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Sight Screen

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Is cricket dying?

While I head off to do some work, thought I'd leave you with this essay from Rediff's own Deepti Patwardhan -- the thrust of which seems to be that cricket is dying, around the world.
I am ambivalent, really -- for one thing, I don't believe the lack of interest in Bangladesh is by itself a yardstick to measure interest in the game itself (be a bit like India playing Brazil at soccer, no one turning up, and from that, we positing that soccer is dying).
Yet, in India this time, I saw more kids wearing T-shirts celebrating Schumacher and Ronaldo, than Tendulkar and Saurav; in the sports bars, the biggest crowds were around the TV set screening Formula I live; in train stations and bus stops, you tended to overhear the younger kids argue heatedly about the previous night's game of the Premier League or Serie A...
Would it be right to say that while reports of cricket's impending demise is exaggerated, recent years have seen a dilution of interest; that youngsters these days do not follow cricket to the exclusion of all else?


  • I think it has more to do with the globalization of everything. People are more aware of other sports, they are more accessible (at least for watching) now than ever before.
    So in short the competition for eyeballs is growing. Cricket needs to re-invent itself to maintain the kind of monopoly it had before.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:23  

  • Hi Prem!! I follow most of ur columns in rediff.. nice to see u having a blog as well..

    I think, the fact that cricket is becoming monotonous contributes to this.. same people, same result...
    Indian team losing more frequently.. you see it was different last year when we beat Pakistan there!!

    Also the younger generation now get to watch lots of other sports on TV to which they have taken fancy for .. like formula 1, which is different this year with Schumacher not winning all the rqaces.. if this happened for couple of years.. interest would die down as well...

    By Blogger Vivhyd, at 11:41  

  • Prem, I hardly think cricket in India is dying. Formula 1 might be popular, but in cities, in the 'real' India, u still get the same excitement you did years ago when cricket comes on TV.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:15  

  • I doubt cricket is dying. Lets just take India. You have a population of 1 billion +. Lets say that the sports following population in the country is 25% of the whole, i.e. 250 million. Currently all those (~99%) follow cricket. Even if you lose the upscale-middle-class population (~10%) to other sports, 200 milion would be a huge number for cricket.
    Secondly, an argument can be made that cricket might not be losing to other sports, its just that Indian audience has started taking interest in F1 and soccer etc.
    The TV ratings of cricket series and the price BCCI can command is a good indicator. How many spectators turn up to watch the cricket game in India might not be a good indicator because thanks to the authorities, the facilities for spectators in India are pathetic. Lot of times fans in India would rather watch a game sitting at hoem on TV than go there! Mohali might be an exception.

    One of the reasons why kids wear F1 gear and not cricket is that, BCCI doesnt market India colors or Tnedulkar Ganguly colors! I don't think thats a revenue stream for BCCI as yet. Where as Man United, and Real etc make a huge amount of money on that, so there is a certain glamor associated with wearing a Man United t-short as opposed to Tendulkar jersey.

    I would say a lot more study is needed before you can concretely say that cricket is dying in India.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:57  

  • Its just a fad! Its gr8 that other sports are being followed....but how on earth does that translate to demise of cricket when there is no cricket going on right now? The day india plays a team like pakistan or australia and people watch english premier league while the cricket stadium is empty that would be when cricket is dead! why this big hullabaloo when people follow other sports ! cricket will be here for a long while until we reach a state similar to west indies when there are no good players, no good performances and continuous losses....a ctually, even then cricket might rule!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 14:26  

  • in todays times..attention span of most avid sport watchers have reduced. there is more preference to sports which provide a (for lack of a better word) "fast food" kinda feel.
    I love test cricket better than odi. but i dont see myself devoting 5 days watching the game given my time constraints. the only reason for the clamour for f-1 and soccer is the abundance of talent and the speed in which the games get decided. Those are the two choices for ICI. expand the cricket base to more countries or fast track the 20-20 plan

    By Blogger sachin, at 14:58  

  • :) I'll believe it when we have blogs on all the pretenders, and those blogs start attracting a lot of traffic

    By Blogger avinash, at 16:07  

  • As a die-hard cricket enthusiast (I have watched highlights of a Goa v/s Kerala Ranji game), I must admit I am disillusioned with the sport and the path its taking. And I lay it down at the doorstep of the ICC and the Boards that govern the ICC.

    Basically, as the governing body, the ICC does very little governing. Sure it does implement policies around reviewing illegal bowling actions and implementing a uniform policy to govern code of conduct on the cricket field. Both these incidentally are policies I happen to like as it attempts to brings some consistency. However the main thing that the governing body is required to do is to promote the sport. Promoting the sport does create a commercial opportunity. And the governing bodies who have got their acts together like the FIFA or the National Football League in the US, have figured out how they can create an exciting product that can allow them to exploit the commercial opportunity.

    Witness, the mad dash towards the 20-20 format. Call me a purist, but I hate the format. The bowlers have no chance. Plus you have gimmicks like the ball after the no-ball or wide ball is a free hit. One of the Aussies (don't remember who, could be Mike Hussey) invented a new shot, where he stands behind the stumps and hits the ball anywhere he wants because he cannot be dismissed. I don't care for these "innovations".

    Similarly, the attempt to "bastardize" the already boring ODI format by introducing the pinch hitters, substitutes, flexible bowling and fielding restrictions, are all attempts to inject artificial excitement into the sport. Let's face it, the ODI format is predictable. Invariably, there is a flat batting track. The side smashes the ball all around and gets to 80 or 100 for 1 or 2 wickets in the first 15 overs. Then settles down and builds and inning for the next 25 overs and depending on how many wickets they have they start the smashing again. Scores of 300 plus are routine and successful chases of these scores are getting to be routine too.

    Then there are these meaningless series between England and Pakistan. Or the inconsequential series between India, WI and Sri Lanka. Towards what end? What does the winner of this series symbolize. For many years there has been a debate raging about having a championship league, akin to the one soccer has. Then we know that every game and every series means something. Instead, we have a World Cup once every four years and a money-spinner called the ICC Champions Cup wedged in between. True, that the ICC has introduced the Super Series between the number one team (Australia) and the rest of the world. But then again, if you are following your team, and it happens to be some other than Australia, are you going to feel the same joy if the Rest of the World beats Australia in a Test match?

    I personally happen to believe that Test cricket is the only true form of competitive cricket and I beleive that nothing is being done to promote that format. However, I want to keep that issue out of this discussion, as I don't want to have my views categorized as being that of a purist who is living in nostalgia.

    Witness how the ICC has gone about promoting sport outside the 10 odd countries that play the sport at an international level. They have made a complete mess of the way they have handled the sport in the US. And which other nation has come up with a meaningful contribution to the sport. Instead, Zimbabwe (though largely due to political reasons) and Kenya which showed promise have become lame ducks for other teams. And the mighty Windies have fallen by the wayside too.

    The governing body should get off their broad back-side and stop using the pretext that it is just a representation of the member nations and hence incapable of making broad changes. It should stop making the move to Dubai to gain tax benefits as the biggest discussion item on their agenda and concentrate on what it will take to sustain and grow the popularity of the sport within existing cricke playing nations and new ones.

    I love the sport and am saddened to see the that nothing is being done to build upon a great foundation. I am not going to pass judgments and say that the game is experiencing a demise. Only time will be the judge of that, but as an avid cricket fan, apart from an India v/s Australia or an Ashes series, I have not much to look forward to in the sport. And being the US, I have to pay $249 to watch a ODI series on Dish Network makes me have to think twice about watching the sport (now that is an entirely different topic, that Prem should take up for the benefit of us fans who live in the US).

    By Anonymous Rajan Nair, at 17:11  

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