After the heady excitement of England versus Australia at The Oval, Test cricket takes a back seat amidst a welter of shorter format cricket.
It is not until Dec. 14, when Australia host Pakistan in Perth, that another men’s Test match will be played.
Teams have turned their attentions to preparations for the 50 overs (one-day international) World Cup in India. Already, the tournament has attracted criticism on several fronts.
First was the delay in announcing the schedule until June 27 and subsequent revisions on Aug. 9. Tickets will go on sale on Aug. 25, only 40 days prior to the tournament’s opening match on Oct. 5. These are for matches which do not feature India. A six-phased process, between Aug. 25 and Sept. 15, is in place for India’s matches.
In comparison, tickets for the ODI World Cup in June 2019 in England went on sale in September 2018.
How has this situation arisen? No doubt, some of the explanation will be laid at the door of the long-running saga between Indian and Pakistani authorities over who was prepared to play where.
As discussed in a previous column, India has refused to travel to Pakistan for the 2023 Asia Cup, which begins on Aug. 31. To cater for the decision over half of the matches will be played in Sri Lanka.
Subsequently, Pakistan’s government and authorities took their time to confirm its team’s participation in the World Cup. This uncertainty will have affected decisions about some aspects of the final schedule and venues.
When the schedule was announced, local police at the venues of two of Pakistan’s matches, Ahmedabad and Kolkata, announced that they were unable to provide adequate levels of security because the dates coincided with festivals in those cities.
Consequently, the dates were changed, with knock-on effects elsewhere to the schedule. It is surprising that the clash with the festivals was not articulated earlier, since the festival dates would have been known in advance.
The secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India appeared to refute the security issue. In a press conference on July 27, he revealed that, “two or three boards have written in, asking to change based on the logistical challenges. There are some matches where there is only a two-day gap, so it will be difficult to play and then travel the next day (and then play again).”
Again, this is something which might be expected to have been discussed at the planning stage. The imprecise reference to two or three boards smacks of casualness. It also represents a remarkably flexible attitude.
Three years before the 2019 ODI World Cup, the England and Wales Cricket Board and the International Cricket Council appointed an experienced tournament organizer as managing director. A local organizing committee was assembled, comprising members from both the ECB and the ICC. There was transparency and accountability.
This was also the case in Australia and New Zealand in 2015, and in India in 2011. It is certainly not transparent why this does not appear to be the case in 2023. Surely someone is in overall charge.
The late release of the schedule and the consequent short timescale for applying for tickets does little to help those who hope to attend the matches, especially those from outside of India. Visas need to be applied for, flights and accommodation booked, both of which will be subject to price increases, let alone availability issues.
If these are of concern to the BCCI, its officials are keeping quiet about them.
What they do know is that India’s matches will be sold out and watched by millions on screen. Handsome amounts of money will be made for both the BCCI and ICC. It remains to be seen whether some of the matches in which India is not involved will be played in front of small crowds.
Spectator comfort is not something for which stadiums in India are renowned. Having visited several, I can vouch for this. Accessibility by transport and via long queues is a challenge, seats and toilets tend to be dirty, what can be taken into the grounds is extremely limited, and in-ground food supplies are high-priced. Tickets only allow a single entry.
India’s millions of cricket supporters are the bedrock on which the BCCI has built its rich empire. They enable the BCCI to bargain hard in the ICC’s corridors of power and dictate terms and conditions to those whom they play. However badly the spectator body is treated, it still queues up to attend matches.
It also underpins the increase in the proportion of revenue which the BCCI was able to secure at the ICC board meeting last month. The revised revenue distribution model allocated 38.5 percent of the ICC’s annual net earnings to the BCCI in the 2024 to 2027 cycle. This represents an increase from 25 percent in the previous cycle, 2015 to 2023. In monetary terms, it amounts to $230 million. Not one of the other 11 full members has a revenue share in double digits.
Previously expressed disquiet by other members at India’s increased share dissipated once it became clear that all members would receive enhanced funding.
Although the BCCI is fabulously rich and has immense power in cricket’s global politics, it is not all powerful within India. As a consortium of India’s state cricket associations, it has limited control over how associations govern themselves, over ticket distribution, or police policies regarding ground safety and control.
Most grounds are owned by states. The BCCI provides funds to the state associations in the expectation that they will be used for the development of cricket and its supporting infrastructure.
The spectator experience at grounds is not controlled by the BCCI, but it does have influence over choice of venues, subject to a rotation policy.
It ought to be concerned about negative images which may be generated by ticket purchasing procedures and poor conditions for spectators.
However, if low numbers of non-Indian spectators materialize, it may not matter that little concern is shown publicly.