The talk of Test cricket being on its last legs could be real. What else does one make of empty stadiums that boasted of huge turnouts until not long back, even in lacklustre series.
But is it only the longer format that's failing to draw spectators? If the number of spectators in the
stadiums is a fair indicator of the health of the game, ODIs, too, look under the weather. Didn't the recent India-England series, touted as the payback series, saw low turnout?
And contrary to popular perception, it's not T20 cricket that's luring away spectators from the longer formats. This format, too, was played out in front of empty chairs, case in point being the Champions League.
While the television ratings might blur the picture a bit, the truth is, if people have stopped venturing out to watch a match, it wouldn't take them long to turn off their TV sets too.
Gone are the days when people would stay glued to television sets to watch cricket. With matches increasing manifold, people have started to pick and choose.
So it would be rather ambitious to expect people watch India taking on England and the West Indies twice in three months. And thus, there has to be a context to every cricket game and contest. There's no fun in watching India decimate the West Indies in home conditions or play 10 ODIs against England in little over a month.
Scheduling it right
Starting a Test match on a Monday is, perhaps, the surest way of keeping people away from the ground.
And if the opposition happens to be the current West Indian team, the chances are normally doubled. Considering the low turnouts, even in places like the Eden Gardens, it's essential to think the itinerary through. We must ensure that Test matches start on Thursday to make sure people watch the most important days (Day 3 and 4) of the match without missing offices and schools.
Too much cricket
We must also acknowledge there's far too much cricket. It may not be a bad idea to do away with meaningless bilateral series and instead have more multi-nation tournaments. Bilateral series, if at all, should happen only between two evenly matched sides.
It isn't a particular format that is dying but it's the boring cricket that's is on a ventilator.
The writer’s book Out of the Blue was released on Nov 15