In 2001, ESPN launched Super Selector as the first-of-its-kind fantasy sports game based on cricket and became the first platform to gain significant users in India. With its limited reach to cricket fans, it became the first in a long line of future fantasy gaming platforms based on sports, including cricket, football, kabaddi, and hockey. Today, these players form the core of India’s Online Fantasy Sports Gaming (OFSG) revolution.
Predicted to be a USD 3.7 billion industry by 2024, these platforms allow users to create their fantasy teams to win money through daily fantasy matches on various sports. While the top players in this market host these daily games on multiple sports, there is a clear bend towards cricket in the Indian subcontinent. According to a survey conducted by KPMG, 77% of respondents chose cricket as their first preference for fantasy sports in India.
Even though this might seem questionable, there are multiple reasons which prove why fantasy cricket is so popular over other sports in India! Getting onto your fantasy cricket app 10 minutes before the game actually starts to select your fantasy cricket team for the match has become a popular ritual now. We discuss some of the reasons for Fantasy Cricket’s popularity below:
Legacy of cricket in India
The roots of cricket’s popularity in India lie in the rich history of India’s rise in the international cricketing world after independence. The watershed moment came when Kapil Dev, the Indian Cricket team’s captain at the time, lifted the Cricket World Cup in 1983 after beating the defending champions, West Indies, at Lord’s in London, dubbed as “The Home of Cricket”.
Ever since then, India has constantly risen through the ranks to add 4 more international trophies to its cabinet through the performances of legends like Sachin Tendulkar, Sunil Gavaskar, and MS Dhoni. The countless memories of India’s famous victories are something that most Indians carry like a mark of pride on their chests and translates into their natural preference for fantasy cricket.
Also Read: Essential Guide to Fantasy Sports
Maximum viewership in India
India is obsessed with its cricket, whether it is the 5-day long Test format or the 20-overs long T20 format. With the advancements in broadcasting technology and aided by multiple OTT platforms, our mode of consumption of cricket matches has merely shifted from radio commentary to live streaming.
Industry reports show 93% of all sports viewers turn to cricket content, which is currently telecast in as many as 7 languages. Further, this viewership is not limited to men alone, as 48% of all viewers are women. The advent of fantasy sports has allowed all of these viewers to be more actively involved in the live matches by participating in the daily fantasy matches.
The age of celebrity cricketers
Holding your country’s sporting heroes in respect and esteem is something that is seen worldwide. However, the Indian fans take it a notch above by celebrating their cricketing heroes as their idols. The concept of live streaming brought these fans a bit closer to their heroes, but the floodgates opened when social media became a popular platform.
Today, Virat Kohli commands a whopping 1.8 million-strong following on Instagram, making him the third most followed athlete across the world! The innumerable fan pages dedicated to various cricket players on social media is a testament to the fans’ devotion. Fantasy cricket app fulfils the ambition of these hardcore fans to include their favourite players in their fantasy team for the match and get bragging rights if their team goes on to win big!
The Great Indian T20 League
The crown jewel of the cricketing fandom is undoubtedly the Indian T20 League, which is already in its 15th season. Originally started to popularise the T20 format of the game, which was in its infancy back in 2008, this league has already reached a major viewership milestone in 2021 – 380 million TV viewers!
The fast and dynamic nature of the T20 format adds to the structure of this league, which combines the biggest names in international cricket with local talent under regional teams. Across a period of 60 days, at least one match is played between 2 club teams on any day, which becomes the backdrop for daily fantasy cricket matchups for the viewers.
Lower penetration of other sports
Cricket isn’t the only sport that is openly played in India. Currently, there are 7 active sports leagues in India across sports like Football, Badminton, Volleyball, and Kabaddi. However, most of them are in their infancy as opposed to the Indian T20 League, which sits atop the pile as the oldest active sports league in India.
Further, the remaining leagues command significantly lower viewership, which also impacts their popularity amongst fantasy sports players. However, the increasing frequency of non-cricketing leagues supplemented by India’s international victories at the Olympics will catalyse increased participation in non-cricketing fantasy sports as well!