The recent upsets in the World Cup and the intense support for India demonstrate that the ODI format is still alive and well. This was highlighted in The Spin’s coverage.
On Wednesday, the World Cup reached the halfway point with Australia and the Netherlands playing the 24th match out of 48. Its appearance and nature, which were initially unclear and distant due to the smog above many of its venues, are now becoming more defined and captivating. If this format is truly approaching its end, it may have a memorable finale.
England was the team that sparked the tournament. While India’s strong performance has drawn attention, the downfall of the defending champions has been the most intriguing storyline. Though they have not accomplished much, England’s loss to Afghanistan injected a jolt of excitement into the tournament. At this point, Australia had already suffered two defeats and was facing a temporary state of crisis, India had just played their highly anticipated match against Pakistan, and soon after, the Netherlands surprised previously impressive South Africa. It may have taken some time, but the tournament was finally in full swing.
The format of the tournament has not been beneficial, as it involves a lengthy group stage that lacks suspense. Despite England’s poor performance in the first few weeks, their coach, Matthew Mott, remains optimistic and holds onto the rationality of their potential to win. This format prioritizes generating high television revenues over creating genuine excitement in a timely manner. However, signs indicate that the excitement will eventually build up.
However, it can be difficult to alter the initial perception that was formed when the England and New Zealand teams stood for the anthems in front of an empty Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad, with a capacity of approximately 125,000 seats, during the opening game. While the stadium did see some increase in attendance afterwards, it never reached even a third of its full capacity, indicating a lack of enthusiasm from the typically cricket-loving Indian audience for this specific type of match.
However, this particular game makes up approximately 20% of all remaining unsold tickets for the tournament. There has been some back-and-forth communication between the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) regarding ticket sales. For two weeks, the ICC requested attendance numbers while the BCCI refused to provide them. However, on Monday, after Afghanistan’s surprise win against Pakistan, organizers announced that the total attendance so far has surpassed half a million. At this point, the maximum possible attendance was just over a million, meaning the tournament has been running at about 50% capacity. This is over 200,000 more attendees than at the same point during the 2019 event.
It is not surprising that India, with a population of 1.4 billion, would sell more tickets than England and its population of 56 million. However, ticket prices start at £6.50 and quickly increase. Selling tickets for £60, which is more than a quarter of the average monthly salary in India’s urban areas, was always going to be a challenge. Despite the impressive laser display during night-time breaks in Dharamsala, some fans have noted disorganization and overly aggressive security measures in the areas surrounding the event grounds.
Despite potential challenges such as low marketing efforts in certain host cities, the widespread enthusiasm of Indian audiences is evident. The exceptional performances of their players under immense pressure have contributed to this ongoing interest. A staggering 43 million individuals tuned in to India’s game against New Zealand on Disney+ Hotstar, surpassing the viewership for their match against Pakistan by eight million. Additionally, millions more watched the game on terrestrial television.
It is clear to see this interest while traveling throughout the country. I have observed a taxi driver with a phone on his dashboard playing a game, and at a restaurant, the staff were solely focused on the cricket game while I sat there unnoticed. At Ahmedabad airport during the Pakistan match, I witnessed floods of fans wearing blue arrive from all over the country. And when leaving Mumbai, I encountered a leisurely security check as the person with the metal detector wanted to talk about the tournament. It feels like it is always present, on everyone’s mind.
In England, there is only mild interest in the ongoing cricket match as India continues to dominate, following the failure of Jos Buttler’s team. The past few years have been eventful for English cricket fans, with the successful transformation of the white-ball team led by Eoin Morgan, the introduction of Bazball and the controversial Hundred tournament, their victory in the last T20 World Cup, and the ongoing Ashes series. Despite all these developments, it appears that not only the team’s performance but also the nation’s enthusiasm has been lacking. However, as the more exciting phase of the tournament approaches, there may still be time for that to change.
The catchphrase for the tournament is “It Takes One Day”. This slogan is straightforward, similar to a football World Cup using “It Takes About an Hour and a Half”, and it highlights the dedication expected from fans. Requesting that individuals devote seven weeks’ worth of single days is quite demanding, and it’s possible that the structure will collapse due to its inherent excess. If that’s the case, it’s putting on an impressive final celebration.
This passage is taken from The Spin, a weekly cricket newsletter by The Guardian. To join, simply go to this page and follow the given steps.