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by Saksham Mishra & Cricket World Tuesday 17 March 2020
Eden Gardens, capacity: 68,000; Wankhede, capacity: 33,000; Kotla, capacity: 42,000; M Chidambaram, capacity: 50,000; Chinnaswamy, capacity: 35,000. And, all these venues are packed throughout the IPL. How strange would it be to see not even a single spectator in the stands, that is if the IPL goes ahead with the closed door policy!
But, an IPL with no spectators is still better than no IPL.
With the situation of the Novel Coronavirus outbreak not expected to go through any drastic improvement in the near future, going the soccer way seems to be the most probable outcome at the moment.
In fact, it was always shaping up that way and would have been a closed door affair had it kicked off on its originally scheduled date of March 29. But, after the Government of India cancelled all business and tourist visas till April 15, the Governing body had no option but to defer the league till the said date.
While these restriction are not expected to ease out anytime soon as more and more countries continue to seal their boundaries, the players may be allowed to enter India through employment visas. Even if that pans out as planned, there is still a huge risk in allowing the fans to attend the matches. This is why, all franchises have either suspend ticket sales or put them on hold.
Hence, it is almost certain that if the IPL has to go forward, it will be played behind closed doors.
It is estimated that around 10% of the franchises' revenue comes from ticket sales. But, the major portion of it comes through TV rights and advertisements, which are the most significant part of the IPL and won’t be impacted even if there are no crowds. Playing in empty stadiums is obviously not ideal, but it is certainly better than cancelling a tournament that the cricket industry in India somewhat relies on.
IPL official digital broadcaster Hotstar had recorded 18.6 million concurrent stream viewers last year and if IPL is played behind the closed doors this record will certainly go for a toss. In fact, with more and more people at home, with schools and colleges shut, movie theatres, clubs and pubs closed and work from home advised, the records will go through the roof if anything.
To add to that, the average rate of a 10 ad slot was about 1.7-1.8 million rupees. As per Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), 462 million regular viewers watched the 12th season of IPL and average impressions per match were 27.3 million. This is still a huge number and must not be sacrificed for the live audience.
It’ll actually be interesting to see how players and teams react to the new arrangement. The crowd support - and there is a lot of it in cricket-crazy India - drives many players, not least the tallest name in Indian cricket Virat Kohli.
Most Indian players do not play domestic cricket and crowds follow them like a pied piper wherever they go. They are used to playing in front of capacity crowds upwards of 50,000 who cheer for every fielding effort and roar for every wicket or boundary. When that is taken out of the game, it will be a novel experience for the players as well as for the spectators at home.
The crowd support can not be replaced but somewhat be compensated with sound systems which go off with every boundary, fielding effort or wicket. The stump mic can also be turned up to make the viewer feel closer to the real experience.
The IPL sans the crowd, may be better or worse for different people, but one thing is for sure - it will be different.
©Cricket World 2020