If the game's administrators fail to institute systemic changes ,the passion for cricket in the country may start to wane
India’s magnificent World Cup victor saw the game’s popularity scaling new heights in a nation, which is renowned for its cricket frenziness. The victory was supposed to usher in an era of Indian cricket’s global domination both on and off the field. Coupled with the high octane IPL, with all its glitz and glamour, everything seemed hunky dory for Indian cricket.
Cut to 2012, the Indian cricket scenario is one that was least expected. The Indian team has been plunged into a quagmire of heavy defeats and poor form of top players, an abyss from which it seemingly cannot extricate itself. Subsequently the game’s popularity is at an all time low amongst viewers. Sponsors are refusing to splurge out, questioning the rationale behind such premium pricing when the product itself is not selling.
IPL No Longer Glamorous...
The signs were ominous at this year’s lackluster IPL (Indian Premier League) auction where the only news that grabbed the headlines was Sahara’s sudden withdrawal not only as owners of the Puna Warriors franchisee but also as the official sponsors of the national team. The auctions this time around were pretty bland compared to earlier years, which is a clear sign of brand IPL losing its former luster. Although Sahara maintained that the principal cause for snapping ties with the BCCI was disagreements over IPL auction rules,their decision is a major blow to brand IPL. Not only this, there is serious confusion hovering over the fifth edition of IPL, which is symptomatic of the current state of Indian cricket.
The IPL itself was supposed to be a cash cow for BCCI, which they hoped to milk indefinitely. The combination of cricket and Bollywood seemed to be an infallible concoction which would never lose its appeal. But the reality is panning out in a different ad unexpected way.
It was very evident from last year itself, that IPL is losing its appeal to the masses. A mindblowing 30% drop in television ratings made IPL 2011 the worst as far as viewership was concerned. The timing of the IPL, which started just six weeks after India’s World Cup victory, was one of the reasons for this low viewership. Also the tournament’s problems were compounded by the off field controversies regarding the future of couple franchises, which saw the franchisee owners getting into a vicious battle with the BCCI. Too many meaningless matches and a protracted format which took seven weeks to finish, was a definite turn off for the viewers.
An Overdose Of Meaningless Cricket
It is not only the falling popularity of IPL that should concern the top honchos of BCCI. The euphoria that the World cup victory managed to create,gave the impression that the cricket’s popularity in the country will peak. But following the team’s lackluster performance in England and currently in Australia, the reverse seems to be happening. The half empty stands that one witnessed during the One Day series, against England does not augur well for the game’s future. Such pathetic turnouts are a common scene in Test matches but for shorter format, it was completely unheard off. Too many meaningless bilateral series and premium pricing of the tickets are proving to be a deal breaker. Rahul Dravid also echoed the same sentiments in the recently held Bradman Oration, when he urged the governing bodies to seriously have a relook at different formats and understand what the fans are trying to convey. There are clear signs that cricket fatigue has set in and unlike previously, the burgeoning urban Indian middle class has other options he can explore on TV- from European football to F1 racing. BCCI’s woes are exacerbated by the national team’s shambolic performance which is increasingly making the general public feel indifferent towards the game.
With Indian cricket accounting for over two third of global revenues, its time for the BCCI to stop trying to squeeze out every bit of profit from the game and instead institute systemic changes to stem the rot that has set in and can potentially disrupt the future of cricket in this country