The IPL fever is in its full intensity in India these days. IPL and its probable winner is one of the hottest topics of discussion here. Many people are of the view that it is one of the best things that ever happens to the game of cricket. In fact IPL has become so popular worldwide that Australian Captain Ricky Ponting had to issue an appeal to his countrymen to focus more on their national teamís recent series with West Indies than to watch their retired cricketers perform in IPL. The entire IPL tournament is being broadcast in Australia as free-to-air and it has become a huge craze.
As I watch so much craze of Cricket among people some thoughts come to my mind. What exactly is there in this game that make it so interesting and worth watching ? Why people are so crazy about Cricket especially in India ? Here is my attempt to demystify the secret of this gameís huge popularity in India (and the world at large).
First of all, in India we donít have many ideals. At least not in sporting arena. Our performance in Olympic, Asian Games and in other world sporting events has been pathetic since a very long time. In our national sports Hockey (now it is a matter of debate whether we should call it our national game at all) we even failed to qualify for the Olympic. The only game where we are considered somewhat at par with other sporting nations is Cricket. Our Cricket team is always considered as a tough opponent and no team in the world take Indian Cricket team lightly. In such a situation, it is but natural for us to find our ideals in our cricket team. When the team wins, it brings laurel to the country and makes the players more popular than ever. And when the team loss, the whole nation become angry with them. For Indians, the cricket players are our ideals, they motivate us to perform better and better. They are role models for millions of Indian youth. And theyíll continue to be so unless they find more role models in other sports. Going by the sorry state of other Indians sports such as Hockey & Football, it seems to me that Cricket will be the only source of role models for Indian in many years to come.
Secondly, if you see the entire format of Cricket, you will find that this is the only game, which, despite being a collective team sport, give the opportunity to individual players to become national hero in minutes. A batsman who hit six on the last ball of the innings and win the match for its team become a national hero overnight. Indians have not forget the last ball Six of Javed Miyandad (of Pakistan) which shattered our dreams of winning the Sharjah Cup in 1985. Similarly, who can forget the last over of Sachin Tendulkar in the final of Hero Cup against South Africa that turn the table totally in Indiaís favour.
In a team sports like Cricket, performance of just one player can change the fortune of his team. This factor makes Cricket an extremely popular game as the win or loss is decided in the last over of the match. This ensures the element of unpredictability remains there and pushes the adrenaline of the masses. This is one of the most important reasons as to why Cricket has such a mad following in India. Though, other team sports like Football and Hockey also have the opportunity for Individual players to perform and win the match on their own (like last minute goal by a player or the last minute save by a goalkeeper), these chances are often rare and donít happen regularly. In contrast, if you analyze a Cricket match score, you will always find some better, some best and some worst performance by individual players that decided the outcome of the game. It is appropriate to say that Cricket is an individual sport played in a team format.
Finally Iíll touch upon a reason for cricketís huge popularity in India, which is quite obvious, yet probably never mentioned. However, this has made it immensely popular with big companies and satellite channels. Do you know what it is?
It is the unique opportunity of small breaks that Cricket provides to big companies. After every Over, there is a short period of 20-40 seconds where the bowling end of the pitch is changed. I donít know what is the reason or need for it and what was the background of this rule, however, this tiny and often overlooked part of the game of cricket is one of the most important reasons for Cricketís popularity in India. In this tiny break of 20-40 seconds the broadcaster gets the chance of showing commercial advertisement to viewers. After every Over in each innings, commercial companies can show their ads to people. This makes Cricket the most unique game in the history of sports. Unlike other sports (life Hockey & Football), which are of short duration and provides the opportunity of Commercial break only during the half time, a single One-Day match of cricket gives the opportunity of showing commercial advertisement more than 100 times (50 times in first innings and 50 times in second innings and in between during the lunch time). Further, every time a wicket falls, till a new batsman arrives at the pitch, commercial advertisements are shown. No wonder a cricket match between two countries is one of the best opportunity to promote products, generates revenue and increase TRPs of the broadcasting channel.
If ICC decides to change this rule of changing bowlers ends after every Over of the innings and insist on continuing the match from one bowling end only, it will create a huge deficit for companies as theyíll lose the opportunities for showing their ads during those breaks.
Since commercial companies have so much interest in investing in Cricket matches, they do all kinds of promotion, sign ups etc with cricket stars to create a buzz around cricket. All the media companies and big corporations keep trying to get some hold of this big profitable pie of cricket. After all everybody loves to be a part of big popular events in order to promote their own brands. This mad rush among big corporations for attracting Cricket players as their brand ambassador and to snatch the sponsoring/satellite rights of the cricketing events ensures that Cricket remains a hot topic through out the year.
So here concludes my thoughts on why Cricket is such a popular game in India. I know this is not a complete explanation of cricket’s popularity in India and there are many other reasons which contribute to the popularity of India in Cricket. I will be glad if you can share your own opinions on this.