When India crashed out of the World Cup, I (along with a few million other Indians) tuned out of the tournament. Obituaries are already being written about the future of Indian cricket.
Television viewership of cricket has dropped, advertisers have scratched expensive campaigns and everybody who is connected with the game in anyway is having a tough time.
Including, importantly, the fans. The millions who religiously watch every India match, making television broadcast rights in India the most expensive in the world. No wonder Zee TV chief Subhash Chandra appears confident that with an outlay of around Rs 100 crore, he would be able to rewrite cricket history in India.
Chandra’s flanker is, for the moment at least, a peripheral annoyance for Indian cricket’s administrators. Survival is a bigger issue at the moment. Everybody and his aunt has already come out with advice on what India should do to resurrect its status as a world superpower in cricket.
There is no shortage of consultants, provided Team India, and more specifically the game’s controlling body, the Board of Cricket Control for India (BCCI), want their services. Even Infosys Chief mentor and Indian IT’s most respected business leader, NR Narayana Murthy, has offered to help.
Perhaps the BCCI should take him a bit more seriously. Not just his advice, which is sound, but the industry he represents.
India’s information technology strengths could well be tapped to regenerate interest in cricket, especially among India’s growing numbers of affluent (well, middle class certainly) urban kids, who tend to watch more cricket on TV than actually play it, given the acute shortage of space in most Indian cities.
Soccer and Formula 1 racing, as well as “extreme sports” like dirt-bike races and suchlike, are building a growing following among Indian kids. These games are also among the hottest sellers in the world of computer games.
Coincidence? I think not.
How many people play computer games? Outsource magazine estimates it over half a billion worldwide. But they are talking serious gamers here, who use everything from PCs and mobiles to advanced gaming consoles like Sony’s Playstation or Microsoft’s X-Box, which cost as much as a high-end computer.
But almost everybody who uses a computer has probably played computer Solitaire, arguably Microsoft’s greatest gift to office computing.
Game development today is a $10-billion-plus industry in the US alone. And India is making active inroads into this lucrative market.
According to an AC Nielsen survey, the Indian gaming industry is expected to be a major player in the global wireless gaming space.
That’s because India has a huge cost dge. A typical game title has a development budget of anything between $6-10 million. It is even higher for high-profile sports like soccer and F1 racing, where fat licence fees are paid to the administrative bodies of the sport.
Indian gaming firms can do the job in under $1 million, which gives them a huge edge. Leading Indian game companies like Indiagames, Dhruva Interactive, Mobile2Win, etc, have global clients.
But the only official computer cricket game developed for the current World Cup came from Gambience, a Canadian gaming company.
Canada also made it to the World Cup. Coincidence? Perhaps. But maybe it’s time the BCCI engaged seriously with the gaming industry.