I have a dream. I get back from work at 6 pm (someday, that will be possible in Bangalore!), get fresh, turn on my TV and jump to a sports channel. A match between Bangalore Bombers and Mumbai Marathas is on! Munaf Patel and Andrew Flintoff open the bowling for Marathas, and Rahul Dravid and Andrew Symonds open for Bangalore. Watching from the stands are famous personalities with last names Mallya, Bachchan and Khan. The stands are overflowing with people, and ads like “Britannia Khao, Goa jao” are flying past my TV screen.
How do you like UEFA Champions league? Even if you are not a football (or soccer) fan, chances are you have heard of it. How about the FA cup? Hope you know about this premier ‘import’ from England, thanks to the marketing blitz on TV.
But when the best team of cricket-crazy India played a match with the best team from cricket-mad Pakistan to decide a champion of the subcontinent, there was no such marketing on TV. Forget coverage on TV, there wasn’t even an ‘official’ mention of the event (BCCI is still in the process of putting up its website). And these star studded (Mohd Asif, Suresh Raina, Mohd Kaif, Shoaib Malik, R P Singh, Piyush Chawla, Imran Nazir) teams played at a venue so obscure that they had to sit through a 10 hour bus ride to get there. And that bus ride made their key players fall sick on reaching the venue. Uttar Pradesh beat Sialkot with a handsome margin, but notice the absence of Mohd Kaif (out sick), and Sialkot’s 2nd innings scorecard (3 players sick midway during the match).
Now, I know you got questions about my dream. That match starts at 6 pm because of an “I respect viewer’s time” format – any variation of the Twenty20 thing. Andrew Symonds plays for Bangalore because 20 million fan-strong Bombers contract gives him more money than 5 million TV viewers of Queensland can ever pool and provide. And let us say that Andrew Flintoff is doing it because he truly loves Kingfisher bottled water :)
So, when will my dream come true? Soccer has Euro cup, a hugely popular World Cup, and still has a bunch of very successful national leagues. We have more cricket fanatics in our subcontinent than all of Europe’s soccer fans combined, yet, not one truly successful and commercial domestic setup? Money is here, so are hundreds of potential stars hiding in the streets, but India only has 10 to 20 cricket stars at any given moment, why?
I don’t really like these internationals played around the year. ICC Champions trophy drama every 12 months, then various bilateral and trilateral series, and once in a while, a World Cup. I don’t need this needless tension and international politics so frequently. I don’t want to get up at 4 am, and bunk college or work to catch good cricket on TV.
Just give me my Bangalore Bombers versus Mumbai Marathas and a 6 pm start, will you.