ICC Cricket World Cup timings a problem for Indian fans
New Delhi, Jan 25 (IANS) When cricket World Cup is held in the Antipodes or in the Caribbean, it clashes with the examination time in India and this makes students unhappy. This time the fans are disturbed over the match timings in Australia and New Zealand, the joint hosts of the 2015 edition beginning from February 14, but there's no option for them.
The matches will start at different timings, and the big concern of the fans is to get up at unearthly hours to watch them, particularly some New Zealand games that will get underway at 0330 hrs Indian Standard Time (IST). Then there are day matches in Australia which start at 6.30 a.m, and day-night games at 9 a.m. or at noon, depending on the location.
This is the second time the sport's showpiece event will be hosted by the Trans-Tasman neighbours, the first having been in 1992 when Pakistan won the Cup for the only time, under Imran Khan.
As many as 49 matches are scheduled to be played across the two countries, 24 of them in New Zealand, to determine the best One-Day International (ODI) team in the world.
It is the matches in New Zealand that will prove to be troublesome for the fans.
Thirteen of the 24 matches, starting with the inaugural game, at the Hagley Oval ground in Christchurch between New Zealand and Sri Lanka, will begin at 3.30 a.m. and this will upset the routine of the cricket watchers in India, more so the elderly and those who adjust to it with their day's work schedules.
They feel their sleeping hours - as also appetite - will be badly affected.
"Matches in Australia are fine. The 9 a.m. start is similar to ODI matches in India, but I am worried about the 3.30 a.m. starts," 12-year-old Soumarghyo Adhikary, a Class 6 student, told IANS.
"It is particularly disheartening since I have to attend school, too, and so I will miss a lot of action."
His sentiments were echoed by several diehard fans.
"Since the host countries are geographically located so far away from us, I knew the timings would be odd. In fact, traditionally the timings have been like that," IT professional Swaraj Mehta, 28, told IANS.
"Even for the ongoing tri-series we have 9 a.m. starts but the timings of the matches in New Zealand should be adjusted to suit our timings. Otherwise a large section of the student community will miss out watching quality games.
"The International Cricket Council (ICC) should have kept the fans in the Indian subcontinent in mind. Since the ICC earns the maximum revenue from this region, the priority of the subcontinental fans should have been taken care of," Mehta added.
India, who are clubbed with South Africa, Pakistan, the West Indies, Zimbabwe, Ireland and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Pool B. will begin their campaign, against traditional rivals Pakistan, on February 15 in Adelaide.
Ten Pool B matches will be played in New Zealand. India will play two of their six pool matches in New Zealand - March 10 against Ireland at Hamilton and March 19 against Zimbabwe at Auckland. Both are day-night games starting at 6.30 a.m.
"At least the ICC has been sensible enough not to allocate the majority of India's matches in New Zealand," said 45-year-old physics lecturer Rakesh Pujahari.
The World Cup organisers, however, expect the India-Pakistan match, the tickets for which were sold out six months ago. to be the most-watched match of the tournament, even more than the 2011 World Cup in India. That semi-final at Mohali was watched by an estimated global TV audience of 988 million.
The timings of most sporting events globally is decided in consultation with the broadcasters, who have a major say in beaming them at prime time in major time zones.
The ICC last year awarded the audio-visual rights of all its events from 2015 to 2023 to Star India and Star Middle East.
According to data from TAM, which measures television audiences, the 2011 version of the quadrennial event drew nearly 162 million viewers for the first 40 matches, as compared to the 143.7 million viewers who had tuned in to watch Indian Premier League (IPL) 3 in 2010.
But because of the early starts, broadcasters, reportedly, expect a dip in advertisement revenues and TV viewership this time.
Star India declined to comment when asked about its viewership targets and plans for promoting the event.
But a section of the fans are willing to tide over the obstacle.
"I know the World Cup comes once in four years and am also well aware of the inconvenient timings of matches played in Australia and New Zealand," retired executive Rajendar Sharma, 67, who has keenly followed events since it began in 1975, told IANS.
"At my age, waking up in the wee hours may not be such a big problem and I should be able to watch a majority of the matches," he said with a twinkle in his eye.
Discomfort or not, millions of Indian cricket fans will be up for it, definitely for the India matches.
(Sayan Mukherjee can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)