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Strong leaders were needed to unite and grow a cricket team from the West Indies, not a country but a diverse region. Frank Worrell was one, Clive Lloyd another, so was Viv Richards. In the Age, Greg Baum writes that there has been no one after them to break the freefall West Indies cricket finds itself in, after the latest player payment crisis forced the cancellation of the India tour.
West Indian cricket is nearly irrelevant. Yet their teams still are populated by cricketers who a Caribbean commentator once characterised as "a bit too pleased with themselves". Chris Gayle epitomised them: such a devastating player, so insouciant. No successor to Worrell and Lloyd emerged to temper and tame.
Amidst yet another "crisis" between West Indies players and the WICB, Michael Holding writes in his column for Wisden India, how the board has allowed for such a situation to come up again, despite being familiar with such issues in the past. Holding says the WICB and the WIPA should have taken better steps to avoid the curtailment of their tour of India.
The problem with West Indies is that the WICB always pushes things to the brink and waits till the last moment. That's why so many tours begin with players having not yet signed tour contracts. This MoU was signed in September. Why didn't the players know exactly what was in the MoU until they got to India at the end of the month? Why weren't all the players e-mailed the MoU? I'm sure the WIPA and the WICB have e-mails and contacts of all the players. But no. They wait until they get to India, and then try to manipulate the players. They had all the leadup time before the first ODI to try and iron something out but no, no compromise. From the very first instance the prospect of the players striking came up, on October 7 as the BCCI release says, the WICB/Cameron were willing to cancel the tour immediately. The WICB have not denied it. As a matter of fact, the WICB have not even mentioned the BCCI press release. All they've done is put out another press release to divert attention from the BCCI release and of course trying their very best to blame the players. Again, dishonest.
Cricket's dominance in India might not be fading just yet, but the team's performance has not been as compelling as the last decade and high-profile retirements since have also had an impact on viewership. Ashok Malik, in Asian Age, wonders if a saturation has been reached, especially with other sports enticing the average fan.
Cricket viewership, even Indian Premier League viewership, is not growing. It has either reached a ceiling (IPL) or a floor (Test cricket). Even limited-overs cricket (the Fifty50) game, the mainstay of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), is showing a worrying pattern. On-ground presence is lower than previously. The BCCI is masking it by hosting matches mainly in smaller cities and towns, where the novelty may still be there. As for television, a comparison between the India-West Indies limited-overs series of 2011 and 2013 would be telling. Both series were played in India. The first was played in the aftermath of India's World Cup victory and showed a TRP of 3.4 (male/15-34/Sec A, B and C). By the 2013 series, the TRP number had fallen to 2.2. TRP figures for the just-concluded (October 2014) India-West Indies series were not immediately available.
The 2005 Ashes represented a high point not just for English cricket, but for cricket in England as well, with the sport capturing the country's attention in a way it seldom had before. Since then, it has receded from view once again, with the ECB selling broadcasting rights to Sky and cricket going off free-to-air television. Writing in the Guardian, Andy Bull ponders the repercussions of that move.
It was, as Kevin Pietersen, and his ghost, write in one of the more acute pieces of analysis in KP: The Autobiography, "a moment in time" that cricket "will never have back again". Back then, they write, "English cricket had something it's lost. Superstars. Sexiness. Momentum. The right to be called the national sport." But then there were special circumstances. It had been a generation since England had last won the Ashes, they were playing a team acknowledged as one of the greatest in the history of the sport, and the cricket itself was compelling. And, of course, it was on terrestrial TV. They estimate that a total of 22.65m people watched a minimum of 30 minutes of live cricket at least one point that summer. The audience peaked at 8.4m. Compared to the last series in England, in 2001, the overall numbers had almost doubled. And, more important still, there was a 74% rise among under-15s.
And that was when the curtain came down. "English cricket," Pietersen writes, "took the decision to wind its neck back in." Unless you pay extra for the privilege, the only international cricket you've seen on your TV since has been in highlights packages. The following home Ashes, in 2009, reached a peak of just under 2m viewers.