T20 Series Right After Marathon World Cup Short-Changes Head and Fans

 

Travis Head smashed a majestic hundred in the final.

We keep hearing that bilateral cricket contests aren’t relevant anymore. People are losing interest. Fans don’t really care. And yet, we keep seeing matches being organised on a regular basis, which don’t really reflect much prudence in scheduling. The India-Australia T20 series is an example. Australia, within days of winning a 50-over World Cup, will play a T20 series, which they will have very little motivation for. Dave Warner pulling out is clear evidence.

And for some like Travis Head, who has stayed back to play, he could well return home having lost a series instead of going back as a world champion. It is unfair on the players and fans alike. Yes, there are contractual obligations to keep, but there has to be a way of doing things better. Stoinis, for example, deserves to enjoy the cup triumph. Celebrate with friends and family. Savour the moment.

And yet, he will have to turn up tonight to play another international match. That’s where we start to treat our players as gladiators. They aren’t robots who are being paid to play. They are humans who need to be cared for and protected.

We in India are crazy about our national team. The kind of craze for the India games in the World Cup was proof. Tickets were a prized commodity and prices had gone through the roof. And yet the India-Australia series is nothing more than an also-ran in the national media. Tickets are very easily available.

While the World Cup coverage was close to three pages, India-Australia will be no more than six columns. And rightly so. Fans have a lot of sport to consume already and are spoilt for choice. They have just enjoyed the cricket World Cup.

Now, there’s fatigue if there is more cricket. To push a bilateral T20 series within two days serves no real purpose. We at RevSportz have a plan of sending our reporters to every series that is played. But then, almost all of them asked for a break. To recalibrate.

Recharge themselves before going back to the field. Suryakumar Yadav’s press conference on Wednesday evening was also about the World Cup. How much the loss hurts and how tough it is to forget it and move on. The talk is still about Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli giving up T20 cricket, and only the cricket nerd will be following this series with equal interest.

A known Youtuber in Vimal Kumar expressed surprise how there were 200 journalists at the World Cup final and just two for Surya’s press conference. Why is that a matter of surprise? In fact, Vimal, who is a hard-working journalist, could well have decided to attending the India-Qatar World Cup qualifying match.

He too would have found the change refreshing. The national football team deserves as much support and the World Cup qualifier was far more important.

If we need to save bilateral cricket, we need to be smart. May be move the template to quadrangulars or tri-series or similar models, which can be repackaged better and which might have traction. But to just force one series after another on fans who anyway have a limited attention span is actually doing disservice to the sport.

Come Boxing Day, we will watch again. It is part of our DNA. A Boxing Day Test in South Africa will surely be part of the fans’ sporting calendar. India have never won in South Africa and we all want to see if Rohit, Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah and the rest can change this record. It will be a fascinating contest and could well impact India’s fortunes in the World Test Championship. But all these T20s in the next two weeks aren’t the best marketing for the bilateral game, which is already struggling for relevance.

It will be interesting to see if the stadiums are full over the next few days. It will also be of interest to see viewing numbers on digital platforms. While over 50 million people watched the India-Australia final, a record, I would be surprised to see even a third of that tonight. That’s what it is all about. A product which is smartly packaged for consumption. This series, coming on the back of a 50-day extravaganza, is not one.

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We keep hearing that bilateral cricket contests aren’t relevant anymore. People are losing interest. Fans don’t really care. And yet, we keep seeing matches being organised on a regular basis,…
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