'Cricket at Olympics will be a game changer': BCCI secretary Jay Shah

Shah spoke to THE WEEK about the future of cricket worldwide


Unlike former secretaries of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, Jay Shah is a man of few words―he does speak his mind in board meetings, but tries to keep a low profile outside.

The 35-year-old, affectionately known as ‘Jay bhai’ in the cricket fraternity, has ushered in a transformation since assuming office in 2019. Under his leadership cricket has seen the implementation of ground-breaking measures such as pay parity and inception of the Women’s Premier League among other such initiatives. Indian cricket has experienced a comprehensive uplift, marked by significant advancements in infrastructure and a fortified grassroots structure at every level. 

In an exclusive conversation with THE WEEK, Jay Shah shares insights on the future of cricket globally, with a special focus on ODIs. This charismatic cricket administrator’s commitment extends to the well-being and equitable benefits for both male and female cricketers, rallying every stakeholder to ensure India’s continued dominance in the global cricket arena.

Q/ There is concern that ODIs, sandwiched between Tests and T20s, will eventually wither away. India is already playing fewer ODIs now.

A/Expressing concern about the relevance of ODI cricket seems particularly stringent to me, especially in the aftermath of the most successful ODI event in history. The format not only maintains its enduring popularity but also, if anything, has experienced a surge in traction over time. There is no need to rely solely on my perspective; the numbers provide a compelling narrative.

The World Cup, hosted by India, saw a record-breaking attendance of 1.25 million (12.5 lakh) spectators. What is noteworthy is that the one million milestone was reached with six games remaining. Viewership records were not just broken, they were shattered. [On digital, there were] 5.9 crore [concurrent viewers] during the final.

This extraordinary turnout, which surpassed the numbers of both the 2015 and the 2019 World Cups, serves as an unequivocal testament to the enduring popularity and widespread appeal of ODIs.

Q/ But other formats have grown in popularity.

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A/Certainly, the landscape of cricket has undergone a significant transformation. While purists continue to cherish Test cricket for its strategic depth and endurance, T20 has carved a niche for itself as a powerhouse of entertainment and action. Rather than diminishing the appeal of ODIs, the coexistence of these diverse formats has remarkably broadened cricket's overall appeal.

Q/ Are ODIs adding to crickets’s overall appeal? What makes you believe so? Most find the opposite to be true.

A/Contrary to concerns that alternative formats might overshadow ODIs, the reality is that cricket enthusiasts today benefit from an unprecedented array of choices. This diversity, marked by the distinctive charms of Tests, ODIs and T20s, caters to varying tastes within the cricketing community.

Moreover, the impending inclusion of T20 cricket at the [2028] Los Angeles Olympics is poised to be a game changer. This move not only validates cricket on a global stage, but also opens up avenues to tap into fan bases worldwide. It promises to introduce the sport to a broader audience, fostering a new wave of cricket enthusiasts. In essence, the coevolution of Test, ODI and T20 formats is not a competition, but a collective boon for the sport.

Q/ So, you feel cricket is flourishing globally?

A/Cricket, in all its facets, is flourishing, and the ultimate beneficiaries are the passionate fans of the game. The proliferation of formats and the global expansion of cricket, coupled with the Olympic inclusion, reaffirm that cricket is on a trajectory of unparalleled growth and inclusivity.