By......The Commoner (Hubbrz.com)
After winning World Cup 2011, the popularity of Cricket was expected to skyrocket, but a spate of poor performance, competition from other sports, and the rot of match fixing allegations and scams has damaged the game’s popularity, which some say is, irreparable. It will be interesting to see what the future has in store for our beloved game in India and across the world.
When I write this, the Sunday Times, London, has recently carried out a sting operation on a Delhi-based bookie who claims last year's World Cup semi-final between India and Pakistan at Mohali was rigged. According to the sting, Vicky Seth, described as one of Delhi's most influential bookmakers made some revelations during a drinking session with an undercover Sunday Times reporter who also videotaped the conversation. The same reporter had in 2010 exposed three Pakistani cricketers, who were later convicted for indulging in "spot-fixing" in the News of the World newspaper.
This is another big dent in the reputation of the game which takes pride in calling itself, “The Gentlemen’s’ Game.” The Game was already grappling with a number of issues related to performances on the field, especially in India with the poor results in the away tours of England and more recently in Australia, and these match fixing allegations only compounds the current state of deterioration.
Another factor that has been detrimental to the game has been the mismanagement of the game by the Indian national body of BCCI and its so called parent organisation, the ICC. The perceived hegemony of the BCCI hasn’t won it any admirers and ICC is still considered to spineless and hesitant to act against the overwhelming influence of BCCI and its allies which many agree is taking the game backwards many years instead of forward. The casing point being the reluctant of the BCCI led block to embrace technology and innovations in the game.
It is also no surprise that BCCI is considered to be the dictator of the cricketing world and doesn’t seem to be in any mood to rollback or be flexible on its very stringent stance. So, by any chance if it does get into trouble, it shouldn’t expect any sympathizers coming along to help out. The greatest effort of the ICC to improve or rectify the current status-quo of messy mismanagement was the Lord Woolf report that was truly promising, which is catching dust at the ICC headquarters in Dubai while the administrators are acting like headless chickens without a proper vision or direction to head towards.
Another issue that the BCCI and the ICC has been lambasted for is its apathy towards getting the sport into the Olympics which many sports enthusiasts like me are very passionate about and hold near to our heart, but the authorities couldn’t seem to care less as they seem to be believe it isn’t worth their time. Hence, it is no surprise that many sports fan have started to veer away from the sport to others that holds the promise for Olympics and national glory, including, hockey, badminton, boxing, wrestling, and shooting et cetera.
Rugby Sevens, which is considered to be a contemporary of Cricket, is set to debut in the Olympics in 2016. It’s a real shame that synchronised swimming is an Olympic sport while Cricket is not, and for a sport that is played by millions and millions, it is really unfortunate. It is even more surprising that the fans of the sport haven’t been more persistent and even pushy in coercing the ICC and BCCI to get the sport recognized as an Olympic sport.
The attendances at Cricket matches, especially Tests and ODI have been dwindling not only in countries like the traditional bastion of Cricket like the West Indies, South Africa, and Australia falling at alarming rates, but also in India where the stadia bears a deserted look, especially in tests, which is real shocking. Only T20 seems to be bucking this trend.
Even in the series in Australia involving three of the biggest cricketing nations, India, Australia, and Sri Lanka, the attendance was disappointing to say the least and should set the alarm off for the authorities in question. It is a clear indication that the fans won’t just take whatever is served up to them and demand better not only on the field but off field as well.
Another factor that is acting against the popularity of the game is that 2012 is the year of the Olympics being hosted by London and UEFA Euro 2012 co-hosted by Ukraine and Poland, so the traditional viewers of Cricket have a lot more option than they had earlier. These events are also one of the most popular events in the world, and it is not startling that Cricket has had to haggle for its share of the eyeballs and the ad revenues associated with it.
Even the traditional supporters of Cricket, including behemoths like Pepsi, Coke, Nike, adidas, and even Sahara, have indicated that they are looking at other options that offer more targeted audience, which is obviously much cheaper and are an attractive proposition.
In keeping with this trend, entrepreneurial leagues like the Hockey Premier League in India launched in 2012, is off to an encouraging start. Also, the prospect of the Premier League Soccer (PLS) in Bengal, which has already garnered national and international interest to be launched soon, seems positive and has attracted some big names in the world of football and promises to add spice to the already competitive race to get its share of the sports loving populace.
No matter where you look, many big multinational as well as national firms have become active with their football and Olympic themed advertisements, which includes Pepsi with Randhir Kapoor and their, “Change the Game,” campaign; Coke with their ads offering tickets to the Olympics, and Mountain Dew, with ads featuring Sushil kumar and Vijender Singh also targeting the Olympics that has created a buzz and is proof that other sports indeed holds promise for corporates who are eager to tap into. All these points to the fact that the sponsorship purse for Cricket is being circulated around, and Cricket certainly has a fight on its hands to keep the biggest piece of the pie for itself.
So, guys, we all know Cricket is going nowhere and it will always be close to our heart, but it is the risk of complacency and lethargy that we have to guard against. It is us fans who have to make sure that we keep the stewards of our game always do the best for the betterment of the sport and they don’t let up in anyway and don’t let IPL be the yardstick of success that our Cricket is judged by.
Here’s hoping that whatever challenges we face now, our sport only emerges strongest when everything is done and dusted. I am sure as long as the sport has fans that are prepared to ask questions and are willing to do whatever it takes, our game will always be in safe hands.
Do share what you think on this subject. I will be delighted to hear from you. Adios guys. Remember, study hard, party harder and play hardest!