Treating fans with contempt could have cost the ICC a potentially huge market

Photo Credit: Debasis Sen

When a team loses, heads roll. Often, captain and coach both pay the price. Players are dropped, and their careers come to an end. But what about administrators? If you destroy a World Cup and a bridgehead into a potentially huge new market, what about accountability? Will someone take ownership, and put in their papers? 

Let’s face it – the US cricket experience has gone south, and badly so. What had started as a major opportunity to make inroads into a new market ended up being a complete damp squib. The pitches were bad, the outfield poor, and drainage pathetic. Worst of all, fans were treated with utter disrespect and complete disdain. To quote a fan, “I flew in from Canada to watch India play. I waited for four hours to be told the match is abandoned for reasons of wet outfield. I have spent 1500 dollars in a day for this!” 

You only need to know high-school geography to be aware that June is the one of the hurricane months in the Caribbean. Pakistan, beaten finalists in 2022, lost to the USA, so they can’t really have too many complaints about the co-hosts taking their place in the Super Eights. But what of England, the defending champions? They could be on their way home because half their four matches were washed out. Yes, the international calendar is packed, but scheduling a tournament in June was about as sensible as grabbing a tiger by the tail.

Imagine if you were a fan who spent money to make it to the ground to watch Rohit Sharma play. You are there, and it’s not raining, and you expect that the game should start any minute. Mark the word “should”. Because, while it should have, if never did. Administrative inefficiency meant a wet outfield wouldn’t let the game start. The ground was left uncovered the previous night and all the damage was done. Basic precautions weren’t followed and a World Cup – the most-awaited cricket event of all – has been compromised. And yet, there is hardly any introspection. No apology to the fans. No words to say we made a mistake. 

There is a reason why the IPL is 100 times bigger than the World Cup. Despite it being a domestic tournament, things are much more professional and on the money. The BCCI too was seriously criticised when the IPL final spilled over to the reserve day in 2023. And to think that this World Cup will not even have reserve days for semi-finals. The gap between the second semi-final and the final is just a day, and the winning team will have to immediately leave for Barbados. If there is rain, it is all in God’s hands. 

The truth is we, as fans, love the sport. We breathe the sport and we invest to go and watch it. And yet, the fans are treated the worst. Their comfort is given the least priority. Despite being the most important constituency that makes a sport, they are considered the most dispensable. For every fan who went to the ground yesterday in Florida, we should spare a thought. They were pushed and ill-treated. And for that, there has to be an explanation. Some form of accountability. Questions need to be asked.

But like in the case of football, where FIFA and the AFC haven’t even bothered responding to the AIFF, fans are entitled to expect an answer from the ICC. But even if there is none, one thing is for certain. By taking the fan for granted, the ICC has ruined the US cricket experiment. And in doing so, it may have lost a market that it could have made its own.

Also Read: Cricket’s US experiment in danger of turning sour