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Overpriced cab rides, lack of public transport: Fans are the ultimate sufferers

A 7 PM start means the match will surely get over by 11 PM and fans can get home without hiccups.

, ET CONTRIBUTORS|
Apr 08, 2019, 08.29 AM IST
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The IPL, which is India’s signature tournament and will remain so in the foreseeable future, needs the fans.
The match had just ended at the Eden Gardens and it was well past midnight. As I was walking to the car park next to the Mohammedan Sporting Ground a few hundred metres from Eden Gardens, I met three young and passionate KKR supporters figuring out how to get home. There was literally no public transport in sight and the two taxis that were waiting had quoted them Rs 500 for a trip to Sealdah station. The trip would normally cost around Rs 100 or even less but at that hour with the demand far exceeding supply, it was five times the regular price. The three men, who were jubilant at the way Andre Russell had finished the game, seemed confused and apprehensive. “We don’t have Rs 500 on us having spent almost all our money inside the stadium. And if we don’t get anything now we will miss the last local train and will eventually get home in the morning,” one of them said to me. All I could do was feel sorry for these fans and wish them luck on their way home.

This is not an aberration. Rather, it has become the norm pan India with almost every IPL game ending past midnight or close to midnight. While some like Mohammed Kaif have attributed the late finishes to team tactics, the bottom line is that captains will take more time with a lot at stake at each game. Overs, which normally take four minutes to get done, are taking 6-7 minutes and the match time has often exceeded four hours this season. The ultimate sufferers, as a result, are the fans. Key stakeholders to the IPL, these men and women who make the extravaganza what it is, are clearly the most isolated. It is well known that post 11.30 PM life in Kolkata comes to a standstill. Most families are in bed by then and public transport is hardly available. Rent cars too are very few and navigation is an issue. While I am unsure of the situation in South India, in Mohali too, getting home past midnight is an ordeal. Jaipur is hardly different and that’s what makes this injustice to fans a grave issue.

The fans aren’t the only ones who are suffering. While the broadcaster is losing revenue with inventory turning useless post midnight, journalists who are covering the games are finding it next to impossible to meet deadlines and get stories out in the early editions of newspapers to be published the following day. As a result, sketchy reportage is taking over from quality reporting robbing fans of the early morning experience of reading an interesting match report.

The solution to this serious problem is rather simple. All we need is a 7 PM start to IPL games during the week and a 7.30 PM start on double header days and weekends. A 7 PM start means the match will surely get over by 11 PM and fans can get home without hiccups. 7 PM is prime time on television and by advancing the start by an hour, there is no fear of losing audiences either. Even the quality of play is likely to improve as a result of this rescheduling. Take the case of Chennai for example. The kind of dew we have seen in Chennai this season is quite unthinkable. The dew, which sets in post 9 PM gets heavier as time progresses and by the time the match ends, the stadium is almost like an arena which has experienced a heavy thundershower. “It was exactly like that mate. When I went out during the presentation, it was as if I was walking out in ankle deep water”, said Michael Clarke who was in Chennai for the CSK-RR game. A 7 PM start will help combat the due factor to an extent, making the games more competitive and exciting.

In the end, however, I need to come back to the fans. They are the ones who have made the IPL India’s most robust sports brand. Braving the 40 degrees plus temperatures, they are the ones who flock the stadium and generate TV ratings. They consume the tournament every single day of the 7 weeks and have done so for the last 11 years. The least they deserve is not to be inconvenienced. The IPL, which is India’s signature tournament and will remain so in the foreseeable future, needs the fans. Every one of them is important for the future of the competition going forward and not one of them need to get home at 5 AM in the morning having been to a 8 PM IPL game the previous night. The BCCI has done very well to market the tournament and make it what it is. They have done really well to safeguard the interests of every stakeholder associated with the competition for that’s how the brand continues to remain robust after all these years. But it is time the BCCI decides to take a relook at start times for games keeping in mind the interests of the fans. The IPL is for the people and of the people and they are the ones the BCCI need to protect and take care of.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of www.economictimes.com.)
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