If the TAM ratings at the end of the first week of the Indian Premier League were a damning opening verdict for the telecasters, at least the venues have had better days. Casting aside fears that brand IPL could be further damaged by spectators not showing up at the stadiums, numbers show the teams have so far been able to hold on to their fans.
Majority of the matches were held in IPL's traditional strongholds — MA Chidambaram stadium in Chennai, M Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore, Sawai Man Singh stadium in Jaipur, Ferozshah Kotla in New Delhi and the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai — where luring the fans hasn't been much of a problem till now while other venues have different factors working in their favour.
Given that it was going to be Pune Warriors' first home match at the new Subrata Roy Sahara stadium along with the Bollywood-heavy opening ceremony, filling up the stands didn't seem to be a big deal. As another new IPL venue, Visakhapatnam could have ensured packed stadiums but for the Deccan Chargers' dismal run at home. Still, to a great extent, the impact of their poor showing was negated as the venue was awarded two of the most high-profile matches, against Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings.
The stadium recorded roughly 70% attendance for both games, although more fans came to watch Mumbai than Chennai.
The top draw
The reason though was not hard to fathom. Mahendra Singh Dhoni is a big crowd-puller but Sachin Tendulkar remains the top draw. Although Mumbai Indians played only the second tie in Visakhapatnam and Tendulkar did not play because of a finger injury, more people still came to see their hero. As it turns out, Mumbai too beats to Tendulkar's pulse. Even if he is unavailable for a game, his mere presence in the balcony or the dugout attracts more spectators. Also, the fact that the nucleus of the squad has remained intact even after last year's shuffling, and their Champions League triumph, has helped both matches at Wankhede to fill up the stands.
Some of the older bastions have had work to do to make it look good. Jaipur was helped by the fact that Rajasthan Royals distributed a lot of tickets for free. "All tickets were reported sold but 60% of those who attended matches were invitational ticket holders. People always like complimentary passes and there was no dearth of that this time," said an organiser in Jaipur.
Waiting in rain
Eden Gardens was almost packed and the spectators waited patiently despite heavy evening showers for the Kolkata Knight Riders' opening game against Delhi Daredevils to start. Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) joint secretary Biswarup Dey feels last year was an aberration in terms of poor attendances due to the World Cup hangover. "IPL started not even a week into India's World Cup win. People had had too much of cricket and hence IPL suffered a setback. But this year it's back to normal," said Dey, who felt Eden should be packed when KKR take on Sourav Ganguly's Pune Warriors on May 5.