New Delhi Diwali and cricket fever has over the years gone hand in hand in Indian cricket. Be it Mahendra Singh Dhoni making his presence felt with an unbeaten 183 against Sri Lanka in 2005 or Amit Mishra bamboozling the Kiwis with his leg-spin in 2016, Team India have had some of its biggest blockbusters played out around Diwali.
But not anymore. The BCCI and official broadcasters Star feel there aren’t enough takers for games in and around the Festival of Lights.
Speaking to media, a board functionary said that after discussions between Star and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), it was decided that it is better to not plan any game around Diwali as study shows that people prefer to spend time with their families around that period.
“A lot of things are taken into account before setting itineraries of the home season and one such criteria is viewership and fan behaviour. It was found by Star and then presented to the board that contrary to popular belief, games during the Diwali week don’t have too many takers as everyone gets together and wants to spend time with their families. It is more about family time than watching cricket matches in this period,” the board functionary explained.
He then went on to add that it also provides the players time off and they can go back to their own families and assemble again after a short break.
“See, on the hindsight, it gives the players a short break. They can also switch off, go back home, spend time with their families and come back. Like in this season, we have the last Test between India and South Africa ending in Pune on October 23 and the boys will again assemble for the opening T20I against Bangladesh in Delhi on November 3. So, they all go back home for Diwali, which is on October 27,” he pointed out.
Asked if the general notion that more people come out to watch the game on public holidays and during festivals is a myth, the functionary said: “Well, Star has done a proper study and only after that did they come to this conclusion. If it indeed was a TRP booster, they would surely want games in and around Diwali.
“In fact, even for a layman, I think it is very clear that people nowadays prefer to spend time with their near and dear ones during Diwali, considering their otherwise busy schedule.”
This is the very reason that a home season, which sees the Indian team play in the World Test Championship as also prepare for the upcoming World T20 in 2020, sees none of its 5 Tests, 9 ODIs and 12 T20Is during Diwali.
The opening Test of the Gandhi-Mandela series between India and South Africa though will start in Visakhapatnam on October 2, Gandhi Jayanti.