RAJKOT: Two-and-a-half days. That’s all it took as West Indies succumbed to their heaviest Test defeat against India, by an innings and 272 runs. The No 1 Test side did not even need to bowl 100 overs over two innings as wickets fell at an alarming pace. For the Windies, it was a damning indication of where they stand among Test-playing nations and this was their third straight three-day defeat in the subcontinent.
Such an unequal contest brings with it a new set of problems for different stakeholders. First is the pressure on the International Cricket Council. Talks will again resume how the format should be curtailed to four days or if creating a two-tier system is the way forward. ICC’s biggest challenge has been to provide context to bilateral five-day cricket. Such encounters dispel no such doubts. The counter-argument will be that very few teams invite the likes of West Indies for a Test tour. So if they play so few matches, how can you expect quality contests? So there are matters to ponder for the administrators of the game.
Then come the broadcasters. Star India Pvt. Ltd retained the television broadcast and digital rights for all matches conducted by the BCCI in India for the 2018-23 cycle at a whopping `6,138.1 crore (around $944 million) in April. The deal stipulates that Star will have to pay `60.1 crore per match to the BCCI, compared to `43.2 crore per match under the previous deal.
Most of this money comes from selling ad space during games. For Test matches, five days worth of advertisement blocks will have been sold or rates would at least have been fixed as to how revenue would be generated according to the match situation. But with the Test getting over two days before schedule, they will have incurred losses. However, none from the production company were willing to comment on this.
From a Test lover’s point of view, such encounters do not help sustain interest. Stadiums are mostly packed for the shorter formats or during the IPL. Very few come out to support their national team during Test matches. There was hope that the weekend would see more crowds come into the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium as office timings prevent families from attending during weekdays. “We managed to sell only about 10 per cent of tickets. But we were hopeful that weekends would have seen a better turnout had the match lasted longer,” former SCA secretary and veteran administrator Niranjan Shah told Express. Saturday did see a better turnout but it took only half a day to make sure there was no Sunday!
The only ones to have benefited from such a lopsided contest are the players and the state association hosting the tie. Players will get additional rest. Quite a few have been playing non-stop for some time. As for the SCA or other associations, conducting a match featuring two national teams involves many logistical and administrative hassles. Match getting over early means they don’t have to bother about these things for two more days. Covered by their share of profits of the BCCI’s media rights, they don’t bother is collection from gate money is negligible.
“There is no loss. We had hoped for a better contest and prepared a pitch that would last five days. Now we do not need to worry about the logistical headaches anymore,” Shah said.