Hard Knocks: BCCI needs a third umpire

16 Nov,2011

By Anil Thakraney


The first day’s play at Calcutta in the current India/West Indies series produced a real shocker. Near-empty stands at the Eden Gardens. Who would have imagined such a day would come in that cricket-crazy city? And this, despite a player like Sachin Tendulkar being in the house, and perched on the verge of a historic milestone of his 100th 100. Now, I realize cricket in India has become a television sport and that’s where all the money comes from. Still, it must be said there is no fun watching a match on TV with no cheering, booing, placards-carrying crowds in the backdrop. That’s the essential part of sports excitement. Already, the TRPs of test match cricket have taken a beaten in recent times, and with no crowds in the stadia, I am afraid more and more fans will give even television viewing a miss. And that would be an alarming situation for advertisers.

There are many reasons why test cricket is dying a slow death in this nation. The obvious one is the BCCI’s greed, which has resulted in excessive cricket tournaments, leading to crowd fatigue. Then there’s the issue of New India’s impatience with a five-day game. These problems I would leave for the cricket pundits to tackle. However, I must say sponsors and advertisers must come together and set out a few guidelines for the BCCI if they don’t wish that the game, which is always a good marketing vehicle, dies out. Because today it’s test cricket, tomorrow it could be the one-day game. And if the BCCI chaps don’t listen, sponsorships should be cancelled.

One thing the BCCI must be compelled to do is to ensure that the various cricket associations sell stadia tickets for a low price. Perhaps Rs 20 a ticket. And all minors and school kids should be allowed in for free. Also, facilities in the stadia should be improved so that going for a cricket match is a joy and not a pain in the you-know-where, which it currently is. The very very, very cash-rich BCCI can easily re-imburse the associations for their losses/expenses. This will make sure the stands are reasonably packed at any point of time. And we don’t have a situation where Sachin scores a ton and there’s no-one around to cheer him.

Bottom line: The always greedy BCCI is determined to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. And I think marketers must crack the whip and ensure this does not happen. It’s no longer enough being passive spectators in the game. It’s time to play the role of a strict referee.




PS: Waiting for a cutting-edge column from Ms Shobhaa De on the Kingfisher mess. Mallya is the lady’s BFF, so let’s see if she gets after him like she does with all else. Will she risk missing out on a yacht invite? Take a guess!

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