Seventy-five years ago on June 25, the Indian cricket team took its first step in the international arena when the game was still the preserve of the English, Australians and South Africans.
India played their first Test match at the Lord's in 1932. The team went down but not before giving England a fright on the first day.
However, now the question that the Indian team is faced with after 75 years is - Is cricket in danger of losing public support?
CNN-IBN’s show Face The Nation hosted by Rajdeep Sardesai discussed the question. On the panel were former cricketer, Yashpal Sharma and former wicket-keeper, Farokh Engineer
What is Indian Cricket all about?
Farokh Engineer who had played international cricket for India felt, “Indian cricket was more like a religion and it could never die in India.” He said that cricket was a part of India’s culture.
Twenty-four years ago on June 25, 1983, India won the World Cup defeating the West Indies.
So does India have a glorious history when cricket is concerned?
Yashpal Sharma, who was in the team when India won the World Cup, agreed with Engineer and said that cricket would never die because Indians were passionate about cricket.
He remembered the kinds of cricket legends the Indian team boasted of in the 70s and 80s. Prolific cricketers in-the-making like Sachin Tendulkar watched the then Indian skipper Kapil Dev lift the World Cup and got inspired.
The Indian team is playing in Belfast at the moment and there are many more matches lined up for them.
So is the Indian team playing too much as a result of which the support for the game is declining?
Engineer fondly remembered the time when he played cricket for the country. The team boasted of a heritage and not only that the players got a lot of respect and reverence.
“Indian team plays too much cricket because there is a lot of money and sponsorship involved in the game now. The game has been commercialised,” said Engineer.
So do the present Indian cricketers not have a sense of cricket history and lineage as the cricketers earlier did?
The role of the cricket fans
Farokh responded by saying that he used to “eat, drink and sleep cricket” and it was a little disappointing to know that the present cricketers did play cricket but lacked a fair knowledge of the history of cricket which included the pioneer players and the matches won.
The present players preferred being watched on TV and also the fact that posters were being made in their name. Sometimes they even played cricket without a sense of patriotism and the same went for the people.
They took the onus of cheering for the Indian team but once they lost then they immediately withdrew their support.
Sharma agreed with fact that cricket fans were losing interest in cricket.
“The BCCI has to decide how many Test matches and ODIs have to be played in a year. If the Indian team plays the way it is doing at present then the people will definitely lose interest,” said Sharma.
Is the support for the team dependent on the commitment for the game or on the basis of whether you win or lose?
“The worry is about losing. We should build up a team for the future like Australia and New Zealand. People rooted for hockey earlier but now they hardly watch hockey games. Indian cricket hasn’t come to a state like that but if things go beyond a point than it could become like Indian hockey. If the BCCI does not take a step then it things could go out of control,” said.
Engineer said, “Indians are very passionate about cricket. Winning is an extra incentive for the people to support the team. We as Indian players do love to win all the time. But we have to strive harder for that. We should try and emulate teams like Australia.”
So what was the greatest moment for the panelists in Indian Cricket?”
Engineer said it was the time when India won the Test series in England in 1971 and he was very much a part of it. He added that his century against England in Madras was also a moment to cherish.
Sharma fondly remembered the year 1979 when the Indian Team went to Australia and lost the closely fought five-match Test series 2-3.
Final SMS poll results: 75 years of Indian Cricket: Is the game in danger of losing public support?
Yes- 10 per cent
No- 90 per cent