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MBA student to undertake analysis of cricket in USA
By Venu Palaparthi
Professor Gangaram Singh of San Diego State University announced on Tuesday that one of his MBA students, Christian Jensen, had begun working on an applied research paper in cricket. The paper will focus on developing a framework for cricket in USA so that cricket can replicate the successes of other sports leagues.
Christian Jensen, who is pursuing his MBA in Sports Management, has developed an affinity for the T20 format although he has never played the game. Jensen believes that his outsider’s approach is just what cricket needs in America. "Insiders don’t always recognize factors that an outsider can observe. I hope that my analysis will follow a systematic approach, with an objective outcome," Jensen wrote.
Leading by Example - Lacrosse and Rugby
Jensen is right on the money about the three fast growing sports and the lessons to be learned from them. Even though we should want cricket to emulate soccer, soccer is pretty much a mainstream sport in the U.S. today and already enjoys higher per game attendance than ice hockey or basketball.
Lacrosse and rugby are now at the leading edge of emerging sports and offer very realistic benchmarks for cricket. Lacrosse (+41.8%) and rugby (+37.7%) showed highest participant gains over the last four years according to SGMA's 2012 survey of team sports.
In fact, US Lacrosse, lacrosse's governing body formed in 1998, presides over a sport that has the greatest momentum of any sport in the U.S. today with junior lacrosse participants increasing at a rate of 117.6% between 2000 and 2008. In 2011, US Lacrosse had registered membership of roughly 300,000. The sport also had 565,000 core participants - players who played at least 13 games during the year.
In comparison, USA Rugby is estimated to have over 98,000 registered participants. Over 67,000 high school students play rugby for their schools or clubs and another 32,000 play college rugby. The sport has roughly 289,000 core participants.
USA Cricket Association (USACA), cricket's governing body in the U.S., does not maintain a direct relationship with participants and the statistics for cricket are not very reliable. However, according to a publication linked to the governing body for cricket, there were roughly 15,000 senior men who played competitive cricket that were affiliated with clubs or leagues registered with USACA during 2011. In 2012, with the leagues' relationship with USACA becoming increasingly tenuous, the organization's registered membership is expected to drop significantly. However, cricket continues to enjoy rapid growth despite the ongoing governance issues and the number of core participants in the U.S. is estimated to be over 250,000 if all forms of cricket are considered.
Interestingly, the dominant professional leagues for lacrosse and rugby - Major League Lacrosse (MLL) and USA Rugby League (USARL) - are independent leagues that are not sanctioned by their respective national governing bodies. In fact, this is true of most American sports including basketball, baseball and football.
Academia to the Cricket Field
Jensen's and Prof. Gangaram Singh's efforts to analyze cricket in USA is expected to fill a huge void in a sport that generally is lacking in data and metrics.
The last meaningful study of cricket in America was conducted in 2009, when three different groups of MBA students at Columbia University set out under the supervision of Professor Rajiv Kohli to analyze demand for international cricket in United States. The students shared their results with USACA's CEO, Don Lockerbie, who was then working on Destination USA. Prof. Kohli is also the author of a Columbia University case study titled "The launch of the Indian Premier League." Prof. Kohli sits on the advisory board of DreamCricket.com.
Interestingly, Prof. SP Kothari of MIT-Sloan, who like Prof. Kohli is a board member of DreamCricket.com, wrote an opinion piece in October 2007 titled "Let a private cricket league boom" in The Economic Times arguing for a city-based private league months before the IPL was announced. His article was so compelling that when the original IPL Franchise Prospectus was released, his quote accompanied the introduction.
Another keen cricket fan from academia is Prof. Vijay Govindarajan, Earl C. Daum Professor of International Business at Dartmouth and the founding director of Tuck’s Center for Global Leadership.
"We have to ask more fundamental questions about how the world of cricket is changing and how we need to get the right people and the right processes to compete in the future," Prof. Govindarajan once told a newspaper. "Let us selectively forget the stalwarts whose great years are behind them and focus on building a pipeline of young talent," he added noting the dearth of the three most important ingredients of world class organizations - talent, team spirit, and execution discipline.
For the record, he was talking about the Indian debacle in 2007. Prof. Govindarajan might as well be talking about USA cricket.