We are almost at the end of the IPL 2019 season, and the evenings for the past 2 months have been mostly been spent in front of a screen watching your favorite team play.
Though, as the title of this article might suggest, I have kind of stopped paying heed to the game.
Ok, before you crucify me for not being a lover of the game, let me clarify that I have nothing against the game or die hard fans of the game. All I am saying is I have lost interest in following which tournament is going on, or who is playing who. My Cricket viewing is now restricted to social circles and I get my stats from water cooler conversations ( or sometimes watching the last 5 overs of the 2nd innings which is where the most excitement is).
I am sure there are some amongst you who might profess the same, albeit not publicly. Also, I see the numbers of our kind growing in recent times. This might be a factor of age, our changing lifestyle, or the problem of plenty options that one has at their disposal to pass their time nowadays.
Here, I have enlisted a few of my reasons why I think cricket has dropped down my priority list:
Too much cricket
I think one of the foremost reasons the dwindling interest is just having too much of cricket nowadays. While earlier there were the ODI and the test format, the number of matches played have almost doubled since IPL started back in 2008. Just to give you an estimate, an average team plays around 10 test matches and 20 ODIs per year. A die Hard cricket fan would spend 70 days watching cricket if he wants the complete dose. Now factor in 60 IPL matches to it, and the viewing days just doubles up. This is assuming the audience is following only one team. The numbers would be higher if they follow multiple teams.
With the life of a match not lasting past two days and a series barely a week in public memory, the saturation has meant that every match gives the déjà vu feel of a formulaic movie with just minor adjustment of faces. The constant cycle of matches have deprived performances, match situations and results of a context to sink in, and the time frame to stick in public imagination. A scintillating hundred or a match winning five wicket haul is robbed of its aura if it’s repeated thrice a week.
Consider an allegory of food: Lets say you love to have Biriyani. While you have the usual home food everyday, you love to order biriyani whenever you are out with friends and know the places where you get the best ones. Now, if you are given biriyani everyday, slowly you will get bored of it. The taste would become stale and you would not be able to enjoy it as much as you used to. You would then start craving the home food or want to try something different. The same thing is happening with cricket.
Players and teams jump from game to game and from tournament to tournament without letting the emotions of the previous game sink in.
Cricket is one of the only international games which has been shrinking. Instead of including more nations into the group, we have been making the number of nations playing lesser and lesser.
The ICC has a two-tier system of membership: Full Members (test playing nations) and Associates. A majority of the 16 executive directors of the ICC are representatives of the Full Member national boards. There are only 3 representatives for the 92 Associate Members.
For the 2007–15 period, broadcast revenue was $1.2 billion, of which the Associates and Affiliates (a category now collapsed into Associates) received $125 million in all. Each of the Full Members received $52.5 million.
The ICC is celebrating “a hundred years of cricket” this year. And yet there are presently only 10 Full Members out of a total of 104 Member countries. A game which aspires to be the “world’s favorite sport” is lumbered with a 10-team in 2019 World Cup and, for the first time, will feature no Associate nations at all. Countries like Kenya, Zimbabwe and Ireland are not even a part of the 2019 world cup.
Till now, there have been 25 countries who have played ODI cricket, and 12 teams who have also played test cricket (Afghanistan and Ireland both have played 2 tests). However, we only see the players of the top 10 teams being reshuffled even in the IPL.
A lot of it has to do with the commerce of it.
The roots of the reduction go back to March 17, 2007, a day that sent shock waves through cricket. It featured two huge upsets at the World Cup in the West Indies, with Ireland beating Pakistan and Bangladesh knocking off India.
Not that cricket officials were celebrating. The results meant that India and Pakistan did not make it out of the group stages, and the India-Pakistan match planned for the next round never materialized.
Sponsors were aghast. While the I.C.C. had already sold all the television rights to the tournament, its commercial partners, who had signed up expecting that India would play at least nine matches, suffered huge losses. The value of television advertising during matches slumped without India taking part.
The commercial disaster was a reflection of cricket’s deeply unbalanced economy, with some estimating that more than 70 to 80 percent of the revenue is being generated by India.
So when the format for future World Cups was being designed, the I.C.C. knew what sponsors wanted: a guarantee that India would be far more involved in the tournament than it was in 2007. The I.C.C. set about designing a format to ensure that India played as many matches as possible, even if it performed poorly.
The Indian Bias
Cricket has over one billion fans globally, with the Indian sub-continent alone constituting more than 90 percent of them, according to the largest ever market research into the sport conducted by the ICC.
BCCI is the richest sports body in the world across all sports played in the world. The revenue from Broadcasting and brands in India makes it the centrepoint of all revenue channels for ICC.
Even the resource allocation wise, India is allocated 1/3rd of all resources while the rest of the countries. Apart from India, Australia and England, all the other cricketing federations neither have resources nor the pull of good players to train and make them world class.
So in conclusion…
Where is the competition if the player strength is skewed in one country?
IPL kind of levels the game where the players from all nationalities are distributed across teams, but that is a private entity and not a nationalistic endavour. Biases like not playing pakistani players still give a skewed outlook to the game.
The weird part is Sikandar Raza, the man of the series of the world cup qualifier belongs to Zimbabwe, a team which is not even playing the world cup.
As he puts it, “When I started playing cricket, I thought it was to unite countries, players of different background coming together to play this beautiful sport. Unfortunately, you’ll see that’s not going to happen in next year’s World Cup. It’s certainly quite a tough pill to swallow.”