Bradman Oration December 14, 2011

Cricket must respect the fan - Dravid

ESPNcricinfo staff

Rahul Dravid has called for cricket's players and administrators to tackle the game's challenges by taking decisions that would always "respect the fan." He was delivering the annual Bradman Oration on Wednesday, the first cricketer from outside Australia invited to do so in the ten-year history of the event.

The 40-minute speech, delivered at the Anzac Hall at the National War Memorial, Canberra, urged the game's stakeholders to remember that "everything that has given cricket its power and influence in the world of sports has started from that fan in the stadium." Dravid said players needed to think of the fans when they played the game, in terms of conduct, intensity and integrity. Administrators, he believed, needed to keep the viewing public in mind when they tried to handle the trickiest of the challenges, balancing the three formats in cricket.

"They [the fans] deserve our respect and let us not take them for granted. Disrespecting fans is disrespecting the game. The fans have stood by our game through everything. When we play, we need to think of them. As players, the balance between competitiveness and fairness can be tough but it must be found."

Dravid said he had been surprised to see grounds half-full during the India v England ODI series in October which to him was an indicator that there had been a "change in temperature" in Indian cricket over the last two years. "Whatever the reasons are - maybe it is too much cricket or too little by way of comfort for spectators - the fan has sent us a message and we must listen…Let us not be so satisfied with the present, with deals and finances in hand that we get blindsided."

The administrators' biggest challenge in terms of retaining public interest and support of the game all over the world was, he said, to work out a sensible road-map for the game's three formats. An alternate plan giving every game context and relevance would have to be worked out because, "the three formats cannot be played in equal numbers - that will only throw scheduling and the true development of players completely off gear. Cricket must find a middle path," he said.

"It must scale down this mad merry-go-round that teams and players find themselves in: heading off for two-Test tours and seven-match ODI series with a few Twenty20s thrown in." Dravid described Test cricket as "the gold standard" and the form that the players most wanted to play, ODI cricket had kept the game's revenues going for three decades while T20 was the format the fans wanted to see. Despite the popularity of T20, Dravid said, "Test cricket deserves to be protected, it is what the world's best know they will be judged by".

"Where I come from, nation versus nation is what got people interested in cricket in the first place. When I hear the news that a country is playing without some of its best players, I always wonder, what do their fans think?"

He said the popularity of Test cricket could be reflected not so much in packed grounds but how its most loyal fans followed the scores. "We may not fill 65,000 capacity stadiums for Test matches, but we must actively fight to get as many as we can in, to create a Test match environment that the players and the fans feed off. Anything but the sight of Tests played on empty grounds.

It was where the administrators had to ensure that teams played, "Test cricket that people can watch," and ensure that Tests, "fit into 21st century life, through timing, environments and the venues they are held in." He supported discussions around day-night Tests and a Test championship, despite anxieties over its financial difficulties. He spoke of playing a day night first-class game for the MCC in Abu Dhabi which left him convinced, "day-night Tests is an idea seriously worth exploring. There may be some challenges in places where there is dew but the visibility and durability of the pink cricket ball was not an issue."

Dravid also said that a Test championship would encourage every team and player to deliver strong performances in every match, with context provided for every Test. At the moment, there is an ICC Test rankings table but the inaugural Test championship will not be held until 2017, when Dravid will be 44 years old. The ICC had hoped to bring the championship forward to 2013 and use it to replace the Champions Trophy, but commitments to the broadcaster and sponsors meant that could not be done. Dravid said he was against the idea of scrapping ODIs altogether but believed that events like the World Cup and the Champions Trophy should be the focus, with other ODIs contributing to rankings for those events.

"Since about, I think 1985, people have been saying that there is too much meaningless one-day cricket," he said. "Maybe it's finally time to do something about it ... Anything makes more sense than seven-match ODI series." More context for matches might also help draw crowds back to the game. Dravid said he had been surprised to see the lack of spectators at an ODI series featuring India this year and he described the sight of empty stands as "alarming".

Dravid said that even if fans were watching on television, the experience was not the same. And that, he argued, could have consequences in the long term. "Whatever the reasons are - maybe it is too much cricket or too little by way of comfort for spectators. The fan has sent us a message and we must listen. This is not mere sentimentality. Empty stands do not make for good television. Bad television can lead to a fall in ratings, the fall in ratings will be felt by media planners and advertisers' looking elsewhere.

"If that happens, it is hard to see television rights around cricket being as sought after as they have always been in the last 15 years. And where does that leave everyone?"

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Indian on December 17, 2011, 11:57 GMT

    Didn't realise that Indians and Australians fought together in the World War. Well.. I knew that we were in the Allied forces.. but they way Dravid put it, just makes it so much more touching!

    Also, really impressed by Andrew Symonds in the Indian version of Big Brother.. top guy!!... can't believe I'm warming to Aussies!! (will it all change when the cricket begins?! LOL!... hope not)

  • Manish on December 16, 2011, 13:31 GMT

    Great speech by Mr. Wall. As far as cricket is concerned, not many people have time to watch and pay money for it. It would be much better if the scores are updated on facebook as currently it is doing a better job of keeping us refreshing. Also, include middle class people in cricket so that they can also earn money a little bit. Not just players and politicians who are just becoming rich.

  • Dummy4 on December 16, 2011, 2:10 GMT

    And fans respect Dravid for saying that. Respect, respect. *thumbs up*

  • Dummy4 on December 15, 2011, 23:12 GMT

    Wow- what a Speech, The Great Wall~ I always wonder how a test cricket is still stand at Gold stage for all cricket lovers~ as an Indian I believe test cricket is like a indian movie which, has *drama,dance, action, nail biting suspense and happy ending moments of each great test match played till Now~ Cheers~ hope for great series ahead~!! Enjoy:)

  • Shanmugam on December 15, 2011, 20:53 GMT

    @the_wallster, I hear you and I have the same views as you. But, sub-continent fans love ODIs. Besides, the Aussies are not doing well in test cricket and may claim that ODIs are the premier format since it is the one format in which they are ranked #1 (although it won't be long since India will soon be taking over):-) As @soumyas says, it would not be correct to scrap the format. Instead, cutting down on ODIs (perhaps 3 ODIs per series) would be the correct approach. 7 ODIs, as most people would agree, is ridiculous. And, no, this has got nothing to do with England losing four 7 ODI series 1-6:-)

  • Samrat on December 15, 2011, 19:57 GMT

    SIR RAHUL DRAVID, Great speech by a great and true gentleman of the game. What a humble cricketer RD is. His speech and voice tells the story of what RD is. The current and future generation of cricketers should hear this speech and learn from it.

    Very well done RD. You really are a "Gem of a Person". We are proud of you as an Indian. We will look forward to your services to Indian cricketing world for many many more years. There will never be another RD again.

    Wish you all the success in your Aussie tour. Hats off to you SIR. In my opinion you deserve to be called a Sir.

  • david on December 15, 2011, 19:37 GMT

    A.AK.if you believe that the indian supporters believed that they did not bother if they won or lost, think again. we would not have got all the excuses under the sun on the various column inches given on that defeat.

  • Daljit on December 15, 2011, 17:35 GMT

    True...very much true...Dravid said correct. I think the administrator should listen this carefully and take some wise decision in favor of fans who spends money and comes to watch the match live. It is high time now that BCCI still thinking about big money from telecast rights other Ads revenue including stadium income. Why they don't make the tickets economical for fans and make some comfort in stadium like in Aus, South Africa. Their income are good enough from other revenue so should consider the reasonable price for tickets as well should organize matches in small locality than repeating always in Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, B'lore etc. They are able to watch so much cricket that it is difficult them to come again and again where as small locality fans are desperate to watch live international match but unable to watch frequently. So, why this injustice for small grounds...small locality fans. Wake up BCCI...

  • Dummy4 on December 15, 2011, 16:37 GMT

    rare and marvelous speech by wall

  • Arul on December 15, 2011, 16:19 GMT

    After watching too much t20 cricket, fans must have thought to see a test cricket in t20 pace. I guess, with proper cricketers like Dravid, VVS, Indian fans cant stay and watch the game. they prefer Shewag, Sachin or Dhoni play a quick fire 50 and leave the ground afterwards. When India toured England this year, many fans only want to see Sachin's hundred, many didnt bother about India winning or losing. Poor Dravid. He scored only 3 runs per over, but so called stars, who media called "crowd pullers", failed to score runs at all.

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