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This, that and the other. Mostly the other
In the recent past there have been many discussions on how to revive interest in Test cricket. Every day when I log on to social networks like Twitter, Facebook or CNN, there are links to very long articles and blog posts about how something must be done immediately to make more people watch Tests.
These articles are usually extremely detailed and very academic, and often I have to read them in one or two sessions. I don't understand why these writers don't break their pieces up into small portions and post them one after the other.
One popular suggestion is to reduce the overall amount of televised cricket so that viewers focus more on Tests. This is an excellent plan.
Why not choose to televise either English cricket or South African cricket? What is the need to televise the performance of two teams from one nation? Also, do we really need to choke the calendar by televising the Test series between West Indies and Bangladesh? After one month of exciting but essentially audience-free cricket, somebody will write an article that says: "As long as Bangladesh lack belief in themselves and seem satisfied with limited success, fortunes are unlikely to change."
Exactly as I predicted. See this article by Mohammad Isam, published on November 18.
I am not making this up.
The other argument is that cricket needs to become more audience-friendly, especially at the stadiums, so that genuine spectators will come for the game, instead of poor schoolchildren who are forced to come and hold up placards that say: "Well Left Like A Boss!" and "Follow On Doctor!"
Audience-friendly stadiums?! I have never heard of such an absurd thing since Tubular Bells II: This Time It's Commercial.
Recently I had the wonderful opportunity of watching several events live during the 2012 Olympics in London. It was all very good. I will never forget my experiences watching football, fencing and one more sport. All was good except the unnecessary lengths to which the organisers had gone to make things spectator-friendly.
For instance, every stadium had a smorgasbord of toilet facilities for people of both genders.
Sounds like a good idea? Wrong. What this did was give spectators the idea that they could go to the bathroom at any point during an event.
Imagine. You are watching some vigorous beach volleyball when an old lady decides to "pop to the loo" (translation: "Go to the toilet"; usage example: "Stuart Broad's bowling has popped to the loo"). Now 378 people have to get up to let her pass. And then after ten minutes, another 756 have to get up because she returned to the wrong row the first time.
Equally revolting was the fact that the organisers had clearly communicated, both online and outdoors, directions and procedures on how to buy tickets, use public transport and walk to the venues.
Sounds terribly civilised, no?
All this did was to make thousands of casual, uncommitted civilians feel like they could pop into stadiums for a quick look at a sport, while the truly committed sports fans ended up in the bad seats or with no seats.
Because of this, serious fans like yours truly had to watch the fencing sitting next to idiots constantly asking questions like:
"Can you see the ball?"
"Are these men or women?"
"What is Slovenia?"
Uff. Fed up.
Also notable was how stadiums were well managed through a combination of ticket-reading machines, cleaning equipment and other modern devices. It was truly shocking to see how much technology was being used to do jobs that human beings can do. Especially at a time when the British economy and employment have popped to the loo (see above.)
These are just some of the reasons why making stadiums spectator-friendly is a bad idea. Only someone who truly hates the sport of Test cricket and wants to dilute the stadium experience cherished by thousands of committed fans will ask for reforms.
I hope at least the BCCI remains rock steady in its commitment to keep Indian stadiums sincere.
Sidin Vadukut is a columnist and editor with Mint, and the author of the Dork trilogy. Who Let the Dork Out? released in October
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