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World Cup cricket: Where is the fever?

Soutik Biswas | 16:45 UK time, Monday, 14 February 2011

Indian cricket fans

Where is the buzz? Where is the fever? The cricket World Cup is five days away, but India, the driver and engine of world cricket and leading host of the event, appears to be strangely lackadaisical about it.

Last week, I travelled through India's most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, which has sent a number of cricketers to the national team. I found little enthusiasm about the event among the locals and spotted no billboards or fan hoardings of cricket stars.The electronics shop owner in my Delhi suburb says there has been no significant surge in TV sales - typically fans migrate to bigger, wide-screen sets before such a major sporting event - despite a high-definition telecast of the event for the first time. "I am not getting a sense of any buzz," concurs my friend and leading sports writer Suresh Menon. "I wonder if there is actually fan fatigue."

Nobody is arguing yet that the World Cup in the subcontinent will go the way of the dismal 2007 edition in the West Indies, which was plagued by high ticket prices, an interminable 46-day schedule, and major upsets which saw India and Pakistan getting knocked out early.

I also believe India will be gripped by cricket fever as the tournament progresses and the top teams reach the knockout stages at the quarter-finals. But that begins on 23 March.

There is nothing to get excited as the tournament gets underway - the eight teams likely to be in the quarter finals are pretty predictable barring near-impossible serial upsets.
So the group games could end up as an extended warm up for the main teams at the expense of weary fans.

That could be one reason behind the lukewarm fan response even as TV news and sports channels and newspapers are trying to pump up the adrenalin with special programming to ride on the advertising gravy train that cricket brings to India.

Also, I suspect that both the tournament and the 50-over format, as cricket writer Mark Marqusee says, may be on trial. Fourteen teams and 49 matches over 43 days promises to be another grinding event - the organisers seem to learned few lessons from the Caribbean debacle.

More importantly, Twenty-20-addled cricket fans, especially the younger ones, have no patience to sit through an eight-hour, 50-over game any longer. And if they watch at all, they are most likely to skip what they call the "meaningless" middle.

Twenty-20, despite its crude grammar, has revolutionised the game. With a three-hour game amid razzmatazz, cricket has a format which can compete globally. If the ferocious 1932 Bodyline series between England and Australia was the "violence and ferocity of our age expressing itself in cricket", as the game's prophet-philosopher CLR James put it eloquently, then today's love for instant gratification and mammon express themselves gloriously in the lucrative Twenty20 game.

But an exciting, global format doesn't mean that cricket has become a truly global game - the gap between the Test playing and the rest, as Marqusee says, has grown wider than it was a decade ago. Minnows have not grown into masters.

So is it time to take a fresh look at the World Cup? Does it need fewer teams and matches, and more equitable and competitive formats? Why not have a humdinger of a tournament with just six teams playing each other twice after a qualifier which separates the best from the mediocre? Has the 50 over format reached its apogee with nothing new to offer? Nearly four decades after it began, has the format run its course? The fan ennui could be explained by answers to these questions.


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  • 1. At 9:50pm on 14 Feb 2011, Gurvinder wrote:

    This is not much surprising. There are good numbers of factors to it, too much cricket from last 2-3 year, IPL every 2 year with lengthy schedule then rising inflation. Somehow the fever of world cup is missing for the time being BUT it may pick up as the tournament progresses. Team India is quite favorite contender for the world cup but its cricket. You can’t rely on past performance; the result depends on how you plan on that faithful day.

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  • 2. At 10:07pm on 14 Feb 2011, Gokulram Arunasalam wrote:

    Actually, I think it has a lot to do with the format of the worldcup. Most of the matches till March are just tier 1 vs tier 3 teams, which are unlikely to attract much interest. Likely to see interest picking up as the tournament progresses, and just before the quarter finals.

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  • 3. At 00:51am on 15 Feb 2011, praveen wrote:

    I feel happy about it. Indians were wasting lots of time by watching cricket. Anything surplus is not good. This was even killing other sports and making the cricket stars rich for no reason. I guess the people are becoming practical than fanatical now.

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  • 4. At 02:01am on 15 Feb 2011, MarcoH wrote:

    It seems to me you could expand the number of teams at the World Cup and still making it more exciting and shorter than it is.
    Four groups of four followed by pure knockout for the top two from each group. Potentially this could be done in three weeks. The transition from two groups to one group with partial points carry through just makes it overlong and confusing.

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  • 5. At 04:25am on 15 Feb 2011, jaytirth wrote:

    Come on! Where is the usual BBC analysis something like 'India's caste ridden and communal society has to be blamed for this'.

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  • 6. At 05:17am on 15 Feb 2011, Rohit wrote:

    That was very well written. I look forward for further posts from you. Recently I happened to read an article titled "Gripping Victory in a Cricket Match (Patent Over Cricket Bat Accessory)" and realized how crazy the fans in India are about cricket. I would like to bring your kind attention to that post. Below mentioned is an excerpt of the mentioned article.
    ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 is round the corner and as a cricket-crazy nation every Indian cricket fan anticipates that India will redo the magic of 1983 and will lift the world cup this time.

    Every world cup held left some memorable moments with us. Kapil Dev running backwards to take a great catch to dismiss Vivian Richards in 1983, Ajay Jadeja hitting Pakistani pacer Waquar Younis for as many as 40 runs in two successive overs, Venkatesh Prasad dismissing Aamir Sohail in the very next ball after Aamir Sohail sledged him in 1996 and Adam Gilchrist’s batting glove controversy, where he used a half cut squash ball in his batting gloves to improve batting grip in the final of cricket world cup 2007... To read more click here

    Im sure that this kind of articles will kindle the expectations among the fans

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  • 7. At 07:01am on 15 Feb 2011, Gerald wrote:

    Well obviously IPL and the media has screwed up everything!!

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  • 8. At 07:07am on 15 Feb 2011, rusrus wrote:

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  • 9. At 07:29am on 15 Feb 2011, rusrus wrote:

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  • 10. At 09:17am on 15 Feb 2011, hainba wrote:

    I have a question....

    Does India love cricket or their own team / competitions?

    IF India were to be knocked out before the QF stage (a huge shock considering the format being used), would the fans still come?

    Sorry but I believe they would just write it off and look forward to the IPL instead.

    T20 has NOT revolutionised cricket it has opened the game to the fast food sports community. There are still plenty of cricket fans who enjoy the subtlety of ODI & Test cricket that hopefully is funded by the T20 financial roadshow.

    With a balanced cricket calendar all would be possible instead the media and governing bodies put them head to head and look for a winner.

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  • 11. At 10:58am on 15 Feb 2011, Jack123 wrote:

    It would be wrong to say that the world cup fever has not struck India yet.Didn't you see the packed stadium for India Vs Australia match on last sunday? May be people are not buying wider-screen television, perhaps they already own one at home. Remember the economic growth in India? I was planning to buy tickets for a few mathces 4 months ago and I could not find any. This shows that the enthusiam and the fever has not died in India yet Mr. Biswas. And finally, the obvious reason is that the pre-knockout stages are too long!

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  • 12. At 11:29am on 15 Feb 2011, ndubey10 wrote:

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  • 13. At 12:48pm on 15 Feb 2011, chandrasekar wrote:


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  • 14. At 1:15pm on 15 Feb 2011, illusionarylife wrote:

    This Time cricket will not be consider in India. Because There are lots of big local problems are going on. The whole south India is in Election fever. and lots of protests and Youth supports to save Indian fisher man from srilankan Army.
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]
    Personally i wish this time Indian Cricket team should be kicked out from the beginning itself. so Medias can focus on Important problems like "fisher man"

    Personally I have a request... why do you write an article about the Indian fisherman being killed in the sea? Fisher man issue is going to decide the Next government in Tamil Nadu . and it will be reflected to all over India and central government since the south Indian parties are more involved in 2G,3G corruptions. Congress govt will get huge problem soon because of Indian fisheman being killed by Srilankan Army. and Kachadeevu agreement. in south India youths are supporting to get kachadeevu back. BJP party is also supporting on this issue. World cup can not catch people eye since election is nearing. Medias are trying to divert youths by world cup but it will never happened.

    Please write article about Indian fisher man and kachadeevu. its India's property and Economy and political. And current hot problem...

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  • 15. At 1:16pm on 15 Feb 2011, Blarneyarmy wrote:

    I think this is a very negative article written purely for the sake of it rather that with any actualy proof. The Cricket World Cup is where the passion of ALL cricketing countries is shown to bear.

    See these Irish Cricketers here and ask them if it means nothing to them

    Here's to a great cricket world cup and to Ireland winning a few big games!!!

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  • 16. At 3:00pm on 15 Feb 2011, WaveyDavey007 wrote:

    HUP HOLLAND = Netherlands is my tip for the Tournament.

    They are going crazy with anticipation here - especially after just losing out in the 2010 Football World Cup.

    LOL :)

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  • 17. At 3:32pm on 15 Feb 2011, gunner4life wrote:

    The format is fine. If 2 games are played on each gameday we'll have a much shorter tournament.

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  • 18. At 5:28pm on 15 Feb 2011, Kris wrote:

    ICC has created a crazy schedule with the only intention of maximising profits from TV. They care two hoots about the fans. How will it excite a fan when their team plays one game every 7-8 days and that too mostly minnow after minnow for the top teams?
    People are talking about reviving the 50 over game. This world cup is going to have the opposite effect! ICC's greed and the golden goose!!

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  • 19. At 6:48pm on 15 Feb 2011, Jack123 wrote:

    AFter reading this article for the second time, I have to say that this has been written in a very negative manner, just for the sake of writing an article, rather than a real analysis.

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  • 20. At 7:53pm on 15 Feb 2011, AneeshMija wrote:

    No time for cricket these days mate. People are busy earning their lives and their livelihood. Even Bollywood movies, some of which were very good, have taken a hit. Certainly not for 8-hour long matches. Twenty-20 is the way to go.

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  • 21. At 04:03am on 16 Feb 2011, deejay patel wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 22. At 09:31am on 16 Feb 2011, Varun wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 23. At 10:27am on 16 Feb 2011, supadupacushty wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 24. At 10:46am on 16 Feb 2011, supadupacushty wrote:

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  • 25. At 10:48am on 16 Feb 2011, supadupacushty wrote:

    Mr Soutik Biswas fails to mention the co host Bangladesh. The fever there is very high.

    Is this artcicle not then very accurate?

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  • 26. At 2:59pm on 16 Feb 2011, VN wrote:

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  • 27. At 4:49pm on 16 Feb 2011, Mard wrote:

    If the wc was to become a small tournamen with only the best 6 or 8 teams in it will no longer be a world cup, mybe a wold one day championship final.
    What the WC offers are opportunities for sides like Ireland and other minnows or even Bangladesh a chance to shine, This then adds to the tournement in other ways.

    But give the minnows a chance. Or it will wont be the WORLD cup in football wc's the fgroups are pretty pointless but they stil play them as it gives mre countries a chance and it is still always very simmilar sides in the later rounds.

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