A look at the Cricket vs Baseball debate to uncover how these bat-and-ball sports compare in popularity and if they still boast any similarities. In theory, the bat-and-ball sports of baseball and cricket should have many similarities, but over the centuries, public perception has helped to create two distinctive sports. While baseball primarily took root and grew in North America, taking on a distinctly American persona, cricket spread across former British dominions, evolving but mostly maintaining a sternly British persona. Both in play, equipment, and global reach, the cricket vs baseball debate finds many key differences between the sports, but there are several similarities to be found, too.
The most notable which is on the minds of both sports’ major competition organisers is the perceived decline in spectatorship. While both cricket and baseball remain wildly popular in the online sports betting, England and Wales are trying to grow the audience of cricket with a brand new, fast-paced form of 100-ball cricket, to be showcased in the inaugural competition called The Hundred. Baseball’s leading brand, the MLB, is also looking to expand the reach of baseball in the face of stadium attendance declines, bringing the first-ever regular-season MLB game to Europe with the London Series. The MLB even recruited England cricketers Jos Buttler and Alex Hales for a baseball-cricket crossover stunt to try to raise interest in the event. While set personas and leading headlines dominate the perception of both sports, the two do share many similarities from popularity to the games themselves.
Cricket vs Baseball Popularity
Baseball is in a very strange position in its homeland of North America. Labelled ‘America’s Game,’ the MLB does struggle in some key areas when compared to North America’s other major league sports.
Regarding the average attendance percentage of the average capacity of stadiums in the league, the NFL (96.13%), MLS (95.67%), NHL (95.17%), and NBA (94.06%) fill their available capacities far more often than the MLB (66.47%), per the most recent data (2018/19).
That said, the MLB schedule of 2,430 games is nearly double that of the next largest games schedule (NHL: 1,271), with the average stadium capacity of 43,103 only dwarfed by the NFL.
Over 68 million fans still made it through the gates across the 2019 MLB season, so it’s fair to say that there are plenty of fans in North America, just not as many as the stadiums were once built to house.
Perhaps the problem with holding the mantra of being ‘America’s Game’ while other sports are proving to be more popular in the United States is that it partially excludes international fans from getting involved.
While it’s purely for reasons of trying to hold onto the prestige of being the biggest and best on the planet, having the seasonal trophy be named ‘The World Series’ also works to segment the MLB from the rest of the world with the final always being played between American or Canadian teams.
Baseball is, however, a very popular sport in North America, just not on the national scale that other sports demand.
The fandom of baseball in the United States is very localised, especially compared to the likes of the NFL, which is reflected in the airing of games showcasing the biggest stars of each league.
It was found in 2018 that 100 per cent of US counties showed at least a quarter of Tom Brady’s games while only 1 per cent showed at least a quarter of games featuring the MLB’s best player, Mike Trout.
Even though Trout is on the wrong side of Los Angeles when it comes to favourites to win the World Series, with the LA Dodgers favoured in the 2020 baseball betting, being the best in the league should command more national attention – fans from across the world will tune in to see Chris Gayle batting regardless of their cricket fandom.
Although, what does manage to connect the sports of the cricket vs baseball battle here is the fact that outright betting is very popular among fans of both.
But as stated, baseball still gets millions through the gates in North America each year, from the MLB through the minor AA and AAA leagues.
It should be noted, though, that baseball isn’t just ‘America’s Game’ as there are several other nations that boast very popular baseball leagues.
In the Caribbean, the likes of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and especially the Dominican Republic have embraced baseball and sent many stars to the MLB.
Baseball is also wildly popular in Japan and the Korea Republic, to a lesser extent.
In fact, by the measure of average attendance percentage of the average capacity of league stadiums, Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan’s 82.36 per cent over its 856-game seasons exceeds that of the MLB’s 66.47 per cent.
Cricket – thanks to the establishment of the ICC and its international competitions – is a much more global sport than baseball, which has seemingly been monopolised by America with the MLB.
It’s a national sport in England, India, Australia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and the 15 nations that comprise the West Indies team, with more countries joining the fold – including the USA.
Thus, it appears that cricket is winning the popularity contest of cricket vs baseball.
The talk of the cricket world right now is the perceived death of the long form of the game, test cricket. Those involved see the newer audiences gravitate towards one-day or twenty-20 cricket, which is why the ECB introduced The Hundred.
Test series like The Ashes have developed a firm and historic rivalry between Australia and England, with the Aussies being favoured in 2021 by those who bet on cricket.
Aspects like the highest run scorer per test match, the most wickets taken by any given bowler, and the winning side over the series provide a stern test to a cricket fan’s knowledge, making the markets of test match betting very popular.
Still, other international test series appear to be losing viewership. While players and pundits will preach the importance of test matches, there’s no denying the allure of the short-form game.
Despite airing on the same day as the Wimbledon Men’s Final and the British Grand Prix, last year’s ICC Cricket World Cup Final still managed to draw over eight million viewers across free and subscription UK TV channels.
This eclipsed the average of six million viewers that Wimbledon got and the just under two million for the race at Silverstone.
It is further stated that across the 200 territories that tuned in, the final’s live coverage achieved a global cumulative average audience of 1.6 billion.
Domestically speaking, though, the Indian Premier League is the jewel of the cricket season, with people all over the world following the star-studded matches and closely paying attention to the cricket IPL odds.
Markets like the tournament’s eventual champion, match results, and player props like runs scored are wildly popular across the world when the IPL is on.
The IPL went all-in on becoming the English Premier League of cricket, with money and superstars pumped into the competition.
The decisive game of the 2019 edition of the IPL saw streaming giant Hotstar reach a new record of 18.6 million peak concurrent viewers as well as a reach of over 300 million viewers.
By comparison, the most recent World Series, which went to a tense Game 7 grand finale, achieved an all-time low for such an occasion in North America, landing 23 million viewers.
Comparing global audiences and nations which promote the sport, cricket outweighs baseball by quite some way. However, average attendances at the biggest domestic leagues of each sport are fairly similar, as of the latest figures:
・Nippon Professional Baseball: 30,928 (baseball)
・Indian Premier League: 30,004 (cricket)
・Major League Baseball: 28,339 (baseball)
・Bangladesh Premier League: 21,824 (cricket)
・Big Bash League: 20,552 (cricket)
・Pakistan Super League: 11,728 (cricket)
・KBO League: 10,119 (baseball)
・Mexican Pacific League: 9,925 (baseball)
・Caribbean Premier League: 8,358 (cricket)
・International League (AAA): 6,887 (baseball)
In the regions where the sports boast a strong following, domestic leagues have flourished.
Cricket vs Baseball Similarities
The mainstream thinking is that baseball or cricket originally spawned from the other, but it’s much more likely that the sports are cousins, of a sort.
It is said that earlier forms of baseball and cricket came to England from Flanders, with the southeast of England taking up cricket and the west of England favouring baseball.
Cricket won the battle of cricket vs baseball in England due to baseball predominantly being seen as a game for children.
Still, both sports made it to America, with Philadelphia, Boston, and New York adopting cricket and helping it to establish hundreds of clubs across the country.
However, the American Civil War made baseball a more patriotic game, with cricket losing the cricket vs baseball contest in what would become the United States.
As the two sports grew apart and developed, they became more and more differentiated, from the shape of the equipment to the fundamentals of the batting side being on the attack in baseball but on the defence in cricket.
However, the cousins of bat-and-ball sport do still boast some similarities.
The scoring format of cricket and baseball is very similar, with runs being the currency of the game.
In both instances, a batsman will hit a ball thrown at them and then run to put up points on the board. It is also the same in both sports that once a set number of batsmen are deemed to be out on one side, the sides swap over.
At any one time, only one team is present in the field, with all players on the non-batting side of the ball either keeping/catching, bowling/pitching, or fielding.
As such, both sports have a lot in common regarding the designated roles, with equivalents of wicket keepers, bowlers, fielders, umpires, and batsmen present in baseball.
Of course, the bat-and-ball aspect of the sport is very similar, as is the ultimate aim of getting the ball beyond the boundaries of the field of play.
While the bats are made of different materials, a baseball and a cricket ball both feature leather wrapped around a cork core.
Baseball is ‘America’s Game,’ but is also loved by the likes of Japan and the Dominican Republic. Cricket has a much larger global reach, thanks in large part due to the international competitions established by the ICC.
However, for their many differences in popularity and playing aspects, there are still some similarities between cricket and baseball.