It would never be an understatement to say cricket is a religion by itself in a country like India. Indians all over are known for their mad love and passion for the game, a peek into the stadium and you won’t be surprised by that statement, from body paintings to mask cut-outs, the Indian fan would practically do anything to show his love for the game. Yes, we’re a cricket frenzy nation, no doubt at that, we have the richest cricketing body in the world and we virtually run the sport.
But then tell this to a recent follower of the game and he would certainly doubt those facts, in fact he might as well go a step further to mistake these to be a mockery of the present situation. And quite rightly so, the situation at present is certainly grim as far as cricket in the country is concerned for, what was once considered impossible has certainly began to spread- a feeling of boredom and disgust at the game. Yes, the average Indian fan has begun to near the saturation point, thanks to the excessive cricket being played in the country.
It isn’t any exaggeration that over the recent months, Dhoni and his men have been entertaining more number of plastic chairs than anybody else and are probably hearing the echo of their own shots rather than the blaring noise from the crowd. And if that fact needs any evidence we have it from the recently concluded ODI series against England, none of the grounds where even half full throughout the series, complimentary passes found no takers and despite the reduction of ticket prices by as much as 50%, the crazy Indian fan didn’t find it worthwhile to drag himself there, quite an alarming situation considering the kind of following we have for the sport here.
Blame it all on the amount of cricket being played; the interest in the game has gradually begun to subside. Perhaps the last time the Indian fan watched a game out of passion was the WC final but, before the historic win could even be assimilated we had the IPL coming, less than a week later, followed by the tour to West Indies, the thrashing at England, the Champions league and recently the home series against England and West Indies. And now after this entire back-to-back feeding of cricket, we now have an alarming trend of viewer fatigue in the country, with cricket being the sole loser.
With jam- packed calendars and poor planning of tours, which has often led to playing the same teams over and again within a span of 2-3 months, the administration, though have allayed fears of viewer burnout, has certainly not done enough to keep the fan base intact. Despite the low turnouts the ticket prices have always remained at the peak and the overall administration in the recent past has been poor forcing many people to in fact look beyond the game. And probably that is exactly where many other sports like Tennis have succeeded in the recent past, the Tennis calendar is well organized with tournaments having sufficient gaps between them, which not only helps the players but the viewers too, the expectation is still the same after the break and the players and viewers both alike are raring to go, something of an ideal system that has certainly avoided the possibility of an overkill unlike the case of cricket.
The message is perhaps clear, the Indian fan is no longer to be taken for granted and like with everything else even Cricket in this country needs a radical change and it’s certainly time the BCCI take some steps towards improving the quality of the game rather than the quantity.
And I’m sure that with proper planning of the cricket calendar and sufficient rest, for both the players and viewers, in between the fixtures, it wouldn’t be a difficult task to rejuvenate the interest in the minds of the Indian fan for, with most of them the passion still remains only that it needs to be reinstated.