THE NEW HIGH-OCTANE CRICKET SPECTATORS
June 4, 2022: Cricket viewership is increasing by leaps and bounds. The limited-overs format, and especially the T20, has become cricket entertainment’s go-to game. Cricket has never before been so ardently followed by the entire cricket-crazy world. Every segment has embraced it in their own particular way. This is as what one can term as the new ‘high-octane’ spectators.
The new-found spectators view the match as a spectacle. They have become lazy as viewers as they have the option of watching the live incidents of the ground a few minutes later on the big screens. The interesting viewers are the VIPs and those in the corporate boxes, who are there to get seen and for social interaction for a business or a financial deal. This is all that they have in mind and cricket to them is the tool to implement it.
The cricket connoisseur, in the years before, looked at the skills, technique and the conventional issues related to the game. The young boys and girls of today enjoy cricket through their cricket stars and their distinctive movements and the image that they project. A Hardik Pandya, Rishabh Pant and Virat Kohli are the looks that most imbibe, whereas, the girls just scream and look awestruck on seeing their cricket heroes.
The recent final of the Indian Premier League, in the huge newly-constructed Narendra Modi Cricket Stadium in Ahmedabad was an experience that one has never confronted before. There were 105,000 spectators in what one can term as a giant colosseum. One truly doubts whether the authenticity of cricket one had relished in the past, such as bounce, movement, variation in deliveries or the technique of the batsmen, is closely followed.
In order to make additional seating capacity to accommodate and cater to the enormous following that T20 cricket has generated, the steep-angled stands make for an aerial view. It feels as if one is watching the match from the sky above. One can well understand the reason for this as the newly-interested cricket spectators are more concerned about enjoying the moment of being at the venue rather than the nuances of the game.
The commercial success is an important factor and that only comes from both eyeballs on and off the field.
The new high-octane followers of the game have put cricketers into the mould of a Bollywood film superstar. The match, for the cricketer, has become the platform and role to get noticed and to establish himself to create his brand image. His every action is followed by millions of people watching and his multi-media following is as important as his performance on the field.
The heavy silver or gold chains around the neck, the glares, beard, hair-do, the walk, the body movements as well as even the smile is followed with intensity by the millions of his faithful fans. One wonders whether the cricketing skills of his bowling and batting are given the same importance.
Cricket spectators have changed drastically in the present fast-moving world. How else can one explain this, when one sees a stadium full of people rocking to the light of the torches of their mobile phones to the beat of music? Although one may say that watching it was quite a wonderful sight as it catapulted one into one’s image of the Arabian nights. The newly-found spectators are far more enthusiastic and appreciative in lighting the sky or doing the jig, rather than when a cricketer plays an authentic and beautiful cricket shot.
Gujarat Titans (GT), the winners against their neighbouring state team, Rajasthan Royals, sailed through onto the winners’ podium on their IPL debut. Mumbai Indians must rue the day when they did not retain Hardik Pandya. He may not boast of an educational degree but like Kapil Dev and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, he has a cricket brain to admire. All three of them have this unique gift and seem to have an intuitive mind.
Hardik captained GT brilliantly and he proved to be the man to shine when most needed. He bowled smartly and batted even better. One was impressed by his mature attitude and thinking, and, for Indian cricket, he will once again be yet another source to rely on – a genuine fast-bowling all-rounder that can be a bonus to their success in the shorter format of the game.
The needs of the newly-bred spectators, one feels, will revolutionise cricket. One can see Test cricket could be the first to face the brunt of it. Cricketers around the world now prefer to play the shorter format of the game. One can see this trend in India so distinctly.
One gathers from the various coaches around India, that young cricketers are only aiming to play T20 cricket. Big hitting rather than learning basic techniques is the area they want to specialise in.
Looking back, one smiles as to how if one hit the ball in the air and over the nets it was considered to be a punishable offence. A few more hits such as those always led to the end of one’s batting stint in the nets.
The high-octane cricket spectators may have livened the game of cricket but the worry is that the values that the game stood for, and imbibed by the ones playing it, are being diluted over time.
The phrase ‘constant change’ has become unanimous with cricket as well. It is Inevitable, is what they always say.
(Yajurvindra Singh is a former Test cricketer. Views expressed are personal.)