“Kam hai bache, business thanda hai (fewer kids, business is lukewarm)” is the refrain of the cricket community this season, from academies to equipment manufacturers.
“Last year, we had around 90-95 trainees, this year they are around 60,” says Santosh Salvi, a full-time coach who has run a camp in Powai Vihar for more than a decade. But he puts the lukewarm response down to the heatwave sweeping Mumbai.
Salvi is not really tuned into the happenings in Indian cricket and its impact at ground level. Asked if there could be other reasons, like the controversies in Indian cricket, he says: “…this time the IPL is happening outside India, so it hasn’t really caught on. It should change when it comes to India.”
The fact is the cricket fever just hasn’t caught on.
Watching IPL stars being escorted to jail, the BCCI president’s son-in-law getting embroiled in a betting scandal, the hammering by the Supreme Court and general elections generating unprecedented interest all seem to have hurt interest in the game.
The numbers are still massive, but the growth of the game has taken a hit. A clear indicator is business. There is a dip in sales at the retail level as well as at the manufacturer’s end.
Dharmesh Nadkarni, whose family owned one of the oldest sports goods shops in Mumbai, Nadkarni Sports, at Metro before branching out to Thane, says, “Earlier, in April-May we used to have very good business because of IPL. Now, it doesn’t depend so much on IPL. Sales growth of one to five per cent doesn’t make a big difference; more than 15 per cent is a significant figure. That’s the difference between previous seasons and this time.”
Nadkarni says business has been slack in last two summers. Nadkarni Sports was opened in 1896 and most Mumbai Test players were among its clients.
The controversies have led to uncertainties. “People are intelligent enough to understand. For cricket, it’s very sad. Earlier, people used to go to enjoy cricket, its technicalities. Now, they don’t take it seriously, they just come to enjoy the atmosphere,” he says.
The impact is being felt by the industry as well. Paras Anand, Director of Sanspareils & Greenlands Pvt. Ltd, one of the largest cricket equipment companies, says: “The numbers are not as high as two years ago. This season it has been lukewarm. Every (IPL) season there used to be so much excitement. Last year, for the first time, it didn’t get converted at retail level.
“For the first five IPL editions, year-on-year, the growth was 20-30%. That was due to the number of kids going to coaching clinics. In the last two seasons, it hasn’t grown even by 5%, so it’s a drop of 20%. We can feel that gap,” he tells HT. Anand hopes once school vacation begins, things will improve. “Last year, the scandal happened, and this time people are more interested in what Modi, Rahul or Priyanka are saying.”
Nadkarni says the names in the envelope (submitted by the Mudgal Committee to the SC) have sown doubts in the minds of people. The BCCI hasn’t helped things by not being transparent.
The TAM for the first week (of IPL) has been released, and figures show popularity has slipped each year in the last three seasons. The IPL’s average first-week viewership has marginally dropped from 2013. The average television viewer ratings (TVR) for the first week is 3.1. It was 3.9 in 2012 and 3.8 in 2013.