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October 22, 2008



"Recent TV audience research in India shows that Twenty20 is winning every time. According to Television Audience Management, the IPL in India was watched by 101 million people, with the final attracting 36 million. Last year's World Twenty20 final featuring India and Pakistan had 48 million viewers. A one-day tournament as inauspicious as the Kitply Cup, played in Mirpur, Bangladesh, had an audience of 63 million. The Test series between India and South Africa attracted 48 million."

48 million !!!

Here is another marker for you

“It is learnt that Neo Sports, which holds the broadcast rights and will benefit the most, have increased the target of revenue from Rs 114 crore, by ten crore, to Rs 124 crore with eight leading companies as sponsors.

It is also learnt that the official broadcasters are confident of breaking all previous ratings record for the ongoing series from the highest average 3.70 (at peak 9.71) in the 2004 series to 4.00 or 4.25 with a peak of 11 plus, the source added.

The title rights for the series believed to have fetched a whooping Rs 50 lakh per match for the main sponsor while Rs 15 to Rs 20 lakh from the associate sponsors. ”


Here is the point D.S - In England and Australia, a full stadium is taken as the sign for the game being in good health. In the sub continent, it is TV viewership and TRP.

At the end of the day, we are talking eyeballs, whether in the stands or in the comfort of their homes..

This whole "bums in the seats as an indictment of the health of the game" argument is narrow and self serving. And it suits a specific narrative (Indians care about T20, the ECB is doing its darndest to promote and preserve the sanctity of Test cricket) just fine..

And I am surprised Mr Brinkley did not feel it necessary to publish the corresponding numbers ( both TV and in stadia) for the various T20 games held in the UK.

Still, if people are not convinced that the health of the game in Indian is as ruddy as it is in the "Western World", so be it..



Tell me this DS, why is it imperative for people to be in stadiums to prove that the game is in good health? 48 million viewers watching India play South Africa in the middle of the summer holidays is not proof enough?

Could Australia and England combined, in the middle of the 2005 Ashes, conjure up 48 million viewers? Could they?

Willow TV is selling the India Australia Test series package for 150$. And they find it economically viable to do so! Why, because of the number of subscriptions they get.

People are ready to shell out 150 bucks to wake up in the middle of the night to watch India play Australia. In tests.. And dont tell me these expats are all Aussies !!

Sorry boss, but I find this whole "Test cricket is dying" argument nonsensical.. And I find the whole "Test cricket is dying because Indians arent interested" argument insulting.

If test cricket had to die, the 80s was the best time for it, with all those mind numbing draws and sedate cricket.. And if Test cricket dies today, it will be because of the self serving prophecy of the "death of Cricket".



I think test cricket does quite well in the western world.

In the asian world people are more adapt at watching test matches at home with all the comforts without having to sit through the whole day at a ground , in pretty awful conditions at most places, no proper seating etc.

i think it has to with the culture of watching tests too.. i remember seing huge crowds in india for test matches maybe 8-10 yrs ago but its dwindling now.

but thts changed now. where as in aus eng etc 'going to the cricket' is still very strong..

dwindling crowds might not kill test cricket but 2020 might.

D.S. Henry

Okay, Homer, let me get to your points one by one:

- Yes, those numbers do sound impressive and exclamation-point-worthy, but I don't have the tools to judge them or evaluate them in any meaningful context. You might as well be telling me there were 48 gizillion kajillion viewers, since it sounds just as impressive to my ears.

So yeah, 48 million is a lot, but what does that mean? 48 million individuals? 48 million households? 48 million satellite receptors multiplied by the estimated number of people per household, given previously conducted demographic research, etc.?

Is the figure an aggregate, for the whole series? An average number, per Test/day? If I watch every day of a 5-day Test match, would I count as one viewer, or as five?

I'm not saying the numbers don't mean anything, but that they tend to be vague and lacking in context, and it becomes easy for PR departments to spin them any way they want to for incredulous reporters and news organisations.

- I don't really know if Australia and England could manage 48 million viewers combined during the Ashes. Again, those could be nominal figures, averages, I don't know.

- Personally, I do think something is wrong when the stands are empty for the biggest sports fixtures in the calendar. Aesthetically, economically, etc. I believe professional sport should be played in the smallest stadium that you can manage to fill, whatever that may be. (Having packed stands also increases the quality of the televised product.)

But I will admit that I could see a change in the way sport is packaged and presented in the modern world, with a much larger emphasis on the televised experience. Perhaps the Indian-type model is the sounder and more commercially viable one. We'll see.

- I'm not trying to push any Orientalist narratives. This is not about constructing a dichotomy of India vs. "the West", to which everyone must adhere and chose sides. (If I were so inclined, and gave more of a shit about identity politics, I could also play the umbrage game and claim to take offense to the implication that my criticisms are somehow driven by some kind of "Western world" chauvinism.)

Dwindling crowds are a problem everywhere, from West Indies to New Zealand, but I consider the Indian example a lot more important than all the other ones, since that is where the majority of wealth (and, by extension, power) in cricket is being concentrated at the moment.

Put it this way... I believe Test cricket could survive if only India cared about it, and no one else did. I don't, on the other hand, believe it could survive if everyone else cared and India didn't.

- The "death of Test cricket" is more metaphoric than anything. If we consider "Test cricket" simply the game played under the set of rules defined by the MCC, then it could never "die". No sport can really die.

But Test cricket can, however, lose support and be relegated to the periphery of the cricket spectrum. It could reach the point where it's not longer played by the best athletes in the field, and no longer followed by anything other than the extreme fringe of die-hard fanatics.

That kind of game may not be dead, but it'd be as good as comatose in my eyes.



My apologies if I upset your sentiments.. But it kills me when commentators ( Brinkley here, CMJ and the others elsewhere) take this zero sum stand that since Indian stadiums are not full during Test matches, it automatically follows that Indians dont care about the game.

And arguments about spectator comfort, size of the stadia,viewing experience, stadium location, total viewership etc are brushed aside as trivial to the argument being made- namely, India does not care about Test cricket.

And that is what frustrates me..

Again, I apologize if I said anything unwarranted to upset your sensibilities.


Samir Chopra

DS: Begging your pardon, but the skepticism you raise about the 48 million viewers can also be raised vis-a-vis the full houses at English grounds where they "care about test cricket". Watch:

Sure, we have full houses at English grounds but how many people are just there to drink beer all day in the summer and would do the same no matter which sporting event was on? How many are there because they got free tickets from corporate sponsors and are there for the spectacle? How many are there to spend a day with their spouses and don't actually give a shit about the test match being played in front of them? How many of them are tourists to England who are there watching the game because their English hosts bought them a ticket? How many of them show up and then sleep through the afternoon? How many of them are soccer fans who just want another opportunity to sing their favorite songs in the heat? And on and on.

I've been to England a few times. Nothing I saw about the conversations I had with people, the media coverage, or anything else, provided any evidence that people in that country gave a shit about cricket of whatever form. Football RULES. Perhaps the 2005 Ashes changed something. Great. But please, don't use the existence of 5 full stadiums in a summer, each of which can hold barely 30,000 people as evidence for the claim that "The English care more about test cricket than Indians do". That case won't hold up.

Indians care about test cricket, witness the buzz on Indian media, the way people talk about the scores relentlessly in the streets, the way they dissect performances at home over dinner, the way its part of the national conversation.

Your insistence on taking attendance at grounds to be the ultimate clincher for the thesis you'd like to advance strikes me as concentration only on that data that will confirm your hypothesis, and a reluctance to consider any data that might not.

D.S. Henry

Believe me, Homer, no offense taken. As I'm sure you know, it can just get a little tiresome to be dragged into these boring, reductive and (as you say) zero sum arguments, where you can inadvertently find yourself taking sides on issues that don't demand "sides".

One of the main precepts of Outside the Line has always been to provide commentary devoid of nationalistic bluster and simple-minded parochialism. If we fail at this, it's mostly due to sloppiness of expression and hastiness of thought, and I welcome anyone to point it out when it happens.

Samir, I say much the same to you. I singled out India in this case because I believe their influence at this point in history is much more important than any other country's. Not because I wish to contrast it to England's example, or any other country's.

I won't deny, however, the fact that I consider dwindling crowds a big problem. No, it's not the ultimate clincher for the thesis... but I DO consider it an important premise in a larger argument. (One which, believe it or not, I hope will turn out to be invalidated in the end, since that would involve the Test game thriving in the future.)

Samir Chopra

DS: Here is my suggestion for how to improve test match attendance in India: http://blogs.cricinfo.com/diffstrokes/archives/2008/10/free_for_all.php

It won't solve the problem of uncomfortable stadiums though.


31 million viewers watched the IPL during the first 18 days. 27 million watched the India-Australia test series during the first 18 days. South Africa are not a popular team and I think the 48 million reflects that figure. I suspect that the Australia series would end up with about 80 million viewers, closer to the IPL figure of 101 million.
Please come to Mumbai sometime and I will take you to offices across the city, when India plays Australia, everybody is following the series. Either on TV (office meeting room) or on the web. This interest spans across socio economic groups - Low end security staff, office boys, junior and middle managers and senior managers as well. However, unlike the IPL, Test cricket is largely male focussed.

Another point, most of these rants are from Journalists who think that the BCCI is interested in killing Test cricket in India. But please note that India played 17 test matches during the last 12 months, the highest amongst all teams. Nobody is killing test cricket in India, relax.

D.S. Henry

Chandra, as I've said before, I really hope the Test game is sustainable based solely on a TV following. Otherwise, as was made quite clear by looking at the miserly live crowds during the recent series, it's definitely moribund.


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