The Indian Premier League demonstrated its idea of global reach yesterday by selling the UK rights of its 2010 tournament to ITV4. While there may be relief in some quarters that the competition is at last available, it is fairly certain that there was hardly a queue, either orderly or disorderly, forming to seize the opportunity to screen the grand jamboree.
It is significant that neither Sky, which at present broadcasts all the live cricket shown in Britain, nor the BBC, which is under constant pressure to show cricket, has shown not the slightest glimmer of interest. Lalit Modi, the IPL commissioner, was superficially delighted because it enables him to continue his mission to make the competition, which is his baby, a truly global event. "Fans in the UK – this is what you have been waiting for," he announced bullishly on his Twitter feed.
ITV has not shown any cricket for 40 years or so, and to attract any kind of audience it will presumably have to advertise its wares on its main channels. However, the deal will be closely watched by those who claim that cricket will garner an audience only if it is on so-called free-to-air channels. Critics of Sky's coverage maintain that the game is suffering because of its exclusive presence on a satellite station.
ITV will hope the Asian diaspora in Britain will watch the games ( the firm is screening all but one of the 60 matches). English fans who like the short form will presumably tune in but, with only eight English players involved, that will truly be a test of global reach.