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Limited overs unlimited

At the risk of sounding like Doomsday Dhiraj, is having a cricket tournament with 49 matches spread over 42 days pushing the legendary subcontinental enthusiasm for cricket to its teetering edge?

india Updated: Sep 01, 2011 10:32 IST

Here we are now at the start of the World Cup. We sure hope we will be entertained.

At the risk of sounding like Doomsday Dhiraj, is having a cricket tournament with 49 matches spread over 42 days pushing the legendary subcontinental enthusiasm for cricket to its teetering edge? Going by our voracious appetite for watching the game, especially its two limited overs formats, one would think not. And yet, even as the World Cup — the two words signifying a contest between those playing any sport at its highest qualitative level — kicks off today in Dhaka between Bangladesh and India, we do have a niggling feeling that World Cup fatigue may set in by the time, say, Canada and New Zealand play their group stage match on March 13 in Mumbai. We saw what happened in the last World Cup in 2007 in West Indies when a record number of 16 countries played over 47 days, the longest tournament ever. (The 2008 Beijing Olympics ran for 16 days; the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games for 11 days.)

Luckily, the subcontinent is not the West Indies where the game’s popularity has taken a beating for a while now. But empty stands don’t look pretty, especially on television, no matter how many crores are earned from ‘global TV rights’. Even if teams are trained to focus on the job at hand each time they enter the field, playing back-to-back matches for one-and-a-half months can affect even the most steely minded. There is the distinct possibility that the champion team will be the one that gets least bored. However, let’s not get all grumpy now. For millions the World Cup in the subcontinent is ‘on tap’ — to be savoured when the cricket enthusiast thinks it’s the right time to take a sip, or while cheering his or her home team, a glug. So one hopes that apart from big draws like the Australia-Pakistan match exactly a month from today in Colombo getting the eyeballs, there will be a build-up in the show.

The one-day format came into being to put some life into the game of cricket that was seeing far too many yawn-inducing drawn Test matches. The logic of minnows like Canada and the Netherlands being in the fray till the end of the league matches may not catch everybody’s fancy. But there was a time when India in the pecking order was a Bangladesh and Canada was a Bangladesh. So upsets could be tipping points in a cricketing nation’s history. Which brings us to a scary possibility: what if the big boys India and Pakistan get knocked out by a minnow before reaching the quarter finals? After all, what are the chances of that happening for the second World Cup in a row?