DUBAI // The ICC hopes cyberspace will help them attract "tens of thousands" of viewers to a level of the sport which has previously struggled for exposure of any sort.
The Dubai-based ruling body will stream live on its website 16 matches from the remaining three rounds of the World Cup qualifying competition, starting with the glut of games in the UAE this month.
Afghanistan's World Cricket League fixtures against Scotland tomorrow and Friday will be broadcast, as well as the UAE's matches against Ireland later this month.
The chance to view this level of cricket aired in real time has been rare to date. For example, even though their players were already big stars in their homeland because of their feats on the cricket field, Afghanistan's players had never played on live television until they appeared at the 2010 World Twenty20 in the West Indies.
The ICC hopes the online broadcast will make the game accessible to the thousands of existing fans in leading non-Test nations such as Afghanistan and Ireland, as well as new viewers.
"Part of our development strategy is to engage new audiences in cricket and we have always had this on our agenda as something we would like to do," said Tim Anderson, the ICC's global development manager.
"In terms of viewership it is like TV ratings and easier to measure as every time someone logs on it is recorded.
"Because it is the first time we have done it in this way we are not really sure of [what figure is realistic] but tens of thousands is what we are hoping for.
"Afghanistan, for example, have around 50,000 followers on their Facebook page so they have a good following already. As the crescendo builds towards World Cup qualification hopefully we will have a lot of people watching."
The matches will have five cameras at the venues, with commentary by two Dubai-based broadcasters, Brian Murgatroyd and Ben Jacobs.
"It obviously won't be like watching Star Cricket, Fox Sports or Sky, but it will certainly be sufficient for spectators to get a good feel for what is going on," Anderson said.
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