Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Open Letter to the BCCI regarding empty stadiums

To: The BCCI,

Dear Sirs,

I am an avid cricket watcher, both on television as well as live. I enjoy test matches as well, in fact, i prefer watching test cricket to the other formats available at hand. However, that does not mean that i did not avidly follow the Indian cricket team during it's landmark world cup win this year, in fact i saw every match possible on television, and went for the one in my city as well. And i do feel you didn't get enough credit for hosting a very well organised world cup, and your selectors also did a good job in selecting an excellent team.

I do feel however, of the need to inform you of a certain problem which has crept into test cricket in India, which may well be the death of the longer format of the game in itself, and merely saying that enough people watch it on television, is a simply a method of dodging the problem. Stands are completely empty, people don't want to come to watch test matches live anymore. Some people disagree with this position, and so do you sometimes when one of you decides to actually address the issue, "that look the world cup was this year, off course there will be viewer fatigue for a while, but wait people will start watching cricket in stadiums again". I truly hope that what you say is true for all formats, but i do feel that for T20's and ODI's (till the next world cup at least), you will fill stadiums. However, in the coming seasons of test cricket, after these stalwarts retire, filling up stands for test cricket will become even more difficult.

The problem in my view, with regard to the live viewing experience is two fold: (1) in the administration of the sale of tickets for test matches and (2) the lack of regard for any sort of spectator comfort. Take for example, the first test match of the series between India and the West Indies at the Feroz Shah Kotla in New Delhi, which has a capacity of approximately 48,000 and saw a crowd of around 12,000 per day on the two holidays which coincided with the test, the rest of the days, the crowds were visibly lesser. This is despite the fact that Sachin was nearing his 100th test centiry on the final day of the test. The two sections of the crowd which were the most populated were the West and East Stands. Now people who know the Delhi Stadium, know that these are the cheapest tickets available for tests, costing Rs. 100 per day or Rs. 500 for the entire test, the rest of the tickets were either unavailable or substantially more expensive. However, the least costly stands were the only ones which were full, the corporate seats were empty, the more expensive tickets went unsold, the obligatory tickets went waste and those seats were empty as well. The "free jugaad tickets" that every delhi-ite knows about were not even in demand, as they are when there is a T20 match or an ODI, and so the stands went empty. This is despite the fact that many people were trying to figure out where to buy tickets, and were unable to do so. In today's information age, the fact that the BCCI and the state cricket associations, which in this case is the DDCA can't even provide information to the general public where tickets are available to be purchased is bordering on ludicrous. This can only be attributed to administrative lethargy, which you as a powerful cricket board can rectify quickly.

The lack of spectator comfort is a slightly more problematic issue which would require further cooperation of the state cricket associations. Take for example once again the Feroz Shah Kotla in New Delhi, where both the heavily populated East and West Stands were the ones which were in the worst condition and had the worst viewing experience. The metal grill is so high, that if you want to sit close to the action, you have to watch the entire match through the grill, and if you go far back enough to watch the match above the girll, you've reached the part of the stand covered by the upper storey and all the seats have bird-shit on them. The food provided is ridiculous, not that you would feel like eating with bird shit around you, and they don't even sell you water bottles, it's water by the plastic glass for Rs. 15. This is the kind of thing which completely ruins the entire "event" and the idea of a great time spent with friends and family at a test match.

Unless these problems, both with ticket sale and with the grounds itself, are solved, people like me who saw their first test match when Nayan Mongia smashed 152 against Mark Taylor's Australians, or when Kumble took 10 wickets and Gadar'd the entire Pakistani Batting Line Up, or when even as recently as 2008, where Laxman and Gambhir both scored double centuries in a tame draw which wound up being Kumble's last test, will stop coming to cricket stadiums because after a point, when all your heroes are gone, getting tickets is inconvenient, getting through the security is an Airport-esque experience but with police armed with a lesser understanding of your electronics or your need for coins to buy things, and staying and watching with salmonella for company, why would you bother.

No comments:

Post a Comment