Wednesday, November 04, 2009


US$170 Million & Counting, But Still No Progress


Rs 800 crore (US$170 million) is the BCCI's base valuation for the space on the front and leading arm of Team India's shirts for the next four years. This base price is no less than double the amount Sahara has paid for its logo to adorn Team India's chests for the current four year period. Hey, I'm a raging capitalist and firmly believe that the market (helped by much bravado and optimism) will ultimately decide the real price for the India's first XI. But, I'm also a consumer and a fan and demand to know exactly how the endless treasure chest (of which the latest millions comprise only a minuscule fraction) is utilised, for it very well ain't being spent on improving no stadia.

For a country that prides itself on its engineering prowess and making things look beautiful even if they are utterly impractical, Indian sporting stadia are an absolute disgrace. Case in point, the Feroz Shah Kotla which is to become the centrepiece of the 2010 Commonwealth Games. While every other country is competing to produce the most awe-inspiring and eye catching statement of intent and architectural brilliance (this is Azerbaijan's attempt), India has this hunk of concrete refuse to show for all its bravado. To say I'm sickened, is an understatement of Ben Hur proportions.

It is a sad indictment of Indian consumers' willingness to settle for the mediocre when our low standards and heightened sense of vanity allow the PCA Stadium to be considered "spectator friendly" and the best in the country despite the lack of a roof for all but the most elite spectators in corporate and private boxes. Are Indians really this enamoured by the mere upgrade from concrete benches to plastic seats? It leaves me aghast to hear administrators and "experts" wondering why crowds don't show for seemingly interesting day matches at such stadia. Could it possibly be because no amount of Fair & Lovely will prevent the sun stroke they are likely to suffer sitting unprotected under the blazing sun?

If it takes Aussies US$240 million to build a 30,000 seat stadium, it is no stretch to suggest that given all the cost advantages of constructing in India, the BCCI could build a modern, aesthetically pleasing and enviable 50,000 seater for the same amount. It is also no stretch to suggest that the BCCI would already have these funds (many times over) sitting in various fixed deposits that would negate the need to raise debt, if it so desired tread this path.

The DY Patil Stadium (once its roof is complete) in Mumbai, Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium in Nagpur and the to-be-finished Pune International Cricket Centre ground in Pune are beacons of hope on the stadium front, however still not enough to give the spectator any hope that their attendance at cricket matches is desired or cherished by the BCCI.

Shocking stadia with poor spectator and player amenities (some of which are described in Aakash Chopra's Beyond the Blues) is by no means the only area of Indian cricket where progress has been non-existent. The issue of a lack of grass roots infrastructure is much larger and its solution requires far more intelligence and application than can be expected of the BCCI's current office bearers. Substandard practice and lodging facilities for Ranji and other domestic cricketers has similarly been paid precious more than lip service by this and previous administrations.

The list of problems is far larger than this one post can handle. It would be too simplistic to suggest a boycott when we are all so eager to catch as much of the action as possible. With the BCCI incapable of hearing anything but the sound of money, does the average fan have another option?

Tell us about your experiences of Indian cricket stadia. What do you like? What don't you like? How would you do it differently?


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