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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.
In an article for Aeon magazine, David Papineau explores the idea of nature v nurture in cricket by comparing it with other sports and examines whether genetic qualities plays a bigger role in the development of cricketers than environment.
If environments matter more in cricket than in soccer, then this makes cricketing skills look less genetically heritable than footballing ones. In football, most of the differences come from genetic advantages just because there aren't many environmental differences (if you live in a soccer-mad nation, opportunities to play are everywhere). But in cricket, there would still be a wide range of abilities even if everybody had exactly the same genetic endowment, because only some children would get a proper chance to learn the game. In effect, environmental causes are doing a lot more to spread out the children in cricket than they are in football. To sum up, cricket runs in families precisely because the genetic heritability of cricket skills is relatively low.
While reviewing Chris Waters' book 10 for 10 - on Hedley Verity's record - for the Guardian, Andy Bull recounts some entertaining stories of superstitions that cricketers have followed.
Others take things further still. Duck seemed so portentous to Steve James that he refused to eat it, and wouldn't even let his children have a rubber one to play with in the bath, until after his career was over. He sympathised with Neil McKenzie, who developed an obsession that meant he would go out to bat only when all the toilet seats were down, and even went through a phase of taping his bat to the ceiling because his team-mates had once done that to him on a day when he scored a century.
Chris Gayle is looking to give something back to Jamaican society, through cricket. He has opened an academy in Kingston, at the Lucas Cricket Club, for "underprivileged youngsters". The academy, which also has a branch in England, will have two programmes: the Chris Gayle Academy team, and the Chris Gayle Big Six Club.
The academy team will cater to 16 young players on an annual basis, aged between 16 and 21, and - the plan is - give them the opportunity to play other Jamaican teams and touring youth squads. The Big Six Club is a 12-week programme targeted at kids from troubled communities (think low school-attendance rates, high crime levels, and rising drugs abuse).
An emotional Gayle, at the academy's launch, remembered how he was attracted to the game when he was a kid. "Being here brings back memories of me as a youngster, who used to jump the walls of Lucas from my house across the street, just wanting the opportunity to learn the sport of cricket and become a better person," Gayle said, according to the Jamaica Gleaner. "To have come from that far, and being here now, is quite moving, and the hope is that this academy will similarly open doors and opportunities for youngsters."