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Cricket’s global ambition needs ‘handling with care’

In that context organising matches in Florida may have been significant, but two things on Sunday acted as a dampner.

cricket Updated: Aug 29, 2016 14:33 IST
Pradeep Magazine
Virat Kohli (R) of India walks off the field dismissed by Dwayne Bravo of West Indies (L) as West Indies players celebrate during the 1st T20i between West Indies and India at Central Broward Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on August 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Randy BROOKS
Virat Kohli (R) of India walks off the field dismissed by Dwayne Bravo of West Indies (L) as West Indies players celebrate during the 1st T20i between West Indies and India at Central Broward Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on August 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Randy BROOKS(AFP)

The nerve-wracking, energy-sapping slug-fest that exploded in the form of T-20 cricket at Lauderhill in Florida on Saturday morning would have been a hard act to replicate even in the best of conditions.

But what transpired the next day was an advertisement of poor facilities at the ground that deprived the Indian diaspora of watching another possible thriller and must have left the organizers embarrassed and red-faced.

New areas

This two-match series was touted as “taking cricket to new areas,” in this case to a country where baseball is to people what cricket is to Indians. As was obvious from the largely Indian presence on the ground, the matches were played in the US to satisfy the need of the expatriates to watch India play live in their “home”.

The tickets, according to reports, were steeply priced – ranging from $75 to $250 – and that could be the reason why the ground, with a modest capacity of 15,000, was not overflowing with spectators, especially on the second day. In any case, the money which the Indian and West Indian Boards must have made from the matches would come from the television rights, regardless of where the matches were held. The ostensible target may have been the Indo-Americans but in reality it is the television audiences at home that bring in the revenue.

A few years back, in a seminar at the Leeds University in England, when IPL had just been introduced into the Indian market, one of the speakers had said that the ultimate ambition of administrators should be to spread the game in China!

However misplaced his overenthusiastic optimism may have been, in reality if, say an India-Pakistan match is played even in Beijing, the revenue from the telecasting rights will still hit the roof. The point being made is that even while the Indian Board would want us to believe that by taking cricket to America, they are trying to break fresh ground, there is no escaping from the hard fact that this sport is a colonial legacy and is popular in only those countries which were once ruled by Great Britain.

Not that this is reason enough not to make an effort to spread the game to new places and countries. The advent of T-20 cricket, which is much shorter, crisper and far less nuanced than its longer version, has given hope that newer, uninitiated audiences too would follow this game.

In that context organising matches in Florida may have been significant, but two things on Sunday acted as a dampner. One was the poor facilities at the ground, that resulted in the match being abandoned in bright sun-shine despite just 20 minutes of rain. The second was the delayed start because of a possible failure of satellite link that would have deprived the television audiences of live coverage.

According to reports, in the absence of any public address system the spectators at the ground had no clue why the start of the match was getting delayed. Even those watching in India were not told the real reason for the delay. Since the scheduled timings of an international match are not adjusted to suit the requirement of television coverage, one can understand the reluctance of the commentators to reveal the real reason. The next time the Indian Board decides to woo new territories to popularise cricket, mishaps like these are highly avoidable.