Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Indian Cricket: A new Business Model

We're a country of hundred crores. That's 1, followed by nine zeros. And we lose to countries such as Australia (2 crores), and Sri Lanka (also 2 crores). And we lose convincingly. That too, in a game which is some sort of religion in India.

Let's extrapolate this a bit. If each state in India had its own team, then they could, with ample coaching become world class teams. Don't ridicule this; Sri Lanka did it, with a population which is only a mere fraction of that of any large Indian state. Bihar, Maharashtra, U.P., Tamil Nadu; they all could have world class teams if they really tried.

But they won't try right now. Why? Though cricket is a passion in India, it is still not compact enough for a family to watch in the evening. A match takes a full day to happen. It has to be on a holiday. And even one day cricket - frankly speaking - is quite a drag for most of the time. Though it is exciting in bits, it is not watchable entirely, especially domestic cricket. So, a match between Mumbai and Delhi attracts a handful of spectators. Lesser people watch it on Television.

It is not as if people in India do not like entertainment. Our standard of living might be low but the Indian likes his or her leisure. Rajani's movies are sold out in the south; Hindi movies are a religion in the north and the west. Cinema halls are always house-full. It does not take an upper middle class lifestyle to enjoy. The man on the street likes, nay, is passionate about, his entertainment. Surely, he can digest more cricket - even domestic cricket - if it were spiced up appropriately.

Suppose a cricket match lasted only three hours - the size of an average movie - or that of an American Baseball game. Suppose there was a lot of hitting .... lots of FAST bowling ... lots of excellent television coverage. Suppose Twenty20 cricket were played between states (and cities) in India. It would no more be the colossal bore that Ranji Trophy matches are. People would pour in to watch in the thousands. There could be a match every weekend in every town - there could be a national tournament. With people interested, advertising revenues would start picking up. Television rights would start fetching money.

Indian cricket would get a shot in the arm. More money would flow into rural India: into smaller towns. Talent would start showing from the villages: before you know it, India would have a dozen of Sachin Tendulkars.

India winning the world cup (perhaps still in the 50 over form)would be as simple as the American basketball 'Dream Team' winning the world series. India would probably continue to dominate the world scene - facing competition only from populous nations such as Pakistan. Perhaps cricket could become truly international: maybe USA and China. Once the game becomes more interesting, why not?

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