The crowd turnout at the recent matches in India has been a major issue of concern for anyone with mildest interest in cricket. Traditionally ODIs and T20s atleast have managed to draw a decent turnout until the recently concluded India Vs England series, wherein even the traditional venues like Mohali, Kotla, Eden and Wankhede failed to draw fans to the ground. The reports about the meagre sell out at Eden Gardens for the ongoing test match is not too heartening.
|Eden Garden of the olden days. Sprawling beauty with full house.|
A look into the reasons for this is dampening. In the past year or so, there has been nonstop cricket played by Team India and in India in general. While player burnout is another topic for another day, one has to look into the plate of fans. Just 5 days after the much revered victory coming after 28 yes, IPL started with fans being forced to switch allegiance. There was literally no time to savour a win that has been the expectation of fans and players alike, coming after 28 years.
Starting with the Newzeland series last year, followed by World Cup and IPL and CLT20 to the England ODIs and now the West Indies tour there has been endless cricket for the fans too follow. It is too much even for the most faithful and interested fan. The cricket fan has had no time to relive a special innings or a wonderful spell.
The next factor to be considered is the pricing of tickets for matches. An IPL or a World Cup ticket at Rs 800/- per seat for a reasonable view in the stadium is accepted because of the patronage they receive. But this year’s IPL and CLT20 has disproved this belief too. Especially the lack of crowd for CLT20 this season was palpable. The over pricing of tickets is no doubt a main cause in this issue. To add to the woes, the queue one has to take for purchasing the tickets in stadium too is quite demanding. There is no such provision to buy tickets on the day of the match at the stadium. Few rants by the fans in cricket websites were a cheese in cake.
|Eden Gardens in recently concluded India Vs England ODI.|
Coming to the most critical issue namely the scheduling of matches, a look into the itinerary of West Indies tour to India is a case at hand. With continuous crying of the low crowd turnout, one can’t understand how the Board scheduled matches in week days? The first test started on Sunday and ended on Thursday and the Second has started on Monday and will end on Friday. The Third test is scheduled to begin on Tuesday and end on Saturday. Even the ODIs are missing the weekend bus. Apart from last ODI at Chennai, all the others are scheduled on weekdays. How on the earth can they expect fans to throng the stadium when the matches are on workdays?
The present media explosion has been so powerful that one need not necessarily rely on television and radio commentaries to get live updates. Live scores are being updated by umpteen numbers of cricket websites and live streaming has been made available to the followers online. This provides the fans a better access to the matches than it was a decade back.
Considering all this factors, it’s high time that the administrators consider the fans perspective before they zero down the itineraries. Cricket is still a game of fans to be watched live and not a telecast enterprise. Time is ripe for those in power to have the fans in mind before they make a schedule. Else the day is not far when cricket, the game we love and cherish will soon become an all television exercise. Let us hope the administrators take this poor turnout as a wakeup call and alter their ways in near future. Long live the Game of Cricket.