Cricket Overkill: Why the Charm, Excitement and Thrill of the Sport Is in a Downward Spiral

At the recently concluded Asia Cup, Sri Lanka defeated Pakistan to win the tournament. It came as a shocker to everyone that star-studded India failed to reach the final. Virat Kohli’s 71st international century in the match against Afghanistan came too late to help India’s cause. India played arch rivals Pakistan twice in the tournament, winning once and losing once.

Under normal circumstances, all hell would have broken loose over India’s defeat to Pakistan in the second match.

Millions were disappointed. But where was the heartburn, the acute sense of agony over being out of the championship? It seemed the vast multitudes were neither shocked nor too upset. This time, there was a disappointment for only one evening before normal life resumed.

It’s not like Indians have suddenly become mature when it comes to accepting match results. We know what happened to Arshdeep Singh this time when he missed a catch, and to Mohammad Shami in the last T20 World Cup.

The reality is that cricket fatigue is setting in. Even diehard cricket fans have had too much of the game. They don’t mind watching a key match. They still feel happy when India wins, but are not hugely affected by a loss anymore. They know there will be another game in a few days’ time, unlike in the past when cricket was a winter sport in India and a loss one year meant waiting for at least a year to settle scores.

It is not as if cricket matches have just mushroomed over the past year. In 2010, ace Australian cricketer Adam Gilchrist in an interview with the Telegraph had talked about too many cricket matches. “There are too many cricket matches which makes us closer to a saturation point and that will be detrimental to the game’s interest,” he said. Clearly his predictions have proved right with time.

There was a time even the Ranji Trophy and Duleep Trophy tournaments used to attract a good crowd. Today, people appear as jaded as the players. At the start of the Asia Cup, Virat Kohli revealed that he had taken a six-week break to de-stress. He did not touch a cricket bat for over a month. Followers of the game seem to need a similar de-stress session. A lack of cricket might create a want for it again. Gone are the days when boys and girls in schools and colleges could not wait to discuss matches animatedly the next day. Today, they just say ‘bad luck yesterday’ and move on!

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Elder family members have told us how in the ’70s and ’80s people used to keep a small transistor in offices and would even walk on the road with a transistor to their ear, listening to the live commentary of test matches. They would follow it up by watching the highlights on television in the evening. The next morning, they would read newspaper reports about the match. A week later, they would read about the same match in a sports magazine like Sportsweek, Sportstar and Cricket Samrat, never missing even the most miniscule of updates. In 1983, when India won the World Cup, few people had access to TV. But they gathered at town squares to know the latest from Lord’s cricket ground.

We were also told how people used to get up to watch Benson and Hedges Cup from Australia at 4 am. Many middle-class families bought their first colour television just in time to watch the Reliance World Cup in 1987.

Compare all that enthusiasm with today. The Asia Cup is over. Within a day, the team for the T20 World Cup was announced. At the same time, India A team is playing New Zealand A at home. The Duleep Trophy is also going on and in less than a month from now India will take on Pakistan yet again in a T20 match.

Too much cricket, anyone?

Cricket burnout can be seen among cricket audiences worldwide. Too many simultaneous tournaments is reducing the sport’s value. The masses are being offered more than they are ready to accept.

The issue of overkill needs to be addressed. People would rather talk about any recent movie or a football update than cricket at any given time. The charm, excitement and thrill of cricket is in a downward spiral. The sport which was famous for reaching all layers of Indian masses has now percolated a little too much, it seems.

Sayyeda Maryam Ziya is a freelance journalist and a student of political science at Delhi University.

Featured image: Indian cricketer Arshdeep Singh was trolled online after dropping a catch in a match against Pakistan, with many trolls calling him ‘Khalistani’. Photo: Facebook/arshhey