Aakash Chopra
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Former India opener; author of Beyond the Blues, an account of the 2007-08 Ranji Trophy season

Respect the fan

Indian cricket is where it is today because of its supporters, but their dedication is being tried by the unsavouriness surrounding the game

Aakash Chopra

June 10, 2013

Comments: 28 | Text size: A | A

Fans add some colour to the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne, Australia v India, 1st Test, Melbourne, 2nd day, December 27, 2011
Indian fans continue to flock to their side's matches despite the fixing scandal. That loyalty shouldn't be taken for granted © AFP

On a charming train ride from Manchester to Cardiff, livened by a gang of spirited Indian fans and cups of coffee, a question that provokes unease pops into my head: Who should Indian cricket be liable to?

The investors and business houses who pump in money, and in turn depend upon market dynamics and TRPs? The impact of these entities on cricket is what makes the game in India look pretty among its poor cousins, hockey and football. This particular answer may seem valid, but it is not entirely correct.

The young men on board, proudly wearing their Team India jerseys and animatedly discussing the prospect of India v South Africa, grab my attention. One of them comes up for a chat. He has spent a fortune - £100 for a ticket to the game, in addition to his train fare and hotel stay. He and his friends have also already bought tickets to all of India's games. They tell me that they also pay through the nose to watch every match India play on TV. That's a huge financial and emotional investment - in spite of the muck of fixing.

The money chain starts from here, with the fans. It is they who bring in the moolah, which in turn makes India's board and cricketers the richest in the world. Fortunately for Indian cricket, there are hundreds of millions of such fans across the globe. That so many people watch India play ensures that money keeps coming into the BCCI's coffers.

A cricketer may hardly ever give a thought to how a fan makes it to the stands. While players fly business class and stay in five-star hotels, the ones who fill the stadia to watch them find the cheapest mode of transport, and stay in bed-and-breakfasts. While players are ferried about in comfortable buses, fans stand in never-ending queues to get into venues. Long after we've wrapped up the game and have begun to comfortably unwind in the hotel, these people start their tedious journeys back home.

They might moan and groan when India lose, but come the following game, they are back, egging their side on. A cricketer has to keep his side of the bargain - which is to play good cricket. And clean cricket.

The latest spot-fixing scandal has shaken the core of this arrangement, for as much as the fan wants to witness a game full of theatre, he doesn't want it to be scripted. For that he can always go to the cinema. How unpleasant it would be for cricket lovers to begin to view every no-ball or wide with cynicism and doubt. The raw, unadulterated passion with which cricket was revered seems unfortunately to have become a thing of the past; but still, the lovers of the game - like all lovers - continue to be committed. It's a fascinating dichotomy.

While we must assume the players involved in the recent scandal are innocent till proven guilty, one fan in the group on my train, said he didn't want to look back at the final moments of India's World Twenty20 win, for the man who took the catch to dismiss Misbah-ul-Haq had betrayed his faith. The fact that this fan was still travelling 300km to watch India play spoke volumes about his love for the game and his team. That love ought to be respected.

While the average fan may be happy to live in denial - which explains the numbers for the final week of the IPL (despite the controversy) - it's important Indian cricket does not take him for granted. There have been many who, following the 2000 match-fixing scandal, stopped watching cricket completely. A hero like Hansie Cronje going down was too much for them to take.

India definitely don't want to push its fans to the wall. It's time the cricketing fraternity realises that the biggest stakeholder in the game is the fan. The one who is willing to bear the scorching heat, queue up, buy tickets, support his team and cheer his idols - in return for an honest game. That's not asking for too much, is it?

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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Posted by cricankul on (June 11, 2013, 0:37 GMT)

I completely agree with your views .we fans expect the cricketers to play fair and competitive game.

Posted by cricket-india on (June 10, 2013, 17:59 GMT)

sure the fans command respect, but as other posters here have said, they should demand it if it's not forthcoming. no one would enjoy playing in front of empty stands, and no one would make money or otherwise enjoy conducting such matches, so the most effective way to demand the respect you command is to boycott matches that deserve to. not just the fixed or potentially fixed one (for you rarely, if ever, happen to know of them beforehand unless you're the one who's doing the fixing!!!) but the ones that are conducted in a haphazard or deliberately painful manner - free tickets being given away to those who anyway don't turn up to watch while denying genuine fans who'd pay to watch, no proper toileting or food facilities at the stadiums, no proper parking arrangements, confiscating stuff that doesn't conform to advertisers' or sponsors' regulations, and so on. if we don't stand up for ourselves, we get what we deserve (or the other way round!!).

Posted by   on (June 10, 2013, 16:41 GMT)

Come on, its been known for years the last group the BCCI or the players care about is the fans. Not once did Sachin Tendulkar give a press conference in Australia in fact Dhoni sent out Wriddhiman Saha to do a press conference when he can't speak english fluently. Contrast this with the Australians who have their players on twitter, constantly at press conferences, interact with the fans for photos and CA who has a transparent process. Indian cricketers need to have a look at tennis players. They are the best at fan interaction. Rafael Nadal even address social media in his french open thank you speech!

Posted by itsthewayuplay on (June 10, 2013, 13:34 GMT)

Therein lies the conundrum - we fans are ones who swell the coffers of BCCI and make the players rich and continue to support them through thick and thin whether the team is winning or losing, whether the performance was good or pathetic whether corruption is there or not, whether Tendulkar retires or not and son. So how we can complain they take us for granted when we give them every reason to do so? The BCCI is filled with business people whose main driver is business and not cricket. We have to talk to them in their language to make them and the players understand what we want and that means voting with our feet if we want change. But we Indian supporters don't want to risk missing magical moments on the field of play, such as those provided by the 1983 WC winning team or Sachin at the start of his career so we will continue to follow the team and the BCCI and the players will continue to make fools of us and we will continue to accept it. This is nothing new Aakash.

Posted by   on (June 10, 2013, 11:55 GMT)

IPL has brought about the Bollywood model into Cricket. Bollywood has existed for decades, without any transparency or accountability on how movies are financed, how much actors are paid etc. At this point, the ownership of teams is also like that. As someone mentioned, the teams owned by businessmen in the IPL are also not exactly paragons of governance. If BCCI and Indian cricket have to stay with IPL and Indian team, then the Government needs to get to the bottom of the money trail and take harsh actions; Unfortunately, the investigations are headed in the wrong direction. In Chennai, people had to stand in Q for 2 hours or more, just to get in into the stadium. online reservation was offered for season tickets, while day tickets had to be collected from the stadium. However, for IPL all kinds of tickets were available online. Like the classical manager, BCCI has the face to themselves and the backside to the fans. Let us see how far it goes.

Posted by   on (June 10, 2013, 11:07 GMT)

Its like in every sport in every country. Fans dont watch the game as a favor to players or national team or any club. They watch to be entertained, have that thrill in life that they think is missing from their life, or to simply enjoy with friends, family, or even to pass the time. There are viewers of WWE who know that the events, fights are staged but they watch nevertheless, . Its a two way thing,

Posted by gnat9 on (June 10, 2013, 10:53 GMT)

Much as it may sound harsh, it has to be said that the Indian fan too is responsible for the mess. The BCCI knows that no matter how much of sleaze and match fixing, people will spend their hard earned money and turn up at the stadium in their thousands on the day of the match. The fact that there were 50,000 spectators in Eden Gardens on the day of the IPL final, just a few days after the match fixing scam came out, only proves this. Srinivasan even used this large turnout to justify his continuation in office. If the fans were more proactive in demanding accountability, and boycotted the IPL games by staying away from the stadium, it would send a very strong message to the BCCI and force them into taking action. But the Indian fans will never do this, and as a result, everyone takes them for granted.

Posted by   on (June 10, 2013, 9:59 GMT)

The Love for the Game in India and within Indians staying abroad is much higher to get affected - rather they do NOT have much of a choice as no other sport gives the avg India that feeling of being on top of the world.....Recent events have surely dented the fan - but still cricket remains the NO 1 Sport for India by far - the day some other sport comes to a level where India starts performing consistently well on word stage and thats a watched sport liek football or tenis or hockey only then this 2nd most populated country will let cricket be where it is - as most of the fans know why Chennai Super Kings reaches finals in all IPLs but cricket still remains the most entertaining sport hence they are there to watch .....

Posted by   on (June 10, 2013, 9:01 GMT)

I disagree with Aakash's views on some things. Will the big business houses and the average fan ( housewives and children ) spend the big bucks if every game is like the games in the champions trophy ? Only cricket buffs like such close low scoring games. When I was in the stadium, it was full of families who were just screaming for 4s and 6s, the cameras, and dancing. They want entertainment more than cricket. And they are getting it. The IPL marketing folks get it. I dont think the die hard cricket fan gets it. So I believe strongly there are unwritten rules among the teams that every game has to end at the death and as close as possible with as much big hitting as possible. But I still enjoy it because it is entertainment - a movie that runs for 2 months.

Posted by analyseabhishek on (June 10, 2013, 8:57 GMT)

The only way forward, as Raj Sundarraman insinuates, is that the Indian Cricket should broaden his/her interests and start watching/playing/cheering other sports and activities. Not only would it mean a better development/enrichment of the mind and body, it would also improve the quality of Cricket enthusiasts as well. As a matter of fact, Cricket is not even meant to be a mass-sport. As for the greedy, power hungry officials, so long as people keep watching and sponsors keep paying, they couldn't care less.

Posted by Nutcutlet on (June 10, 2013, 8:24 GMT)

Good article, Aakash -- thank you for it. There is one point you perhaps could have made & given your focus (the genuinely devoted Indian fan), it's understandable that you didn't. So I'll throw the following into the pot for people to consider:there are millions of cricket fans around the world who have been & are aghast as what has been going on in India. The IPL gambling/fixing den; the refusal of the BCCI to engage in proper discussion over the use of technology; their treatment of visiting broadcasters; the clamping down of their own comms when it comes to 'wider discussion'; the gratuities to ex-players to ensure silence over controversial issues; their mugging of the ICC, women's cricket. Let's be clear; the Indian players are often highly regarded internationally, but their board & its tentacles most certainly are not. We, genuine fans, can sniff out the other genuine fans, & the honest national board concerned for cricket's future. The BCCI has not been that at all, has it?

Posted by tickcric on (June 10, 2013, 8:12 GMT)

After all the murkiness surrounding cricket in recent days I am still watching India games with some zeal. But somewhere I am hurt. My decimal of TRP is still with cricket, perhaps it will just continue to be there. But,... I don't know what more to say.

Posted by crindex on (June 10, 2013, 8:12 GMT)

Fans love these drama too. WWF will be a huge success in India if done the same way as IPL.

Posted by TheOnlyEmperor on (June 10, 2013, 7:24 GMT)

If cricket is the product on offer then the fans are the consumers are the game. No business can survive, however good the product, if the consumers are taken for granted and their voices ignored. This is basic common sense which gets instilled into all students at the B Schools.

It's amazing how such basics are repeatedly ignored resulting in distress to all.

Is there any display of intelligence at all in cricket administration these days? I think not. Not with the evidence on display!

Posted by sansean on (June 10, 2013, 6:49 GMT)

Finally a logical article from a Indian cricketer. Its sad to see that in Indian cricket the fan is disrespected to the core. If you follow world football you would know that players apologise to fans after a loss, players treat fans like absolute gods even in the face of fans misbehaving.Its exactly the opposite here in Indian Cricket, Virat kohli abusing and then threatening fans in Chennai for just saying chennai rocks, Harbhajan whacking a fan with his kitbag for saying "yeh kya kiya paaji" and various other incidents involving Rohit Sharma,Munaf Patel are apalling, the worst part is that such behavior in football woul mean suspension and in extreme cases like VIrat and Harbhajan even ban.The statement kohli made in Mumbai durng IPL presentaion ceremony just coz he got booed should have resulted in suspension but here he gets to act like he is supposed to be immune to any criticism.I gues we are supposed to hail their audacity and bear their disrespect,we are JUST fans mere mortals

Posted by   on (June 10, 2013, 6:28 GMT)

As Mr. Chopra says, "the money chain starts from here." In more ways than one. Fans spend their last dollar on tickets, transport & TV, and in the millions, their fervent support lines BCCI's coffers. These fans also spend their last dollar betting on the next delivery, over & match, and in the millions; their zealous speculation also lines the bookies' coffers. This is not to be taken as an assault on individual fans, merely the current culture.

That even the highest-profile players, umpires & administrators can be got to speaks to the size of this business. And the facts are as clear as they are ugly: its even bigger than the BCCI. And we fans must collectively share some blame too. At the bottom line, fans make the game what is: good & bad. We cannot win a war on cricket corruption by funding both sides at the same time. While we can agree to disagree on the merits of legalized betting, we can agree with Mr. Chopra on one thing: fixing matches robs fans, even the betting ones.

Posted by   on (June 10, 2013, 6:09 GMT)

Hope this encourages the honest players to remain honest and make others to either quit or change. Fans wont stay long if this continues ono more time. Beware , TEAM INDIA.

Posted by PratUSA on (June 10, 2013, 5:51 GMT)

Sometimes it's not just 100 pounds for a game. I'll be watching the final of this Champions Trophy and my UK visa itself cost me about 100 pounds. And you can add flights, hotel, London-Birmingham transport and so on. But for me this is my annual pilgrimage, to try going somewhere and watching a game of cricket live. As long as cricket is honest, it's all worth it.

Posted by Pathiyal on (June 10, 2013, 5:47 GMT)

Indian fans/ Indian media are also to blamed for unduly respecting the players. I hv many friends who have played cricket for their clubs and colleges but surprisingly switch off the tv amidst a match if their favorite batsmen get out. They have to start cheering the nation (like the other fans do) rather than emotionally associating themselves with the players. There is another type of so called fans who just want some entertainment. more than the performances of some players, it is the match fixing issues which made them interested to watch ipl. just look at the gallery sizes of grounds in India compared to the others around the world. BCCI is just a money-minting association and they dont care about the welfare of the spectators. Nice article, Akash.

Posted by NEOXY on (June 10, 2013, 5:07 GMT)

Finally after Dravid's Bradman oration speech, is another cricketer speaking about the importance of the cricket fan. Spot on when he says Indian cricket is where it is because of the fans, and it is because of these fans that it is the de facto number one sport in our country. We may look away once or twice, but make no mistake that the fans are not fools, and if you take them for granted, there might come a day when whatever cricketers does would be impervious to the fans.

Posted by vibhavarms on (June 10, 2013, 5:05 GMT)

yeah yeah ....its quite ironical that this piece coming from a cricketer who does not bother necessarily to respond to 2 cent(die hard) fan like me .... even though the tweet is all praise for him .... Thanx for the piece though....Vibhav

Posted by   on (June 10, 2013, 4:32 GMT)

Awesome Article Akash. Respect !

Posted by US_Indian on (June 10, 2013, 3:59 GMT)

Dude AC- you summed it up all man. Hats off to you. The best ever article I have read on Cricinfo or so to say in any magazine or on internet. These people players, administrators tend to forget that the same public who puts them on such high pedestals can bring them down as well if they want. You forgot to mention, how many man hours have been lost, the emotional drain and sentimental torture they go through, how many kids fail in exams because most of the games are played in Jan to april which is the critical period of examinations, how many family members fight over cricket matches etc etc

Posted by 123cric on (June 10, 2013, 3:44 GMT)

Well said Akash, its we the Fan which make these players starts and super stars. BCCI has always let down the fans whether it be amenities at the stadium (imagine no water allowed at IPL matches in sweltering May heat) or be the accountability of the selectors (God knows why gag order on selectors and lately the skipper too). None of the administrator or the commentator has raised the plight of the common spectator who spend few thousands of his hard earned money to watch a IPL match and felt cheated when even the owners are involved. Its time when the demi Gods of Indian cricket stands for the fans and atleast for the sake of fans ensure crickets character is upheld.

Posted by vish2020 on (June 10, 2013, 3:18 GMT)

Finally, Aakash a great piece for us fans. Just watching Champions trophy on TV i can tell many countries have great fans but in only one country their players are treated like Gods and when they are playing a game the stadium is jam packed no matter where the game is in the world. SALUTE TO MY INDIANS! LOVE AND PRIDE... BLEED BLUE!!

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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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