Desperate for their live sporting fix, close to half a million people across the globe tuned in to watch some of the only live cricket matches there were on over the weekend: and they were in the small Pacific nation of Vanuatu.
The island nation has no confirmed cases of COVID-19 and the Vanuatu Government has eased its coronavirus-related restrictions, partly to help the recovery efforts required after the country was devastated by Cyclone Harold earlier this month.
Vanuatu's cricketing body was keen to give locals a distraction from the doom and gloom but now they now also want capitalise on the attention of new fans fromSo across the world.
They include Australian Brent Firth Meldrum, from Queensland.
He's an avid player and watcher of cricket, whose interest was piqued when he saw some matches would be live-streamed out of Vanuatu on Saturday.
"I looked at the Cricket Australia website and it had just a bit of a story that it's going to be one of the only live sports showing so I clicked into it and starting watching it," he told Pacific Beat.
Vanuatu Cricket says around 420,000 viewers tuned in, with people commenting online from as far as India, Bangladesh, Singapore and the UK.
"That many viewers, it really shocked us a bit and it's fantastic that we got that many following cricket and Vanuatu in particular," the CEO of Vanuatu Cricket, Shane Deitz said.
"I think it's going be really good exposure for our game and our players," he said.
Melissa Velvel Fare is Vanuatu Cricket's marketing manager but she was also on duty as a player in the women's final for the Power Sharks team.
"I got out for a duck... but that's all part of cricket, but it still did not take away from the overall experience of it and to know that people are going to be watching our cricket and we might be getting people who would be supporting our cricket in the future, based off this, is a very nice thing to think about," she said.
Vanuatu's economy faces a tough road ahead, with its borders shut to international tourists indefinitely compounding the pain caused by Cyclone Harold.
Melissa Fare hopes the publicity generated by events like the weekend's live stream can help to revitalize the economy and feed into their plans for international cricket tourism, which were thrown off course this year because of COVID-19.
"Our cricket tourism is basically to bring in clubs from Australia and New Zealand off-season. They come to Vanuatu and play against our national teams," she said.
Vanuatu Cricket believes the concept would build the sport of cricket in the country but also help Australian and New Zealand cricketers to learn about Vanuatu culture.
Source: ABC Australia ( Pacific Beat)