call for 11 players per side, the Reality version will comprise 7 players per side, reducing the use of specialists; for example, out of the 11 cricket players, 5 are generally specialist batters, 5 are specialist bowlers (1 is often considered an all-rounder) and the remaining 1 is a dedicated wicket-keeper with good batting skills. Again, the problem to this type of side selection is that the match becomes more predictable. When the top-order of batting (primarily specialist batters) collapses, the specialist bowlers (a.k.a., the tail-enders) can hardly come to the rescue and turn things around. Likewise, when the batters get their day, the bowling side starts to feel an insurmountable pressure. Again, the selection of specialists generally makes things more predictable, which is fine when the sole objective is to win a tournament. In the proposed Reality format, where entertainment is the primary objective, the team selection will be based on all-round skills, eventually paving the way for a whole new generation of skilled all-rounders. Of course, each team will need a 5-player bench considering it will be played under the Sun. This all-rounder approach will change the overall grooming and bidding (on player auctions) process.

4. Batting and Bowling: Under the Reality format, each batter gets to bat only one over per inning, with the mandatory introduction of two new batters in consecutive innings. Of course, when the first five batters do not survive till the end of the fifth over, sixth and seventh batters will bat. To put in simple terms, only three batters from inning one can be repeated while batting in inning two and so forth. Similarly, bowlers can bowl only one over per inning, with the mandatory introduction of two new bowlers in consecutive innings. Therefore, the bowling side can reintroduce only three bowlers when they open their second bowling inning. Of course, the exception to this rule will come into effect when more than five batters needs to bat in an inning. This general one-over batting and bowling restrictions will force teams to recruit more all-rounders than specialists, lessening the usual predictability of the game. The combination of 4-innings per side and 1-batter/bowler per over will make the match more unpredictable, hence entertaining, till the end – a big win-win for both live and media audiences. A team can use a dedicated wicket-keeper across all four innings, for now (this practice may also be dispensed with down the road, making way for more unpredictability).

5. Scoring Runs: This is going to be very different from the traditional cricket format. Batters must return to the base to be credited for any runs, making the traditional singles (1’s), threes (3’s), boundaries and over-boundaries off-limit. In other words, the batters can only hit 2’s and 4’s (maximum per bowl) by returning to the base. In order to minimize inaccurate bowling and imprecise throws, byes and leg byes will be allowed. A 2-run deduction will be taken when a batter’s strike hits the hazard (water or bunker) without bounce, beating any reasonable endeavor by the nearest fielder to catch the ball (reasonableness of the fielder’s attempt will be determined by the umpire). This deduction will stand irrespective of the batter’s score in the inning and will be counted as a cumulative negative (i.e., deduction).

The advantage of having only one batter at a time is that the batting momentum will continue, keeping the entertainment ante significantly up, which is critical for the Reality cricket to garner worldwide audience. In a traditional format, since two batters bat together, the entertainment aspect of the game often gets compromised. Generally, when one batter goes on a scoring spree, the other slows down, playing a more supporting or defensive role (except in death overs), which could be technically fine, but generally at the expense of the entertainment value of the game. Having one batter at a time removes altogether the potential of the second batter slowing down.  

6. Batter Dismissal: Until this format gains some meaningful commercial momentum, any new and specialized technology will not be forthcoming. Therefore, the use of the existing DRS and related technology will force this format to continue with the current batter dismissal options like, bowled, caught, stamped, hit wicket, leg before, run out, etc. Since singles will be unavailable, the possibility of run outs will rise.  Similarly, the aggressive nature of batting will give rise to more stumping opportunities. Down the road, when the specialized technology is available for the Reality version, the direct no-bounce hits to hazards could be treated as dismissals, rather than the proposed negative scores (2-run deduction). When the playing golf course comprises trees, a catch bounced off a tree will be disallowed. A batter however will be allowed full credit for the runs scored even when the ball bounces off a tree. Since scoring will be allowed, run-outs will also be allowed when the ball bounces off a tree.    

7. Protective Gear: In the traditional format, batters and wicket-keepers are amply protected with (protective) gear, but the fielders and bowlers aren’t. It makes no professional and economic sense to allow a good percentage of the players to sit out a good part of the season with finger injuries. The Reality version will therefore allow the bowler and all fielders to use baseball-type gloves on one hand to help prevent such unnecessary injuries. Of course, on the field, it will be their choice to use it or not. By the same token, they will lose their match fees (or prorated contract fees) if they are forced to sit out with such preventable finger injuries. The liability clause of the disability insurance must also contain similar stipulations, thus making it difficult for them to be rehired for future events as well. While they need a helping hand from the rules committee, they must also be willing participants. Irrespective of their prominence and celebrity, this format will never allow or encourage anyone to practice or demonstrate any narcissism whatsoever, so that the audience continues to exponentially grow, not drift away.

8. Field Positions: Granted, the game of cricket is a common religion in cricket-playing countries. So, the fans learn to not question its age-old shortcomings and idiosyncrasies; for example, the field position names like “Silly mid-on / Silly mid-off” and “Forward short leg” will be a hard-sell in non-cricketing countries. The Reality format will therefore comprise a new set of non-technical, sensible and easy-to-remember field (position) names, e.g., Base, Short Base Left/Right, Long Base Left/Right, Deep Long Base Left/Right, etc. Instead of confusing the new audience with unnecessary semantics – Long vs. Deep, etc. – the name Deep Long Base Left/Right will be self-differentiating, meaning this field position will be further deeper than the long position, but along the same field corridor. Considering it’s a seven-per-side event, only five more fielders – other than the bowler and the wicket-keeper who will hold dedicated field positions – will be present on the course. The idea is that the marketing team must be armed with a marketable product, free of silly antiquities.

9. Tie-breaker: In case of a tie, i.e., both teams tied at the same score, each will play one more inning, instead of the traditional one over each. When a match is finally decided by one over, it becomes somewhat unreasonable and irrational, at least from the audience viewpoint. In the Reality format, the one additional tie-breaker inning will bring more sanity and reliability to the game. For example, NBA Finals are played on ‘best-of-seven’ format, allowing the better team to prevail than ending the entire season with a one-off fluke. If the tie-breaker inning ends in a tie again, a one over solution will be implemented until, of course, the tie is broken. There will be one more twist to the tie-breaker inning: The team winning the tie-breaker toss will get to choose the opponent’s five batters, while the toss-losing team will get to designate the opponent’s five bowlers. Similarly, if the tie-breaker inning runs into tie-breaker over(s), the toss winner will get to designate the opponent’s batter while the toss loser will choose the opponent’s bowler. This new approach will force all competing teams to hire quality all-rounders rather than the traditional specialists who are good at only one aspect of the game.

This Reality format, by no means, attempts to reform the traditional format; rather it primarily attempts to show the cricketing and non-cricketing world that an alternative and vastly different version could easily be developed and marketed strictly as another highly entertaining, thrilling, media-friendly and interactive fun sport. Secondarily, it will provide an easy and rapid expansion into the commercially unharnessed non-cricketing world. The 2D TV is way too outdated for sports and entertainment. By making this version 3D TV-friendly, viewers will have more fun watching it and perhaps participating alongside. A “Virtual” version will soon be developed, allowing viewers to play along “live.”

Initially, this format could be sold to the TV channels that broadcast the traditional cricket tournaments in the cricketing world and to the Golf channels in the non-cricketing world. As the Reality version gets momentum, the bidding war to broadcast it will intensify. The investment company owning its worldwide rights will hopefully go public so the sports fans around the world can own a piece of this futuristic sport-and-entertainment pie.

Just imagine the unrestricted domain of opportunity this Reality version offers to the future investors. Later, a parallel Reality version can be ported to the game of Baseball as well.

Finally, Some Stats to be Excited about
        1. Major League Baseball (US/Canada) Revenue $10B
    2. Top 5 MLB Teams’ Combined Revenue $2.7B
    3. Nippon Professional Baseball Revenue $1.1B
    4. Indian Premier League (Cricket) valued at $6.3B
    5. The Economic Impact of Golf in the US: $84B (Forbes)

  Developed and presented by:
  Sid Som, MBA, MIM
  President, Homequant, Inc.

  US COPYRIGHT CASE # 1-7772044197

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