June 21, 2010

Footballing lessons for cricket

Cricket should learn from football

Aakash Chopra
The Australians celebrate with the World Cup trophy, Australia v Sri Lanka, World Cup final, Barbados, April 28, 2007
The cricket World Cup lacks the novelty of its football counterpart  © AFP
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I was in Zurich when Switzerland defeated Spain in one of the league matches of the ongoing World Cup. The entire city had come to a standstill for those 90 minutes and every positive move of their men on the field in South Africa was enjoyed to the hilt. When they scored the solitary goal of the match, it felt as if the city screamed in unison. And the celebrations became wilder as the evening progressed. The roads were blocked and the trams were stalled, which caused problems for commuters, but no one complained. After all, their country had scored an unexpected win over a stronger opposition in the World Cup.

I couldn't help but think - why are the cheers back home not loud enough? Yes, we do celebrate our wins in the World Cup, yet not every win and definitely not in this manner. And I'm sure India is not alone in this. Most cricket-playing countries can perhaps never match the euphoria of a soccer-playing nation after a win. So, what's the difference? Are the people from football-playing nations more patriotic? Or is it the popularity of football worldwide that builds the excitement? It's neither the patriotism nor the popularity - the reasons lie elsewhere.

Football is mainly a club-oriented sport played in various competitive leagues. Countries don't play against each other that often and hence, whenever they do, fans are bound to get involved.

On the contrary, cricket is predominately a country v country sport and in order to keep the moolah coming, we have, perhaps, abused it to the extent that it doesn't hold the same charm anymore. While the cricket World Cup is still a coveted tournament, it lacks the novelty of its football counterpart.

No, I'm not suggesting more leagues like the IPL around the world because a paucity of good cricketers and cricket-playing nations is a huge limitation. You may change the name of the league and the venue but since the players are going to be more or less the same, it won't succeed.

So, what's the next best thing? Maybe reducing the number of matches every nation plays or at least getting rid of meaningless tournaments like the one India just played in Zimbabwe. But if even this is not possible it won't be a bad idea to take a leaf out of FIFA's book.

Despite being extremely popular, FIFA hasn't left any stone unturned to take football to the next level by adding new followers. FIFA has organized Fan Fests around the world by hiring a big arena, almost the size of a football field, split into two. On one side they would put up a huge screen which shows the live coverage with an open but carpeted field in front of it for people to watch the game. The other half is utilized to create a small football field with even smaller goalposts for kids. The idea is to encourage parents to bring their kids to the arena and enjoy the experience. While parents enjoy the game, their kids are happy playing it. There're also food stalls around the arena to make everyone's stay comfortable.

The ICC can also do something similar involving their sponsors, mainly in countries where they intend to or have already introduced cricket. It is important to make the World Cup a marquee event - one incomparable to whatever the fans are watching throughout the year. It must also be used as a vehicle to spread the game to unchartered territories.Everyone can't make it to the stadium to watch the game, so it won't be a bad idea if they're given a taste of it elsewhere. The ICC has nearly nine months to figure out a plan so that 2011 World Cup doesn't flop like the 2007 version in the West Indies.

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

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Keywords: Administration, Offbeat

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Posted by Terry Jones of Australia on (July 14, 2010, 0:21 GMT)

All tests, ODI and T20I should be qualifiers for World Cups of each type every 4 years (nearly one a year).

T20I WC should expand to 20 teams (12 direct, 8 indirect), ODI WC reduced to 10 teams (6 direct, 4 indirect) and Test World Cup is played over 4 years with 4th year being Semis & Final.

ODI & T20I should require all teams to qualify with full-members that fail to directly qualify (via H&A series points) playing in an Associate Qualifying Tournament to indirectly qualify.

Test tournament should be five groups of four based on rankings (highest group to lowest) with each group playing group above & below it. Group matches should be longer series (eg: 3-5 tests) whereas against others should be shorter (ie: 2-3 tests).

One-off test "friendly" matches against low ranked countries in region should replace warm up matches.

Multiple points system should be used for test tournament (one points system for every 2 grouping combo used), with re-rankings based on pts every 4 years.

Posted by sudhir on (June 29, 2010, 11:40 GMT)

akash chopra,its hard to believe that u wrote the above article ,for god sake stop writing such waste stuff.... now talking about ur argument i think u were on a holiday when ipl and other international matches were played in india,they were all housefull stadia.....and talking about the comparision between football and cricket then let me tell u both the games have their own flavour for example their was a full packed stadium when england was playing australia in a one day match on the same day when england was playing against germany in a knock out match of the world cup now tells u the popularity of cricket in cricket playing nations........but there are two points u made which are true 1.ICC is not doing enough to promote cricket in other countres 2.India should stop playing useless matches or tournaments be it with any country.........and for god sake stop comparing foot ball with cricket

Posted by malcolm on (June 25, 2010, 13:26 GMT)

this guy is not serious!!! how many nations play cricket??? how many nations play soccer?? which is easier to understand ?? to state that tournaments like the 1 in zimbabwe was a waste off time..? an almost full strength sri lanka side was humbled by the zimbabweans and u go on to state it was meaningless...thats just ridiculous and you should know not every team starts on top...how does zim improve if you decide it should be excluded...i also doubt u watched any of the games in zimbabwe which were exciting and good 2 see the zimbabwean batsmen nuckle down and give fine perfomances

Posted by Narayan on (June 25, 2010, 10:27 GMT)

Akash, as you know cricket is not a shorter version of game until T20 came into the picture. You said about hiring a Arena and putting a big screen is impossible task in India. Though we follow cricket more compare to any other game, with the present condition or infrastructure it is hard develop that kind if atmosphere. May be we can create the similar conditions in SA, England, Australia, WI and Srilanka. As you mentioned football club oriented game, even you can think the same in Cricket also (like IPL). Problem is cricket has got 3-4 flavors (Test, ODI, county, T20)compare to football which is 90 min game in all levels and doesn't have any other formats be it from school level to international. Because of this IPL or T20 people are least bothered about the Test and ODIs. It is changed the mindset of the fans and now people are not taking the India Pakistan match that seriously. Classic version is dying a people are happy with spoiled version.

Posted by sachin's greatest fan on (June 24, 2010, 13:26 GMT)

friend..keep the simple thing simple.

1.cricket is a tediously long game. 2.much slower than football. 3.involvement of the players are never full. (i mean, the batting side cant place more than 4players on field in any case.) 4.the club level infrastucture is not up to the mark. 5.the cost of "playing the game" itself. (i mean, the total cost of a bat+ball+stumps is more than that of a standard football.)

with such drawbacks, it is not fair to expect the game to draw such huge audiences.

IPL is a good attempt. such attempts should be encouraged in associate countries like china,usa,uae,etc. that will help the game to have a greater reach.

most importantly, involve money and career options. that, once done, will surely improve the prospect of the game.

thereafter, we can expect your dreams to come true.

dont know about you. but i dont expect to live till then. :)

thanks..bye.

Posted by die on (June 23, 2010, 18:34 GMT)

actually i dont think thers anything much better said in this article...now im going to be very harsh and i wont apologise because i dont see much of a point here except the point about reckless match scheduling

1st thing that i would LIKE to agree with,not completely though is yes..sometimes cricket is being over shedule,though that factor should not concern for the spectator..as a spectator i cant wait to see my team play a match regulary,one month rest is unbearable.

true,the piont can be argued and said thats too much,but there i spoke in a spectators point of veiw

now about this whole reckless argument concerning the ''why cricket is not popilar as football''---for heavens sake(ill try to make this short and simple) CRICKET DOESNT HAVE TO BE POPULARISED,thers no ache for cricketres to spend there time in practising so hard for cricket UNLESS they are not passionate and commited towards there country ICC trying to spread crickt is in my POV a totally ungracefull thing continue.

Posted by Mohsin Ali on (June 22, 2010, 12:12 GMT)

Cricket is being spoiled by ICC. There is a T20 worldcup or a Champions Trophy every year. People are getting bored of watching too much cricket no matter how exciting the matches maybe. I think there should be a Trophy or a Tournament where all teams play against each other over a period of 6 months and then the finals take place between the top teams from the leagues. It could be either ODI or Tests.

Also i think ICC should focus on emerging cricket playing nations. Except for the rise of Sri Lanka there has been no other team that has become world class in the past 20-25 years. Zimbabwe and Bangladesh are still minnows. ICC should do whatever it can to introduce cricket to other European countries and the US or else cricket will never grow from being a sport played between 10-12 nations.

Posted by CG on (June 21, 2010, 13:11 GMT)

It is mainly because of the speed and utmost involvement of players make soccer better to watch than cricket. In cricket, you tend to relax after a delivery is bowled or hit whereas when watching soccer, you just cant take your eyes off till the break-time. The speed, rhythm at which the game is played makes it more interesting to watch. In cricket there are LOT of time-gaps to relax.

Posted by deepak on (June 21, 2010, 9:15 GMT)

Very nice written sir. This blog can show mirror to the ICC.

Posted by Shalabh on (June 21, 2010, 8:26 GMT)

Cant agree more. One thing you miss here is the variety and frequency of world cups cricket has. I am still to get a hold of just how often the T20 WC is organized. It was in both 2009 and 2010. And then there is the 50-50 WC and Champions Trophy, which involve all the nations. Effectively, cricket now averages a world event (meaning involving all major nations) more than once a year with just 12 active participants. Football - 1 in 4 years with over a 100 countries. The numbers just dont add up.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.

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