Concerned with the dwindling crowds for international cricket matches, former India captain Rahul Dravid said fans have sent a strong message that should not be ignored. Dravid said it was time for introspection within the game, not only in india, but all over the world.
"We have been given some alerts and responding to them quickly is the smart thing to do. I was surprised a few months ago to see the lack of crowds in an ODI series featuring India. By that I don't mean the lack of full houses, I think it was the sight of empty stands I found somewhat alarming," said Dravid, while delivering the annual Bradman Oration at the Australian War Memorial. Recalling the poor turn-out during the recent ODI series in India against England and the West Indies, Dravid said empty stands are not a good advertisement for cricket.
"The October series against England was the first one at home after India's World Cup win. It was called the 'revenge' series meant to wipe away the memory of a forgettable tour of England. India kept winning every game, and yet the stands did not fill up. Five days after a 5-0 victory 95,000 turned up to watch the India's first Formula One race. A few weeks later I played in a Test match against West Indies in Calcutta, in front of what was the lowest turn out in Eden Gardens' history. The audience amplifies everything you are doing, the bigger the crowd the bigger the occasion, its magnitude, its emotion," he said. Dravid said fans had sent a message and the administrators must listen.
"Whatever the reasons are - maybe it is too much cricket or too little by way of comfort for spectators - the fan has sent us a message and we must listen. This is not mere sentimentality. Empty stands do not make for good television. Bad television can lead to a fall in ratings, the fall in ratings will be felt by media planners and advertisers looking elsewhere.
"If that happens, it is hard to see television rights around cricket being as sought after as they have always been in the last 15 years. And where does that leave everyone? I'm not trying to be an economist or doomsday prophet - this is just how I see it," he said. Dravid warned India not to be satisfied with the present but to take corrective measures.
"Unlike Australia or England, Indian cricket has never had to compete with other sports for a share of revenues, mind space or crowd attendance at international matches. The lack of crowds may not directly impact on revenues or how important the sport is to Indians, but we do need to accept that there has definitely been a change in temperature over, I think, the last two years. "Let us not be so satisfied with the present, with deals and finances in hand that we get blindsided. Everything that has given cricket its power and influence in the world of sports has started from that fan in the stadium," he said.