It is often said that Indians 'talk, eat and sleep cricket'. It is a country where cricket is a synonym to the word - 'sports'. In this cricket frenzy nation, where cricket is followed like a 'religion' and cricketers are considered as 'Gods' (and 'devils' when they fail to perform) you would expect the people to be live, literally, by the game as the World Cup kicks off. But surprisingly, even though the World Cup has already kick started, the nation is yet to catch the cricket fever.
Being hosted jointly by India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, the tenth edition of the ICC Cricket World Cup was expected to draw huge attention and hype thanks to the large cricket followings in the sub-continent. But such expectations have been defied as the country has not witnessed the kind of interest it did generate in the previous editions of the games in the continent. That India has been tipped to win the cup has also failed to up the momentum.
The excitement and hype was missing throughout the run-up to the tournament. There was no noise and hullabaloo. During the previous editions of the world cup, news channels would show enthusiastic cricket buffs eagerly anticipating for the games to begin. Newspapers would be filled with comments and analysis on how the batting order should be arranged or which pace bowler should be allowed to play in Team India. Restaurants and pubs would be busy on planning the screenings of the matches. Bollywood movies would postpone their release dates so that their movies would not clash with the tournament. Every 'galli' would be filled with promotional banners and posters of the world cup or the Indian team. People would even go to the extent of performing 'Pujas' , sacrificing animals , and even worshipping posters of Sachin Tendulkar asking the almighty to bless him and the team.
Nothing of the sort has been seen this time around. There was no buzz and the people seemed least interested. Although news channels and newspapers were valiantly trying to kick up a frenzy by featuring cricket shows, interviewing former cricketers and showing glimpses of the 1983 final (when India won the world cup), the public was in no mood to oblige. "Earlier almost everyone could be seen walking around in Team India jersey. I haven't seen a single person donning the jersey this time" says a Delhi University student.
In what is being called a season of scam in India, new scams involving high officials or leaders hogs the headlines everyday. Be it the arrest of former minister A.Raja or the S-band spectrum case the scandals after scandals dominate the front page of the newspapers and major airtime of the news channels, allowing little space for the mega-sporting event.
With too much cricket being played lately, experts feel that the World Cup has lost much of its charm. "There are so many series taking place every year. A 'pukka' cricket fan doesn’t need to wait for the World Cup ", says Vishal Agrawal , another DU student. The advent of Twenty-Twenty cricket has seriously threatened the future of the One Day Internationals (ODIs) or the fifty over format of the game. It is worth mentioning here that in the 1970s, when the ODIs was gaining popularity, it was speculated that it would jeopardize the future of Test cricket. Now, the surging popularity of Twenty-Twenty cricket seems to be targeting the ODIs. A major culprit in this process is the Indian Premier League (IPL), which takes place every year. The IPL, with its glitz and glamour has, attracted viewers in such a way like no other cricketing event had done before.
With a lot of money riding on the tournament, organizers are hoping the situation to improve. The event has just begun and has a long way to go. It is not sure yet if the cricketing nation will really catch up with the World Cup fever.