Pakistan v India, 2nd Test, Lahore, 1st day

All for a good cause

Before the second Test started, Dravid and Inzamam-ul-Haq came together to join children in holding a banner with the slogan "Bowl out Polio" written on it

Anand Vasu in Lahore

April 5, 2004

Text size: A | A



Umar Gul nails Virender Sehwag on the way to his five-for. Sadly, very few turned up to watch Gul's superb bowling performance © AFP
Enlarge

The official attendance figure for the first day of the second Test was 1647 at tea. Looking at the stands, though, you would not have guessed that even that many made it to the Gaddafi Stadium. Umar Gul returned to the Test team with an exhilarating spell - it's not every day that you pick up the wickets of Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid - and claimed 5 for 31. Sadly for Gul, there was hardly anyone in the ground watching him perform. The crash-bang-wallop one-dayers were played to full houses, and no-one expected the Tests to draw an equal response. But at Multan and now here at Lahore the crowds have been so disappointing that it's time for the authorities to start worrying.

All around the world ground attendances have dropped in Test matches. Thankfully, there are still places, like the smaller towns in India, where significant numbers turn up. That certainly is not the case in Pakistan. Officials of the Pakistan Cricket Board have been asked about this repeatedly, and yet no convincing answer is forthcoming. Some blame the heat, some the excessive security, and some even claim that the crowds stay away because they believe these matches are fixed. But a huge factor is the quality of the television coverage these days.

You ask the locals and most of them tell you they aren't interested in going to the ground, because they can follow the game so much better on TV. Action replays, expert analysis, extensive graphics and tools like Hawk-Eye are now used to dissect each and every element of play. Also, the people who run the game are so happy with the money TV generates that gate receipts have become meaningless.

The vast reach of television, coupled with the Indian team's eagerness to promote good causes, has resulted in a number of initiatives being launched. Before the second Test, Dravid and Inzamam-ul-Haq came together to join children in holding a banner with the slogan "Bowl out Polio" written on it. This campaign to increase awareness about polio is a UNICEF initiative. But not many are aware that it started more than a year ago, when UNICEF and the Indian Cricket Players' Association forged their partnership. Since then, several leading Indian cricketers, including Sourav Ganguly, Tendulkar and Laxman, have recorded messages for broadcast on television.

Hot on the heels of this announcement came the message that the Indian team had put its weight behind yet another good cause. Shahid Siddique Chhina, a local journalist, approached them with a special request. His daughter, Huba Shahid, has been diagnosed as having a strain of facial cancer that can be treated only by something called gamma-knife surgery. This procedure is not available in Pakistan, and India is the nearest and cheapest centre where Huba can be treated. When the Indian team heard that time was running out for the 10-year-old girl, they appealed to cancer specialists in India to come forward and help save a life.

As the day wore on, India recovered from Gul's scything spell through a blinder of a century from Yuvraj Singh. When he reached his hundred, his first in Test cricket, he immediately acknowledged the cheers of the dressing-room. He then looked around, trying to find a populated stand to wave his bat at, and found none. Two great performances from cricketers of the future unfolded with virtually no-one in the stands to witness them. Looking at it positively, at least those watching on their TV sets at home enjoyed the performances. And, in the middle of all the entertainment, got two very important messages as well.

RSS Feeds: Anand Vasu

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

FeedbackTop
Email Feedback Print
Share
E-mail
Feedback
Print
Related Links
News : 1st day bulletin
Players/Officials: Umar Gul | Yuvraj Singh
Series/Tournaments: India tour of Pakistan
Teams: India | Pakistan
Grounds: Gaddafi Stadium

    'My kind of bowling style is gone now'

Gavin Larsen talks about wobbly seam-up bowling, the 1992 World Cup, and his role in the next tournament

    Busy keepers, and Waqar's bowleds

Ask Steven: Also, high scores and low averages, most ducks in international cricket, and the 12-year-old Test player

'The man who had a winning impact'

Modern Masters: Rahul Dravid and Sanjay Manjrekar discuss VVS Laxman's match-winning skills

    'If I were a fruit, I'd be an orange'

Jonny Bairstow talks red hair, team-mates to avoid while batting, and what to see in Yorkshire

It's about anecdotes, not numbers

Jonathan Wilson: Runs and wickets matter little in games involving authors, seminarians and the like. It pays to keep your ears open

News | Features Last 7 days

Youngest double-centurions, and the oldest living Test players

Also, the closest ODI team match-ups, most catches in a T20, and expensive Test debut five-fors

From Constantine to Chanderpaul

As West Indies play their 500th Test, here's an interactive journey through their Test history

Soaring in the 1980s, slumping in the 2000s

In their pomp, West Indies had a 53-13 win-loss record; in their last 99, it is 16-53. That, in a nutshell, shows how steep the decline has been

The contenders to replace Ajmal

Following the bowling ban on Saeed Ajmal, ESPNcricinfo picks five bowlers Pakistan may replace him with for the time being

I got more than I expected - Shastri

ESPNcricinfo spoke to Ravi Shastri, India's new team director, after the conclusion of the tour of England, where MS Dhoni's team lost the Tests, won the ODIs and then lost the only Twenty20 international

News | Features Last 7 days