June 30, 2013

When India travel, money follows

For the impoverished WICB, substituting a bilateral with Sri Lanka with a tri-series is a financial coup. However, it isn't doing Test cricket any good in the region

It only needed a quick glance around Sabina Park on Friday to understand why India are here for the ODI triangular with West Indies and Sri Lanka, rather than the two Tests, three ODIs and one T20 against Sri Lanka as stipulated on the ICC's Future Tours Programme (FTP).

The switch has little to do with cricket, all to do with the money that follows India wherever they go.

The teams are playing for the Celkon Mobile Cup, the name of a large Hyderabad-based manufacturer of mobile phones. It and a host of other Indian products and services, household names in the subcontinent, but unheard of in these parts, fill the ground perimeter advertising boards.

They are there because live coverage of the matches is transmitted back to India (as well as several other areas) by Ten Sports, the Dubai-based Indian production company that won the rights to international cricket in the Caribbean from the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) last year. Commentary is in English and, more pertinently for a viewership of several million, in Hindi.

The basis for the change from the ICC's bilateral with Sri Lanka was that it clashed with the closing stages of the IPL in which the leading Sri Lankan and West Indies players would be engaged. In their absence, the Tests would be seriously devalued.

For the impoverished WICB, the substitute is a financial coup. It was also, unavoidably it would argue, a further tightening of the rope around the neck of Test cricket.

There would be further complications. The tri-series was slotted in immediately after the Champions Trophy in England, precisely when the FTP had mandated a home series of two Tests, five ODIs and two T20s against Pakistan.

Nothing, however, properly explains how the WICB hasn't been able to attract sponsorship for its major tournaments since the days of Shell, Sandals, Geddes Grant/Harrison Line, Busta and Red Stripe

The WICB had already sold the rights for its annual T20 to the little known Verus International organisation under the banner of the Caribbean Premier League (CPL). Since then, Digicel, the former sponsor of West Indies cricket, has taken a lead role preparing for the July 30-August 24 tournament.

The three weeks between the end of the tri-series and the start of the CPL was the only window for Pakistan. That has finally, and inevitably, been condensed into five ODIs and two Twenty20s, further strangling Test cricket.

The stark truth, as the WICB repeatedly states, is that the only profitable home tours are those by India and England (with their host of travelling supporters and Sky TV coverage more so than the advertisers). All the others result in losses in a region of steep hotel and travel costs, small populations and increasingly struggling economies. When Zimbabwe toured last March, there was a sprinkling of advertising boards on the ground, all from WICB's few sponsors. By then, Digicel had dropped its title sponsorship, a hint of its later involvement with the CPL.

So it was last year when New Zealand and Australia came, their time zones inconvenient for TV viewers back home. The ICC hasn't listed India to return until February 2016 for three Tests, five ODIs and one T20. England have been split into separate tours (three ODIs and two T20s next February-March, three Tests in April 2015). The same number of spectators will hopefully follow them.

All of which might yet change. As long as India can be lured back, the ICC programme has no bearing.

Nothing, however, properly explains how the WICB hasn't been able to attract sponsorship for its major tournaments since the days of Shell, Sandals, Geddes Grant/Harrison Line, Busta and Red Stripe a decade and more ago, while CPL cooly signs on Limacol and Courts right away and entices Digicel over.

Tony Cozier has written about and commentated on cricket in the Caribbean for nearly 50 years

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Kamani on July 1, 2013, 16:17 GMT

    @harishk8006, in the USA, we have baseball, football, and hockey. There are about 30 US teams and 2 Canada teams for each. They call themselves "World Champions". Baseball and Hockey have even gotten themselves into the Olympics. Therefore, there is no reason the having only 10 countries actually playing Cricket is bad as baseball, football, and hockey are fine with 2.

  • Harmon on July 1, 2013, 15:13 GMT

    Time for the Eng fans to come down to the ground now. Let's talk about their Test Grounds. Given the noise made about Test's popularity, readers will be surprised to know that NOT ONE TEST STADIUM IN ENGLAND is big enough to host even 30.000 spectators. The capacities are as follows: 1. The Oval - 24k. 2. Old Trafford - 22k. 3. Lord's - 28k. 4. Trent Bridge - 18k. lol. 5. Headingley - 20k. 6. Edgbaston - 25k. 7. Chester-le-Street - 19k. 8. Cardiff - 16k. 9. Rose Bowl, Southampton - 15k

    With these puny sized stadia, these Eng fans call themselves as test lovers? First they need to build a large stadium. Some FC stadium in Eng are like 3,000 LOL.

    Compare this to stadia in India where the capacities are almost invariably between 45k-55k. I would've mentioned them too but for want of space here.

    A half filled Eden Gardens has more people than a houseful Lord's, which incidentally is their largest test stadium. What's so special if a 18k stadium is full? Is that proof of test love?

  • varun on July 1, 2013, 14:57 GMT

    @Pramathanath Sastry: try to understand (if you can, don't try to give a different meaning to what i have written) i am not trying to condemn test cricket....point is test cricket cannot globalize the game(130+ years and only 10 TEST member nations).......what is the point of playing game in only 5-6 countries and saying we are world champions(its an absolute joke) you are not a champion, you are only good out of handful bunch of nations in the world which has 150+ countries....every one says Australia and west indies and nowadays England (which i don't agree) they are the best in the world.......are you kidding me!!!!!you are the best out of 5-6 nations (ok may be 10 nations)....we as cricket lovers need to stop claiming what we have is the best and expand our horizon a little for the better of great game of CRICKET...or else we would be considered as narrow minded and etc (you know what i mean)

    Cricinfo: pls publish

  • varun on July 1, 2013, 11:17 GMT

    @middlestump: i don't think i need to answer to your comments of beer and wine, as it has been already CLEARLY eexplained by HARMONY 111 and about marathon and 100 mts sprintin Olympics...even a small kid knows that the most awaited event in OLYMPICS is 100 mts sprint and as told by HARMONY 111 and others at least in the world i am living marathon running is not the crown jewel of OLYMPICS....well i am not trying to degrade any sport here....all are good but some priorities have to change if cricket need to be accepted as a globalized event....let me ask you as you seem to know much about OLYMPICS.....where is cricket in OLYMPICS???? do you s

  • Kannan on July 1, 2013, 11:05 GMT

    @Chris-P: If there are 70000 people attending the Boxing Day opening day match at the MCG, it's because of 2 reasons : 1. Being present at the stadium on the opening day of a Boxing Day Test match at the MCG is a social tradition in Australia. What are the crowds, let's say on Day 3? 2. I believe that Australia has a tradition of not telecasting the matches in the city it's being played. So, the Aussie stadium numbers even on that single day don't count for much, especially if you were to compare them to India's TV viewing public added to the people in the stadium watching a match in EVERY single city where an international match is played!

  • Harmon on July 1, 2013, 10:50 GMT

    @MiddleStump: And one more thing btw. You mentioned that marathon is the crown jewel of the Olympics. Rest assured that an overwhelming number of people in the world, even those who do not actively follow the Olympics would know who won the 100 metre Gold in 2012. I can rattle off the names of the last 7-8 Gold Medal winners and I can also mention the names of the past 5-6 100 metre World Record Holders while dropping my hat. Who knows who won the Marathon Gold this time? Who cares? Can you honestly tell us the actual distance of an Olympic Marathon without searching for it? The 100 mt sprint Final is perhaps the most eagerly awaited event in the Olympics. Its not cos of its short ~10 sec duration. Its cos it thrills us. Same for ODIs and T20s.

    Paraphrasing CLR James, "What do they know of cricket who only test cricket know ?"

    Cricinfo: Pls publish.

  • Dummy4 on July 1, 2013, 10:42 GMT

    @PrasPunter England and Australia certainly have the finances to support themselves, but to support all other nations develop & sustain their cricket, we need India's money. What fun is it when only 2 or 3 nations play the game in the whole world ?

  • Harmon on July 1, 2013, 10:25 GMT

    @Chris_P: Someday I would love to have an exhaustive dialogue with ppl of your ilk about all that is wrong with you. 2000 onwards, India/Eng/Aus/SA have played an almost equal no of tests - 142/171/152/139. And 2005 onwards the figure is 90/106/93/83 for them. So on what basis do you say that it is Eng & Aus who have sustained Tests? Who told you that crowds don't come for Tests in India? The recent Ind-Eng tests were attended quite well. Moreover, what size are the stadia in Eng? 15k? 25k? You comparing them with 50k stadia of India on house-full criteria? LOL. Moreover, a great many ppl watch Tests on TV in India. That doesn't count right?

    @PrasPunter: Some Eng-Aus fans need to know that Tests do not mean Ashes alone. You can play 50 Ashes tests a year, that is Cohorting, not Sustaining Test Cricket. And Cricket is not owned by Eng-Aus fans either. Reg Tests being the best and purest form, some ppl confuse "SIMPLE & LIMITED" as "BEST & PUREST" cos they are themselves SIMPLETONS.

  • Prasanna on July 1, 2013, 10:07 GMT

    @MiddleStump, i am with you - perfect words those. Even lesser teams can become champions with T20 or at times the ODIs, but to win test-matches consistently both at home and away requires top-skills. The WI of the 80s and 90s, the Aussies not so long ago, the SA team and even the Eng for a short-period till recently were doing really well. Now, they are the real ones.

  • Harmon on July 1, 2013, 9:57 GMT

    @MiddleStump: Wow the arrogance of some test-lovers is a bit too much. Do you think that people travel only for watching tests? What right do you have to insult the other forms of the game? How can you call them a circus? I love tests too but the achievement of tests has been that in 120+ years they have got us total 10 test playing nations. Wow. And then we have some people who suffer from illusions of grandeur and think that what they like is the best and what others like is poor. They also extend this to the IQ levels, to the tastes of others and make fun of them by saying they don't know what good beer or wine is. It is precisely this contemptuous attitude of some test-lovers that has made it very difficult for the game to widen its base as the uninitiated feels insulted at this behaviour and so never fully joins. Just imagine a test lover like YOU explaining the game to someone in Russia or in Brazil.

    Cricinfo: Pls publish.

  • No featured comments at the moment.