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India vs West Indies: In land of Viv Richards, few takers for international cricket

Very few have turned out to see the India vs West Indies matches in the Caribbean this time around.

india vs west indies 2017 Updated: Jul 03, 2017 00:27 IST
Khurram Habib
Khurram Habib
Hindustan Times, North Sound (Antigua)
India vs West Indies 2017,India vs West Indies,India vs Windies
The West Indies vs India series so far has been played in front of empty stands.(AP)

The taxi driver who dropped this correspondent to the Sir Viv Richards Stadium here is the president of the Antigua and Barbuda Cricket Umpires Association (ABCUA).

James Steven has been in the post for the past 17 years, he says, and is in charge of recruiting umpires for these islands.

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Asked if he is planning to attend the match later in the day, he says, “I am not interested. I have a living to make.”

Steven was the third umpire in an international between West Indies and South Africa in the late 1990s and has 37 years experience of umpiring in the domestic circuit, first-class and local league in these islands.

Losing interest

He still umpires some local games in Antigua, but only when there is a shortage of officials.

“Back in my days, we had 5-6 first class matches and a panel of 36 umpires. There used to be a fight for umpiring. Now, the matches have doubled as each team plays the other twice and the panel has been reduced to 12. A lot of us from those days who have grown old have other jobs.”

Steven’s disinterest reflects the prevailing mood on the island. Some have asked if there is a Test going on, others don’t know which team is visiting, and there are still others who don’t even know whether there is international cricket happening.

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Former greats Viv Richards and Andy Roberts came to the game the last time, the former with his daughter, but Curtly Ambrose and Richie Richardson are out of the country.

Ambrose’s and Richardson’s band played at the King’s Casino on Friday night, but they were not there. There is crowd for all these jigs even in this off-season but none for cricket.

Zero publicity

What seems to have added to the problem is that there has been no publicity for this series and Cricket West Indies (West Indies Cricket Board’s new name) seems content with the money from TV broadcast, hoping the Indian viewership is good enough.

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BCCI General Manager-cricket, MV Sridhar, told Indian journalists here that he had asked local cricket officials to let in the crowd for free before the last match. “I told them to throw open the gates. That is the only way you can try to bring in crowds.”

Unfortunately, there was no further discussion to that effect.

First Published: Jul 02, 2017 23:44 IST