Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Question of Cricket

I’ve got back into “A Question of Sport” recently. For any readers outside of the UK who at this point are saying “WTF”, QofS is basically a sporting quiz on the BBC that features famous sportsmen and women past and present. It’s a little bit kooky and with Phil Tufnell on the panel it can even border on “zany” occasionally.
On Monday night, Jonathan Trott was a guest on the show. The guy is a fricken genius. He knew the answers to every sport: rugby, motor racing, football the lot.
It reminded me that he and his England colleagues are finally on a little break from playing cricket, as he cosied up to Matt Dawson et al. He’s been playing cricket solidly for months and months. A rest and an appearance on QofS is just what the doctor ordered.
A little rest and relaxation can do wonders for professional sportsmen, just ask Carlos Tevez.
Not all cricketers are chillaxing right now though, with Australia currently touring South Africa and India playing host to the West Indies. Sri Lanka are also concluding their series against Pakistan with a round of One Day Internationals.
The crowds for all these series have been disappointing though, and in the case of the India vs West Indies series they’ve been atrocious. Less than 1000 people turned up for the opening day of the second test at cricketing institution Eden Gardens, even with the chance of Sachin Tendulkar scoring his hundredth test hundred in the offing.
But can you blame the good people of Kolkata? It’s only a couple of weeks since England played India in back-to-back One Day and T20 international matches there.
Sure, when your national cricket team rock into town it’s a big deal, particularly when it’s your national sport as cricket is in India, but buying 3 lots of tickets for international matches within a couple of weeks of each other is going to stretch anyones purse strings.
Not only that, but the first day of the second test match was on a Monday. Now call me an old stick-in-the-mud but people do need to work occasionally, especially if they are paying exorbitant prices for, amongst other things, going to cricket matches.
Its clear that international cricket is being scheduled around TV stations nowadays, so we shouldn’t be surprised. Despite the miles between India and South Africa, their games have seemingly been scheduled so that they don’t overlap each other, meaning global TV audiences can enjoy both matches without missing a moment (if of course you are that keen to watch both series that is!)
The speed at which wickets have fallen in both series thus far though, notwithstanding India’s gargantuan 631/7 declared in the second test at Eden Gardens means the schedulers need not have worried so, but that’s another issue.
The point is, with the emphasis so obviously on TV schedules and not on the paying public actually going to the ground, is there any wonder Eden Gardens looked like a “morgue” on Monday, as Tony Greig put it?
And it was. And it was horrible to see. But the ICC and the cricket boards (and the TV companies) that schedule these tours only have themselves to blame.
We all love seeing cricket, but let’s keep it sacred. Saturating the market never did anyone any favours.
A lot of people watch cricket on TV and I don’t have a problem with that. It’s a global sport, and the TV companies do a great job in allowing us all to watch cricket wherever it is taking place in the world.
But seeing the empty stands at Eden Gardens yesterday and to a lesser extent Newlands in Cape Town last week, which wasn’t full either – amazing for such a high-profile series, is going to have a negative impact on the game in the long run.
A Question of Sport is, in truth, a little bit dull, but it’s good to have a little rest-bite from the things we love. Less cricket might, for the players as well as the paying public might just do us all a favour.
Tom Huelin for DieHard Cricket Fans
Follow Tom on Twitter @tomhue1

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