Indian cricket has the richest sporting body in the cricket world in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). It is also competing with the richest football clubs in monetary terms. However, the Indian cricket follower is hardly reaping any benefits. In sharp contrast, the follower finds himself/herself in miserable situations. The latest case was the beating up a few cricket fans received from the police. Rediff reports – “Spectators had a harrowing time winding their way through a sea of baton-wielding security personnel, who swung left, right and center, causing grievous injuries to at least a dozen youngsters. A badly bruised boy, shirt soaked in blood, was refused help by a patrolling police van even as people begged to rush him to a nearby hospital.”
Harsha Bhogle pointed out a few years ago in an article that the real shareholders of Indian cricket are the fans. Fans means demand creation. Demand creation means possibility for corporates to sell their products. This in turn brings in money to cricket in general and Indian cricket in general.
However the same person who is responsible for bringing so much money into the game is treated like a foster child. Every step, every aspect sees the Indian cricket fan marginalized. When he wants to go to the stadium to see a match, he has to stand in the line for hours before he can get the precious tickets. This if the black market hasn’t already eaten up his ticket already. Why can a large portion of the tickets not be sold online?
If that doesn’t seem democratic enough or even (scoff) too modern, why not sell the tickets in at least 200 outlets in the city where the match is being held?
The Sunfeast Open at Calcutta, India’s first WTA, even saw advertisements and posters promoting the event and specifically stating at least 20 outlets where tickets for the event were being sold. I could buy the ticket while shopping or eating a sandwich at an outlet of one of the tournament sponsors for instance.
Parking of the car is the next hassle that has to be endured. If I am not in a *clout* and do not manage to get the special sticker for my car, I have to park my car a long distance from the stadium. Then begins the long distance walk towards the stadium. Is this BCCI’s secret plan to promote other sports? For I do not see them supporting other sports in any way. They do not even support the women’s cricket team.
Money isn’t the goal of sport. Money should mean an aid for sport more than any thing. Heck the BCCI doesn’t even pay proper attention to domestic cricket. So to expect them to support other sports is getting a wee bit carried away.
Right. Coming back to cricket. To go inside the stadium, the cricket fan has to leave the newspapers out of the stadium. So he cannot protect his butt from the rough cement seats. The fan cannot carry any food. Who cares about food when the fan cannot even carry water for a day in the stadium, which pans seven hours of live action? Of course this figure excludes 4-5 hours extra the fan has to keep in hand. Firstly for finding a car parking space. Secondly for the marathon walk. Then to go at least two hours early into the stadium to avoid the poor crowd management setup in the rush hours when most people are getting into the stadium.
Of course, you have to cope with the moody cop who will give you any seat except the seat you were assigned by the ticket you hold. Of course there isn’t enough space to sit. You get to know how sardines feel. Or better, how the bhaji in pav feels just before you chomp it in your mouth while you watch your heroes play in the field.
Most cricket fans in India are quite insane. Thus they follow the above procedure. Some others try to watch the game on television. There is an advertisement after every over. Which means an advertisement after every 4-5 minutes. People try to legitimize this by saying that money is good for the game. So the more, the better. Actually I am all for the influx of money into the game. But why should I not get at least 12 minutes of coverage without ads? I want insights into the game between over breaks. An ad every 4 minutes disturbs the flow of the game for the viewer. It feels as if I am watching a bit of cricket between ads, when it should feel the opposite. An advertisement every third over is acceptable. Any more ads isn’t.
After years of cricket watching, the fans must be getting used to the ads thingy. So the BCCI announces that a logo of the BCCI will accompany each game India plays. NBA style! BCCI wouldn’t stop there. The commentators will now be hired by the BCCI. So if the commentators don’t speak poorly about their bosses, do not blame them. Also, the commentary standards have been poor. Without naming specific people, I really feel sad when the commentary standards are better in matches played in most other nations IF not all other nations compared to matches played in India.
So why does the Indian fan — the real reason why the BCCI earn so much money, the real shareholder of cricket in India and the person who should be enjoying benefits rather than being made a fool of at every step — find himself in such a sorry situation?
For the South African fan, cricket can mean a nice picnic where he can go in with his wife, take his children free (and get them delighted at getting free toys) and lie on the ‘hill’ and catch cricket. For the English fan, cricket can mean drinking beer and singing crazily while backing his team. For the New Zealand fan, cricket can mean listening to music and spending quality time with the girlfriend in the stadium. Such pleasures are unknown to the Indian cricket fan. (Unrelated to most of them being single because their true love is cricket.) The question blares and begs to be answered. WHY?
Economics has a way to explain most things. Indian cricket apparently has inelastic demand. This means that no matter how poorly the fans are treated, the demand for cricket will remain. If some people do get bugged off, there are always new fans being created. When inelastic demand exists, advantages will be taken. Most suppliers go with the maxim “take as much advantage as possible.”
Who cares about the sport or its fans? The situation becomes acute when the inelasticity exists as far as demand existing is concerned. The demand keeps increasing unrelated to the supply curve “cricket.” This means that the only concern the BCCI has regarding the supply part is “how it can yield maximum money.” The fans are not a concern as they will increase no matter what.
This is the perceived notion. The truth is slightly different. How can we assess this, given the sheer madness of following their cricket team the Indian cricket fan has shown regardless of the treatments meted out to him? Historical precedents attest that sports fans may appear crazy in their absolute devotions to their teams. However, with the advent of time, eras change and what is passion in one era may be just another golden duck in another. Indian hockey had huge following. It is hockey’s bad luck that it existed in an era that meant fan followings could not be converted to money for the sport.
But the key point is that fan numbers declined. Why? Poor performances and negligence on the part of authorities can be tolerated only to an extent and not beyond. West Indies cricket has seen a fall in popularity similarly. But then Indian cricket isn’t performing well at all, would be the retort. Shifts in interests take time to show in real terms. Already we are seeing lesser number of people watching international cricket games compared to five years ago. As generations change, interests of the specific generations can change. Different economic strata of youth have different sports to follow and heroes to look up to.
Tennis has Sania Mirza. The chess revolution rolls on, specially in South India. There is a new shooting revolution. There is golf and Jyoti Randhawa to idolize for someone who can afford gold. The common Indian who isn’t very rich can still follow football opposed to cricket. The international football games, right from the English Premier League to the Champions League to the other big leagues, are broadcast live. Zee Sports has signed a long-term contract with the Indian Football Association and is providing tremendous coverage for domestic football games.
If infrastructure and facilities are improved, football can take over India sooner than you can imagine. All it needs is some inspired performances. India is worse than 100 right now in the FIFA rankings. But I am just giving the football example to show that cricket shouldn’t feel safe despite the situation it finds itself in right now.
So is the Indian cricket fan absolutely powerless? Not really. As he is the real shareholder, he enjoys powers that he clearly does not use properly. The Indian cricket fan should let his voice be heard. Not by shouting Player X should be out of the team, Player Y should be in the team blah blah blah, but in a much more meaningful way.
Civil Disobedience! Non-Cooperation! Mahatma Gandhi showed the power people can have if united. Throwing your opinions to people, gathering perspectives from others and gaining momentum for an idea is the easier than ever before. There is the Internet on which you can throw your idea. The media is powerful and will latch on to it.
Are the Indian cricket fans willing to tolerate the ill-treatment meted out? Or will they become bolder and boycott Indian cricket till the BCCI (which is just a money-churning machine for which cricket is just a tool for the money-churning process and the Indian fan doesn’t even matter) is forced to taken the fans more seriously? Protests in terms of boycott or other means by a small section would not serve the purpose. The shareholders are too many for a small portion to have any impact.
What is needed is a movement so that the structure of cricket is changed. The domestic players should get much more money; the people at the top or their backers should be true cricket visionaries and not politicians who are there because of the money game cricket is in our country; cricket should be run by professionals; there should be proper apportionment of wealth for the development of the game.
The list is long. It is about time fans let their voice be heard. However, I really do not know how the millions of shareholders of the game can unify. It is an extremely difficult proposition but it all starts with an idea.
Boycott Indian cricket? It is about time.Powered by Sidelines