An overkill, no doubt

Virat Kohli celebrates his half centuryin the fourth ODI, with little or no crowd to acknowlege it in the background.-AP

The empty stands during the Champions League and the India-England one-day series were a warning that the calendar needs to be reasonably well spaced out if the interest of the public is to be sustained.

It is rather an irony that when there is a lot of talk about players getting burnt out due to excessive dose of cricket, it is easy to overlook the fatigue syndrome of the main participants of any sport. Yes, I am referring to the spectators who are responsible for cricket to become the huge money spinner that it has in recent years.

Without their enthusiasm and support, the millions of dollars that have rolled into the BCCI's coffers would have been a distant dream. However, the public reminded the administrators that they can also get disinterested and stay away from the arena if they are stuffed with too much of cricket.

The empty stands during the Champions League and the India-England one-day series were a warning that the calendar needs to be reasonably well spaced out if the interest of the public is to be sustained. The half full stands during the one-day series between England and India at venues where crowds would throng to see their heroes was indicative of the fact that their interest and enthusiasm is directly proportional to the depth of pockets as it is inversely proportional to the frequency of cricket.

The administrators need to take notice of the fact that it is not just that people are reluctant to go through the turnstiles but they are gradually becoming averse to watching the game in the comfort of their living rooms as well.

This is a dangerous sign because loads of money are raked in through television rights. As a result, the administrators in recent times have ceased to depend too much on income generated through sale of tickets. With the latest TRP figures revealing less than flattering results with regard to cricket viewership, the time has come to think of ways to keep the goose that lays the golden eggs hale and healthy.

For an incorrigible cricket enthusiast, nothing gives him more pleasure than watching his National team play but to expect him to watch his favourite side and his heroes play non-stop almost for a period six months is asking for too much. The need to ensure that the public interest in retained is of paramount importance for more reasons than one in the larger interests of the game.

There are several associations which are upgrading their existing stadium or building new stadiums incurring huge costs. Of course, they do get a subsidy from the BCCI but very rarely an association ends up improving the infrastructure without exceeding the subsidy amount received from the apex body.

Obviously those associations will be looking forward to recover the money spent on the upgraded/new stadium sometime in the future and that depends largely on public support. It will be unwise to sit back on the notion that the current situation will prevail in the future as well. The television channels will scurry to locate the exit clauses in the contracts when they take a huge pounding as a result of continued dip in the TRP. One can say that I am hitting the panic button too soon but it is to be safe than sorry especially when there is a lot at stake.

It is a lot easier to miss out on the harsh reality at times and if at all one happens to walk into a ground where the BCCI tournaments are played, one is left wondering if the associations are receiving any subsidy at all given that there are hardly noticeable changes at most venues.

The supersoppers are not in working condition more often than not and the pitches are hardly anything to talk about. I have played at some venues a couple of decades ago and during my recent visits to the same venues I felt there has been one significant change in all these years — that I have got longer in the tooth.

It is rather sad that there is no way of monitoring whether the associations utilise the money ploughed back to them in the best manner possible. It was a case of the BCCI giving the affiliate associations the space to carry out their operations without any interference. But now that the BCCI is under threat of coming under the RTI act, the onus is on the apex body to ensure that it is not embarrassed due to the laxity of its affiliates.

The belief that the money is put to good use all the time by all the associations is a misplaced one and the sooner a mechanism is worked out to ensure that it is the case, the better it will be for all concerned. The main reason cited for the upgrading of the stadiums across the country was to enhance the spectator comfort. It cannot be restricted to the spectators turning up for the international matches only. At a time when public interest is on the wane, enhancing spectator comfort at venues where first class matches are played might be the right move to rekindle the interest.