It is hard to put a finger on when this trend really started. Perhaps the gloom set on world cricket moments after India won the first T20 cricket World Cup in 2007, and thus set the stage for the IPL and the Champions Trophy.
But it is almost impossible to read a piece of cricket news, pick up a cricket magazine or browse through a cricket website without reading a depressed expert whine and wail about the impending death of the sport.
And the recent news of two Pakistani cricketers being convicted of spot-fixing has only poured more fuel on this fire of gloom. In the weeks and months to come, prepare to read lamenting articles about corruption, in addition to the usual: the decline of Test cricket, the emergence of the bastard child that is T20, senseless international schedules, empty stadiums, poor administration, et al.
A file photo of an IPL match
Somehow it appears that experts, much more so than audiences, are struggling to cope with the idea that sports evolve. As the nature of the players, spectators and sponsors change, sports change themselves.
The problem with cricket, however, is a paradox. On the one hand, the sport clearly wants to enjoy the financial windfall it is enjoying right now. Audiences, especially Indian television viewers, lap up anything you can throw at them.
On the other hand, the sport also somehow wants to return to what sounds like an ideal past, where everyone played mostly Tests, made small amounts of money and went back to their day jobs on weekdays.
Inherent within this is also the assumption that audiences are idiots, that they somehow wilfully want to watch only the “detrimental” formats.
The empty stands during the recent English tour of India conveyed a simple, reassuring message: there is such a thing as too much of a pointless thing. And if you run the sport badly, build terrible venues, handle ticket sales opaquely and look down on audiences, people will vote with their feet.
Things may not always go the way experts want them to. And the ICC is a sporting body that desperately needs a backbone implant. But to assume that audiences have no interest in the well-being of the sport is foolhardy. They care as much as anyone else. Now please stop the incessant whining.
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