The world is still grasping to understand what life would look like post the Covid-19 pandemic, and with a lot of changes expected in different industries, cricket matches will not be immune to this. Cricket matches taking place in closed stadiums without spectators have become the new normal and that is a challenge in itself.
We’ve had a glimpse of this in the recently-concluded series between England and the West Indies. To be honest, it did feel odd on seeing the stands empty in England, which is usually jam-packed, and without the Barmy Army singing their lungs out. Here we’ll focus on the main challenges faced while playing cricket matches without spectators.
CHALLENGES FOR BROADCASTERS
The broadcasters have to adapt the most in these situations. In a stadium completely empty, all those big money shots of fans from the helicopter or just normal crowd reactions to a wicket or a boundary being scored are no longer available to the director in the production control room. There is no emotive value to the game anymore and the onus to make the viewership experience better is on the commentators now. The Wisden Trophy series between England and the West Indies was a prime example of what needs to be done in the future. The fake crowd noise, which was no more than a constant buzz, kept it lively and the way Skysports presented the series with several replays coupled with dissecting techniques of the players, made us forget that the match was happening in an empty stadium. Test cricket seems fine but the difficulty will definitely arise in the T20 format.
PSYCHOLOGICAL CHALLENGE FOR THE PLAYERS
Most cricketers draw energy from the environment in cricket matches. The atmosphere created by the crowd singing passionately drives certain individuals to achieve greatness on the cricket field. In these circumstances, cricketers need to drive strength from within as there is no environmental energy contributing to their performance on the field. These players also have to remain in biosecure conditions for longer periods, which means, leaving behind your loved ones for a substantial amount of time. David Warner recently did an interview where he said many cricketers with families may have to rethink about their futures of playing this sport. These testing times will certainly test one and all and cricketers will have to take any help which is available to them. Before the #RaiseTheBat Test series, England fast bowler Stuart Broad talked about consulting a sports psychologist and that may be the way forward for other cricketers as well.
CAREFUL OF THEIR ON-FIELD AND OFF-FIELD BEHAVIOUR
With the absence of a live audience at cricket matches, it means that all one can hear are the players shouting and hoping to encourage their teammates. The cricketers would be advised to polish their chirps from now on. With the advent of the stump microphone, use of profanity in cricket matches have gone down to a fair extent. Now that there’ll be absolutely no sound but only the cricketers conversing, they’ll be advised to tone down their aggression. These are all for the on-field ones, but even the off-field players will have to be extra careful with the norms that are in place currently. The prime example of this is Jofra Archer, who got banned for one Test because he broke the COVID-19 protocols.
A DENT ON THE MATCHDAY REVENUE
The biggest earning mechanism for a cricket board is its broadcasting money. However, matchday income is also a substantial amount and that will take a hit for all the cricketing boards. The Indian T20 League is all set to take place in the United Arab Emirates and most probably, will be played in closed stadiums. The franchises will not earn the regular matchday incomes they would have had in normal circumstances with packed crowds and all the stadium merchandise sales. How sustainable will this model be? Only time will tell.
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