The two surest indicators of the success of any cricket event are, in that order, the crowd turnout and player satisfaction. On both counts, the World T20 has been found severely wanting. Cricket tours to the Caribbean are meant to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Here are some reasons why it would not necessarily be a bad thing if the Caribbean experience was indeed once-in-a-lifetime:
The home of Calypso and some of the biggest legends of the game, the region is where cricket was once truly appreciated. The ICC did its best to undermine this in 2007 50-over World Cup. The event was long and stripped of local flavour as overzealous anti-ambush marketing officials disallowed fans from entering the ground with anything but the bare minimum. They reversed the trend in 2010, marketing the event with a “Bring it” slogan that allowed fans to watch cricket as they are used to — blowing conches, beating drums and drinking beer. However, the ICC shot itself in the foot starting matches at 9.30am, to suit Indian TV timings, and the crowds voted with their feet. Those at the grounds could only remember one full house in the event, a West Indies match.
Travelling between islands in the West Indies has never been a smooth ride, but some of the horror stories from this tournament need repeating. The major airline, Liat (variously expanded to Luggage In Another Town or Leaves Island Any Time) once put Sunil Gavaskar in a jump seat along side the pilots. At other times, people with confirmed reservations were offloaded, flights left either half an hour before scheduled time or after and scores were left stranded without their baggage. Proper infrastructure is the first check before awarding a region or country a major event. Either the ICC could not fix problems, or just overlooked them.
The day Pakistan had played their semis against Australia, they were left with nowhere to go when the game ended. The players had no hotel rooms to stay in for nearly five hours after they’d finished their match, and sat around watching the women’s semifinal in St Lucia till rooms were readied.
India fared no better, forced to check out of their hotel several hours before they departed, crammed into one small room they were assigned earlier in the tournament to hold meetings.
“People routinely complain when they have to come to India. But looking at things in today’s age, there’s no better place in terms of infrastructure — hotels or travel,” said Ravi Shastri, who was once forced to buy new clothes before a game as his luggage had not arrived.
Pitching it right
The fun of watching bowlers calling the shots after a slew of IPL matches where batsmen feasted was a refreshing sight. At the Kensington Oval, the extra bounce and pace forced batsmen to adapt or perish. Australia’s bowlers made the most of the conditions, and watching batsmen duck and weave for a change was a delight. At St Lucia the bounce was missing, but a bit of grip and turn brought spinners into the game.
Disappointing as the results were for India, the quality of cricket in several matches has been immensely uplifting, none more so than Australia’s dramatic win in the semifinal. Afghanistan, who qualified through the ranks, could not provide the Bollywood ending everyone hoped for, but they acquitted themselves well and proved that the ICC’s efforts in spreading the game to new areas is bearing fruit.