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Just a game

The Indian cricket team is in Pakistan and the first Test begins on Friday. Yet, a recent hindustantimes.com poll shows that 78.9 per cent people believe this series clearly lacks the excitement of the historic one in 2004 .

india Updated: Jan 12, 2006 02:26 IST

The Indian cricket team is in Pakistan and the first Test begins on Friday. Yet, a recent hindustantimes.com poll shows that 78.9 per cent people believe this series clearly lacks the excitement of the historic one in 2004 .

Clearly the enthusiasm has been further dampened by the fact that the matches will not be available to a larger audience, courtesy Doordarshan getting rights merely for the highlights and radio rights still hanging in the balance.

Advertisers are now biting the spots on Ten Sports, for, with the presence of innumerable new brands and the largesse of an Indo-Pak encounter, the opportunity is too big to be missed.

“It is as big for advertisers now,” says Me-enakshi Mad-hvani, proprietor of media audit agency Spatial Access, “especially

with Ten Sports being the single channel for the telecast, advertisers are sure that viewership will not be fragmented.”

But television cricketing icon Harsha Bhogle points out that the main issue is being missed out in the emphasis on pre-series stories across TV channels, and the real drama will only unfold with the first ball being bowled.

“I think this entire focus on the build up is way too insipid,” says the pioneer of tele-cricket analysis. “And yes, playing three series in 22 months is way too much cricket between the two countries,” he adds.

Historic hysteria

India’s 2004 tour of Pakistan was indeed a gala affair. Hordes of fans from this side of the border — besides a huge brigade of journalists — made the trip to Pakistan.

Coverage on TV extended beyond cricket. It was also about discovering the new Pakistan — replete with Lahore’s food street culture, the colours that define the people, their warmth and history. The queues outside the Pakistani High Commission in Delhi for visas was maddening and said it all — our (just-befriended) neighbour was opening up and we were in a mood to explore what lay beyond those long-shunned borders. Of course, every match was a sell-out.

Less hype = more cricket

That is certainly not the case this time around, though the same set of Mallyas and Singhanias will be strutting their patriotism from the premium seats for the flashlights, while Sourav Ganguly negotiates flashes of lightning from

Shoaib and Chappellian jurisdiction in the middle and off it, respectively.

The Ganguly question hangs once again, as the biggest factor in the mother of all battles. Except of co-urse, that this time around there is a strong sense of déjà vu, in every story replayed for the umpteen number of times across every channel.

The hoopla is clearly missing. We’ve ‘discovered’ Pakistan, perhaps, and this series seems like just any other for cricket buffs.

An Indo-Pak cricket match is no longer ‘war’ for either side — thanks to the 2004 dosti series, we aren’t ‘enemies’ anymore.

So, is it good for cricket at large? Reasons former Indian cricketer Atul Wassan: “The last series was hyped because we played against Pakistan, in Pakistan, after such a long time. Now Indo-Pak matches are a regular affair — just like any other matches. It’s good for the game of cricket because the focus will be on the sport only.”

Whether visa seekers will make a beeline despite the below-normal mercury behaviour in the northern part of the subcontinent just to savour warm hospitality, is doubtful.

I guess, we are better off sitting before TV sets tucking into the local biryani.