Cricket is one of the most played sports in the world with more than 2 billion people around the world following the sport. The sport started as a simple bat and ball game in a village in England and now after about 200 years has become a sport that is played in more than 100 countries around the world. At the ODI World Cup 2023 in India, more than 1.2 Million people attended matches in the stadiums, and over 518 Million people watched the tournament on TV. It even broke the record for the highest concurrent viewership on OTT with a staggering 59 million concurrent viewers watching the India vs Australia Final. These stats suggest how big and popular the sport is on the global level. However, the sport still cannot be considered to be a global sport as the majority of the cricket-playing population comes from the Asian subcontinent and the game is relatively unknown in European and the American regions. And if this is the viewership record with only 10 teams participating in the World Cup, then how much would it be if there were 32 Teams just like the FIFA Football World Cup? But are there 32 world-class cricket-playing nations that could participate in the World Cup? And exactly how many countries in the world play cricket?
Credit: The Quint
All of these questions stem from the same root and in this blog by ZAP, we will answer all these questions and find out how many countries in the world play cricket.
To answer these questions, we will first have to understand about the history of the sport, the Role of the ICC, and the evolution of the sport from Tests to T20s.
A Brief History of Cricket:
Cricket Started as a village competition in England to see who could hit the ball the farthest with a stick. Over time, the game evolved and became more structured with proper cricket rules in place. As England colonized countries around the world, the English soldiers popularised the game in the colonies. Interestingly, the first international cricket match was played between Canada and the United States in 1844. The popularity of the sport diminished in North America but the culture remained in the Caribbean countries. Here, in Asia, the popularity of the sport never went low, with India adopting the game as a culture rather than just a sport. A similar scene was observed in other subcontinent countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Afghanistan. England vs. Australia had already become a fierce rivalry at the start of the 20th century with both nations competing with each other on a regular basis. However all of the sporting landscape remained fairly unorganized until the establishment of the International Cricket Council (ICC).
International Cricket Council (ICC):
Established in 1909, the Imperial Cricket Conference was the initial authority responsible for overseeing the sport globally. The International Cricket Conference was its previous name before it adopted its present one formally in 1987. As the governing body, the ICC oversees establishing rules, organizing tournaments, and promoting the spirit of the sport internationally. It is headquartered in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. All of the unorganized cricket-playing nations now were under one highest authorities of the sport, the ICC, and a structured spoting landscape, tournaments, and rules were developed.
How many countries play Cricket?
The ICC has done a remarkable job in organizing the cricket-playing nations in several tiers based on the full-time nations and associate nations. Along with this, is the responsibility of this organization to promote and ignite the global expansion of this sport and increase its popularity in areas where it is not as common.
With 12 Full Members and 96 Associate Members, the ICC currently has 108 member countries, which means there are a total of 108 cricket-playing nations in the world recognized by the ICC.
The 12 Full Members of the ICC include India, Australia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, England, Afghanistan, West Indies, Zimbabwe, South Africa, New Zealand, and Ireland.
The 96 Associate Nations of the ICC are: Argentina, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Belgium, Belize, Bermuda, Bhutan, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cayman Islands, Chile, China, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Eswatini, Falkland Islands, Fiji, Finland, France, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Gibraltar, Greece, Guernsey, Hong Kong, Hungary, Indonesia, Iran, Isle of Man, Israel, Italy, Ivory Coast, Japan, Jersey, Kenya, Kuwait, Lesotho, Luxembourg, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mexico, Mongolia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Rwanda, Saint Helena, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, Turks and Caicos Islands, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United States, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu.
What are the Full Members and Associate Members of the ICC?
The 12 Cricket playing nations that have full voting rights within the ICC are known as Full Members. The 96 governing bodies of nations where the game is well-established and structured but has not yet been awarded full membership are known as associate members.
The Associate Member Nations with ODI status are Canada, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, Oman, Scotland, United Arab Emirates and United States.
There were also 7 associate members who were later expelled by the ICC: Brunei, Cuba, Morocco, Russia, Tonga and Zambia.
Evolution of the Sport - Role of T20s:
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Cricket in its purest form is a 5 day Test match, where even after 5 days the match could end in a draw. As the game progressed, shorter formats of the game started gaining more and more popularity. One day international format started becoming more popular by the end of the 20th century and the first ever ODI World Cup was played in 1975, with West Indies as the inaugural winners. 20 Years later, an even shorter format started gaining limelight, which was a 20 over per side match, which got over in only 3-4 hours. Though, the format faced criticisms from cricket purists initially, the format adopted by all countries massively and the first ever T20 World Cup was played in 2007 with India emerging as the inaugural winners. The tournament was an instant hit and resulted in the creation of the biggest tournament, the Indian Premier League (IPL). The T20 Format and IPL has propelled the popularity of the sport to another level. IPL is now one of the most valuable sports leagues in the world and the T20 format is the stepping stone for any new nation entering into the sport. There are even leagues like the European Cricket League, which is a major t20 tournament in Europe. Major League Cricket (MLC) T20 in the United States saw some of the biggest players playing in the tournament and is all set for its second season in 2024.
With the continuous efforts of the International Cricket Council (ICC) to promote the sport where it is relatively unknown and with the popularity and spread of the T20 format around the world, the number of countries that play the sport is only going to increase. The game will now also feature in the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics, thanks to the popularity of Virat Kohli, the face of the sport, which is seen as a big win for the game.
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