Sunday, November 15, 2009

Lets play what India wants to play

If you've been following cricket closely for quite some time, you would have noticed that there has been a growing Indian influence on the game. The Steves, Michaels, Daves have been replaced with the Dalmiyas, Pawars, Modis etc. And that is precisely the reason why there is such a huge debate over the future of cricket in terms of what formats should stay and which ones should go.

Two Indian journalists write on a renowned cricket website that the recently-concluded ODI series between Australia and India attracted record audiences and TV ratings. All six matches were sold out, while TV ratings were several times higher than the two preceding ICC events (World Twenty20 and Champions Trophy).
Digging deeper into the article, we come across an interesting comparison. The average TRP (mesaure of TV ratings) for the 27 matches of ICC World Twenty20 was 2.11. The TRP for India's matches was considerably higher at 3.98. Then the Champions Trophy. India's matches fetched a TRP of 3.16 but the tournament had an average TRP of a mere 1.11. On the other hand, the six India vs Australia games accorded a record TRP of 5.52.

Lets play what India wants to play. How about six IPLs a year?The formula is simple: If you want higher TV ratings, just play what India wants to play. And that is why we hear it too often that tournaments like Indian Premier League and Champions League have 'breathed new life' into the game of cricket. Of course Indian players do well in the IPL. Why wouldn't they? If they wouldn't, how would you ever come to know about Subramaniam Badrinath or Manpreet Gony? (You're excused if you still don't know them). Did Lalit Modi mention two IPLs every year from 2012? I say make it six a year. The more Indian players are in action, the more TV ratings you get. The more Badrinaths and Gonys you will see instead of the Michael Clarkes, Umar Guls, Shane Bonds etc. Who cares about the quality of cricket? What is more important is that golden number called TRP.

Why play Champions Trophy when India can't do well in it?For a change, if you still want some international cricket, lets play that too. But hey, don't forget the rule: play what India wants to play. Why play World Twenty20 or Champions Trophy when India can't do well in it? World T20 - a tournament India's bitterest rival Pakistan ended up winning - is useless. After all, a 2.11 rating is nothing compared to 5.52. Champions Trophy - a tournament in which India were again agonizingly knocked out by none other than Pakistan - has a rating of 1.11. Even Star Plus soaps would attract a better rating! So what India's absence from the bulk of these tournaments affects TV ratings? The Indian theory is simple: We're billion-strong, and you can't do anything about it. So if you want international cricket, let India play what and where they can play well. Away tours should be done away with. ICC tournaments are unnecessary, do away with them too. And one day, trust me ONE DAY, cricket will surely match the TRPs of football matches! But for that you'll also have to do away with the unimportant, annoyingly close encounters between South Africa and England or Pakistan and New Zealand. Do that and see the magic.

Ravindra Jadeja scored a splendid fifty. But who was watching?Do the figures really mean Champions Trophy was a flop compared to India-Australia ODIs? A 5.52 TRP for India vs Australia. Five times as popular as Champions Trophy? Maybe yes. But hey, NO! Did you forget there are more Indians in this world than the rest of the major cricketing nations' population combined? My friend in Toronto doesn't know who Munaf Patel is. But he surely remembers Ricky Ponting lifting the trophy in Johannesburg. Or what about a 12-year old kid who paid £300 to watch the World T20 final at Lord's? He'll remember Shahid Afridi standing with his arms aloft in celebration of victory for a lifetime. Does he really know how a moment of madness from Ravindra Jadeja cost India the match? I don't think so.

But the bottom line remains - let's play what India wants to play!

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