Home > Cricket Development, UAE, USA > Opinion: On the Ind v WI ‘expansion’ series

Opinion: On the Ind v WI ‘expansion’ series

Cricinfo recently wrote an article title Leave Americans to Baseball, in which they discussed how the expansion of cricket is a non starter. I have in one of my previous blog entries explained how some of these expat based countries end up getting the limelight, and take the focus away from countries where cricket ACTUALLY is expanding to become a popular sport.

As far as the article is concerned, I agree with parts of it. I do agree that this series, and thankfully Pakistan is not participating in it, is not going to expand the game to the US. Real expansion, for example, would be if India were to take their test team and play a match against Nepal in Khatmandu, or against Uganda in Kampala, or Afghanistan in Kabul, or even Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur. What we would get in that case would be about 20-30K people, indegenous population, coming in to watch the match and back their team. Now if the local team does well, you have hit the bullseye, and the game would start getting deeply entrenched in that country.

Why would this never happen? Because what India and West Indies are doing has nothing to do with expansion. It has to do with money. A match between Nepal and India is not going to get any viewership in India, which is the real market, and still the market that the boards are trying to cater to.

It is quite true that these days, because so much cricket is played, it is hitting you right in the face that there arent enough teams playing cricket. The same 10 teams, 3 being very weak leaving effectively 7, playing incessantly against each other day in and day out starts looking like the most pointless activity ever. Personally, I dont have much interest in SA, NZ or Sri either. So to me, cricket ends up being only the bilateral series between any of Pakistan, India, Australia and England. I am sure others also have their own preferences.

Pakistan v India used to be a spectacle, and now it is not even the most lucrative series for Pakistan (PCB earned a little more from the Pakistan v Eng series than the Pakistan v India series this year). In addition to that, all of these friendship series are adding to the farce. I agree that just catering to expats doesnt do anything. Sharjah was given as an example, and its a good one. UAE has been hosting Pakistan v India matches since 1984 at least, so 22 years. And nothing has come out of it, still the same formula of recent expats playing the game. USA, Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong have all been playing cricket as associates since 1967 and nothing has come out of it. So what makes anyone think that suddenly by having a WI v Ind ODI in the US is going to develop any interest in the US?

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Categories: Cricket Development, UAE, USA
  1. Cuen Lucas
    May 18, 2006 at 8:33 am

    “Cricket is not an easy game to start liking. It is a complex and baffling game. It demands utter devotion, infinite patience, certain intellectual engagement, and that utterly scarce commodity: time, lots of it.”

    I disagree with that, if that really was the case, then cricket would never have taken off anywhere.

    “Let’s leave Americans to baseball.”
    Absolute arrogance.

    I can’t believe that Wisden would allow two completely elitist articles to see the light of day, (The other one being Engel’s article) and to say that “Cricket does not need to be anxious or apologetic about its insularity, or elitism” is completely wrong.

    what I find most disturbing is the recent rise in articles critisising the ICC for trying to expand, and to the Associates as well. Cricket can ill afford this kind of thing at a time when baseball and other summer sports are slowly gaining popularity around the world.

  2. May 18, 2006 at 10:54 am

    I believe that these anti associate articles, along with and anti Zim stance, are Cricinfo and Wisden policy. You will always see them promote this side of the story. And they will always use foolish examples like that of USA, Singapore, UAE etc.

    Liking cricket is about as diffifcult or easy as is baseball or american football. Only football is an extremely easy sport to understand. Other sports are a little bit difficult. But its not nearly impossible as Bal puts it.

    The World Baseball Classic in Feb was backed by the MLC. Some of the teams were pathetic i.e. Netherlands, South Africa, China etc. But there was not a single word from the american commentators. The write ups were always encouraging, about what was good and about what can be done for next time.

  3. Ram
    May 18, 2006 at 11:01 am

    Even though I agree with the fact that these ODIs in neutral venues DON’T serve the purpose of spreading the game’s popularity in any way, I’m not totally against this proposed ODI series between WI and India because that’s the only way I see WICB clearing its ‘huge’ debt!! However, I was and will be against ALL these offshore ODIs proposed by the BCCI for the next 5 years.

    Infact, as you say, cricket would be a lot better off even if India take on USA or Canada in an utter mismatch in Florida or Toronto!! That’s why I always want these ODIs (and Intercontinental Cup) matches between the Associate countries to take place in the Associate member countries involved.

    I think ICC is just looking at the on-field performances of these Associate member countries and is ‘happy’ with their progress, when the fact is there’s hardly any following for them back home. The ICC just needs to look at the kind of crowds (if I may include dogs and birds as part of the crowd) that the 6 Associate countries get for their Intercontinental Cup/ODI matches; that’s the ground reality the ICC is failing to address. Infact, the only country where you get ‘crowds’ for an Intercontinental Cup match is Nepal, where you can get as much as 5000 people for a match against Malaysia or Hongkong.

  4. May 18, 2006 at 11:09 am

    Yes Ram, you are right about the series being good for WI financially. But according to India, ICC and WI, thats not the point of this series. The point is to ‘expand’ the game. Thats just a bunch of baloney.

    Nepal got 20K people to show up and back the U19 team in the ACC trophy final against Malaysia U19. My understanding is that they can get even more, if the ground allows it, if there is the full Nepal team playing a test country. Afghanistan is the same thing. Malaysia, Uganda and Kenya (Nick?) may be able to get 5-6K people if not more. And if you see the tickets of the Ireland v Eng match in June this year, all 8000 of them have been sold out in Stormont. I think last year’s game for Scotland against Australia also sold out all 5-6K tickets.

    So things are not that bad if the ICC were to look beyond the expat based countries.

  5. Ram
    May 18, 2006 at 2:26 pm

    Nasir,

    If BCCI is really ‘intent’ in spreading the game, cricket would’ve been a lot more popular, given BCCI’s financial power. The BCCI’s sole purpose of existence is to milk money from the game, even if it means killing the game.

    I agree with all your stats about the Ireland v Eng or Scot v Aus ODI attracting 5000 or 8000 people but I feel such ‘historic’ ODIs against top teams should get much much bigger crowds, like say 20-30,000. Rather, it would be great if such crowds of 5000 or 6000 turn out for Intercontinental Cup matches or for ODIs against Associate countries.

  6. May 18, 2006 at 3:18 pm

    Ram,

    20-30K in other countries apart from Afghanistan or Nepal (or Uganda/Malaysia) is not possible I think. Its not possible because the total number of cricketers in the whole country is less than that, how can you get that number of people to come watch a match in one city? Ireland has a total of 8625 cricketers, 3925 of them being less than 10 years old, in the whole country. Given these numbers, I think 6000 sell out for the Eng v Ire game in one city (Stormont) is excellent and above any expectations.

    Plus the ground capacity in Stormont is only 6300, so we dont know what the possibility is if capacity was not an issue. Also, the ticket is priced at Pound 35 each, so we dont know what the possibility is if the ticket is only Pound 5, or free.

  7. Ram
    May 18, 2006 at 7:32 pm

    Nasir..

    Correct me if I’m wrong, do you think the number of cricketers playing the game in a country is directly indicative of the number of people turning up to watch an ODI?..Yes, I do agree that 20-30k is being a bit too optimistic but we’re only considering a one-off situation here. Its not every year that Ireland or Scotland get to play England or Australia. Not only that, these matches are historic in the sense these are the first official ODIs these Associate nations would be playing on home soil. I expected bigger crowds (or rather higher ticket demand since stadium capacity limitations exist) for these ODIs because these 2 nations have a long cricketing history unlike Afghanistan or Nepal where the game is relatively a newer entrant. Remember that Bangladesh’s debut Test in Dhaka in Oct. 2000 attracted capacity crowds(around 35,000) on virtually all days, something never witnessed again.

    Though it may be too much to expect every ODI to attract 20-30k people to the stadium, I think its a fair deal to expect a couple of thousand people to turn up for their Intercontinental Cup matches. Btw, do you have any information about the crowds you get for cricket matches (of any sort) in these leading Associate member countries? Thanks for the effort.

  8. Ram
    May 21, 2006 at 6:27 pm

    Nasir,

    It’s interesting to note that while we were discussing about cricket crowds in Associate countries, there’s an article in ‘Cricket Scotland’ website titled “Getting people to watch Scotland” where the writer believes the main challenge in Scottish cricket is to make people turnup for cricket matches!

    As the article says, the authorities are clearly not happy about the projected crowd figure of just 2500 for the one-off ODI against Pakistan next month. Its believed that lack of interest/following is not the reason for lack of attendances at cricket matches; instead there’s no culture of going out to watch a cricket match for 8 hours in Scotland!!

    I think getting crowds to cricket is a lot different than getting crowds to any other sport because of its duration. Thats why I believe these Associate countries need to somehow make people come to the stadiums and hence translate interest into money which these Associates desperately need.

  9. May 21, 2006 at 10:09 pm

    Ram,

    I read that article in the morning, and it was a good one because it made me think in a slightly different way.

    One of the points in the article is that the games between Scotland and say…. Holland, are going to ammount to nothing, because there is not interest in watching Holland play in Scotland, and people only want to see Scotland play tougher opposition, particularly, the opposition that they have grown up watching….. England. This argument is quite correct, and it tells you why the ICC HAD to give ODI status to these associate countries. Only if it is an ODI will the other countries take them serisouly, play a serious match, and send their best team. And it seems that only then can these assocaite countries get their population to participate in the match as audience.

    That would be another point in the pros of giving the new assocaite full ODI status. Its just that Canada and Bermuda will probably not be able to make full use of this status. There are other countries that would have perhaps benefitted more, like Nepal, Uganda, Malaysia, Afghanistan…… maybe even Denmark. But because their standard is too weak, the ICC is unable to get them to ODI status.

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