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Saturday, December 12, 2015

Is Cricket losing its sheen ~ 0r is the game driven away from spectators ??

Is Test Cricket losing its sheen [0r is Cricket losing its sheen ?] ??

The news is Dharamshala will host the Indo Pak clash in ICC T20 2016 on Mar 19.  BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur said  “Looking at the heat generated by the discussion on whether the series between India and Pakistan will be held or not, I think you need a cool atmosphere and the right atmosphere is in Dharamshala.”  Thakur, also heads the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association.   That is no good news for Chennai fans already unhappy with no CSK in IPL.  The city has been given four women’s games and won’t host a single match from the men’s T20 World Cup. Also, not one Chennai game will be televised.

Remember watching the 1st ODI at Chepauk on 9th Oct 1987 – it was the 3rd match of Group A in Reliance World Cup – chasing 271, Krish Srikkanth made runs and Navjot Sidhu on a comeback hit 5 sixers transforming from a strokeless wonder to six-hitting Sidhu.  From 200/3 match drifted and with a single required to tie off the last ball, Steve Waugh clean bowled Maninder Singh.  Once the headquarters of the game, from where cement magnate Srinivasan bossed over world cricket, Chennai has been worst-hit by the winds of change within the BCCI. Miles away, down under, Australia has claimed an emphatic victory over the West Indies on day three of the Test in Hobart, winning the match by an innings and 212 runs. After putting together an enormous first innings total of 583, Australia declared  and handed over a worst defeat – an innings defeat by 212 runs.

Even before the start, only as  few as 10,000 people were expected to pass through the gates at Bellerive Oval  but on day one, it was much less at official 5927 ! An Australian newspaper quoting CA’s Tasmanian board member as saying :  “The workers of Tasmania are competing with the fat cat bureaucrats in Canberra who have the highest disposable income in Australia”

Tasmania  is an island state that is part of the Commonwealth of Australia.  Hobart is the capital and most populous city  of Tasmania. Founded in 1804 as a penal colony, Hobart is Australia's second oldest capital city after Sydney, New South Wales. The city is located in the state's south-east on the estuary of the Derwent River, making it the most southern of Australia's capital cities and its harbour forms the second-deepest natural port in the world.  Bellerive Oval has produced some cricketers – David Boon and Ricky Ponting.

It was only in 1979-80 that West Indies won their first Test series down under. The seeds of that victory were sowed during the humbling 5-1 defeat on the 1975-76 tour, and those were different days for West Indies that had Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards, Alvin Kalicharran, Dereck Murray and fearsome foursome of Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Joel Garner and Colin Croft -  now the team led by Jason Holder has  Brathwaite, R Chandrika, Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels, J Blackwood, D Ramdin, Khemer Roach, Jerome Taylor, JA Warrican and ST Gabriel – how many of them can you identify !!

So the biggest test for Bellerive Oval was not the performance of the tourists but that of the spectators.  The vultures are circling, with concerns about a poor crowd - Canberra and Coffs Harbour have both been pushed forward as alternate venues should the Tasmanian public continue not to turn out.  For the present match ticket prices had been cut by 30 per cent to try and attract more to the ground. TV advertisements were  on high rotation and a huge billboard hungs over Hobart's main street telling punters not to be a "Daryl".  "A Daryl is a person who missed out on coming to the cricket, Daryl is the person who you don't want to be because he didn't come to the match and missed a really dramatic occasion !! "

Even before the first ball was bowled, Australian press wrote that Hobart could be on the verge of hosting its last red-ball Test, as Cricket Australia (CA) responds to the likelihood of dismal crowds at the opening match of the series between Australia and West Indies.  Hobart has only hosted 11 Tests since its first against Sri Lanka in 1989.  There were speculations  that Canberra could host a Test next summer, while after the success of the recent inaugural day-night Test between Australia and New Zealand in Adelaide that translated to a crowd total of 120,000 and bumper TV ratings, CA might look to shift Hobart to a pink-ball fixture.

"Tassie spent years in the sporting wilderness.  People fought – now they are not turning up imperilling its continuance as a Test ground.   With Canberra craving a maiden Test, Cricket ACT has spied Hobart as the weakest link and is unapologetic in its desire to become Australia's "sixth" international red-ball venue next summer when Pakistan and South Africa visit for three Tests each.

Hobart's woes are traceable to the last time a Test was played at Bellerive; when Sri Lanka toured in 2012 the total crowd fell short of 20,000. Media coverage of the empty stands and sparse hill was unkind. In response, administrators pinned the modest figure on a 'perfect storm' of unfavourable circumstances: the game was scheduled the week before Christmas, rain was a feature through the weekend and $43 was the cheapest entry for an adult.    When only 12,177 attended Australia's World Cup fixture against Scotland in March, another fixture undermined by rain, it once again fed the perception that the crowd simply does not show up in Hobart.

CA's decision to reduce ticket prices by a third for adults to $25 -  still could not get many in to the venue ~ so it could be no Test or atleast no red cherry test for Tasmania.  ..  ..  ..  but,    BCCI by denying matches to a place where spectator turn out has always been very high – they are driving the game away from the spectators – by saying that the closed 3 stands hamper … without admitting the fact that Chepauk without 3 stands even attracts more crowds than many other newly favoured Venues.

So much so for the game and the avid fans of Indian Cricket.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

12th Dec 2015.

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