With all participating teams playing and a game on TV every single day, there should be enough cricket for even a cricket-hungry nation like India. But even with world class teams – New Zealand, England, Australia, India, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, even Afghanistan and Netherlands after their recent win against fancier teams – the grounds are strangely empty and devoid of the atmosphere which typically defines a World Championship.
A question being asked is whether there is too much cricket being played. Though the diehard fans will cry ‘Never!’, the facts tell us a different story.
The 50-over Cricket World Cup is no regular affair – it takes place only once every four years. That’s a considerable gap for cricket fans to return with new zeal and for the hype to build around the coveted tournament. However, the intervals have rapidly been filled with more and more ICC events of varied formats, adding to an already busy roster. Take this: there was an ICC Men’s T20 World Cup held in 2022, just a year prior, the same year as a Women’s Cricket World Cup in 50-over format. It was then followed by ICC Women’s T20 World Cup in 2023. This is all before we even talk about the Asia Cup 2023, ICC World Test Championship, and the regular series on calendar round the clock.
Many have commented about the Board of Cricket Control of India (BCCI)’s arrogance and poor management during this World Cup. The richest cricket board in the world with annual revenues of over AUD$600 million and net worth of AUD$3.5 billion, it is not far behind ICC’s net worth of about AUD$4.6 billion. (Experts believe it is a matter of time before BCCI overtakes ICC’s valuation).
And yet, for this World Cup, there seems to be no organising committee –the BCCI and its all-powerful secretary Jay Shah, remarkably the son of Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah control all. There was little information on the schedule of matches and competing teams until three months prior, leaving little time for hordes of international fanatics to plan their travel.
And so, for BCCI, it appears the World Cup in India is not about all the other teams participating, but how to build the brand of Indian cricket even further.
This became more evident at the India vs Pakistan clash in Ahmedabad. India thrashed Pakistan by 7 wickets, competitive atmosphere completely absent in the Team India fan dominated 120,000-capacity stadium. England, last year’s finalists, didn’t have any fanfare either during their opening match against New Zealand – that privilege was reserved for the India vs Pakistan fixture.
Micky Arthur, coach of the Pakistani team, best sums it up: “It didn’t seem like an ICC event to be brutally honest. It seemed like a bilateral series; it seemed like a BCCI event.”
The love and fanaticism for cricket on the sub-continent for cricket is well documented. Pakistan had not toured India since 2016. The India vs Pakistan match was the first time in seven years these rivals played each other on Indian soil.
What could have been an electric atmosphere in the stadiums was muted, Pakistani fans finding it difficult to get visas to travel to India. It is believed that even the Pakistan cricket team were only able to obtain visas at the eleventh hour, after the Pakistan Cricket Board complained about the delay.
Chacha Choudhary, a mascot and avid follower of the Pakistan cricket team told CNN, “The Indian government hasn’t given any process on how to give a visa, no idea on how to get a visa. There’s no explanation for visas,” he said.
None of this seems to matter to the BCCI; they are on a cash cow which seems to keep on giving. The danger is over time, the excitement of winning can be overtaken by boredom.
Needless to say, there were several stifled yawns on display at the India vs Pakistan clash last week.