The big screen shows the record attendance during the semi-final © Getty Images
The big screen shows the record attendance during the semi-final © Getty Images

Since the inception of the Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2008, Indian fans have been criticised for following the smallest format of the game more closely and turning up in huge number for the cash-rich tournament at stadiums, leaving grounds empty during Tests and One-Day Internationals (ODIs). However, the fact that Adelaide Oval recorded the highest attendance in eight decades during the Big Bash League (BBL) 2014-15 semifinal between Adelaide Strikers and Sydney Sixers went without a word of criticism. Sudatta Mukherjee points on the blatant bias in world cricket when it comes to India and T20 cricket.

Did anyone make noise? Did you hear the cheers? Yes, it was Brett Lee’s final match at Adelaide Oval. Yes, it was the final match of BBL 2014-15 at the revamped Adelaide Oval, which will host the much-hyped India vs Pakistan contest in ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 on February 15.

In 2010, the redevelopment of the Adelaide Oval was promised when the political parties of South Australia were trying to woo supporters with promises of newer stadiums and redevelopments of the old ones. The process started in 2012, and was complete just in time for the 2014 Australian Football League (AFL).

In August 2014, Adelaide Oval recorded a massive turnout of 52,505 for the AFL match between Port Adelaide United and Carlton.  In October 2014, The Rolling Stones performed at the venue, and the Adelaide Oval registered the second highest attendance of all time — 54,115.

However, post revamp, cricket matches have been hosted at the venue as well. Australia played South Africa in a Twenty20 International (T20I) that the home side won comfortably. India and Australia played the first Test of the Down Under summer season. The last match played at the venue was the Tri-Series match between England and Australia.

Following Phil Hughes’s death, the first Test at Adelaide Oval was expected to be of high importance. Matches were rescheduled so that grieving cricketers could attend Hughes’s funeral and memorial, and also got time to get back in tune for the Test series. It was expected that the first Test would record a huge attendance, especially keeping in mind the fact that the late batsman used to play for Adelaide Strikers in Big Bash League.

In fact, the demand for tickets reached to an extent that Ajinkya Rahane was reported of buying an old lady tickets of the first Test. Yes, the Test match was that special.

However, the attendances recorded for the five days were —

Day 1: 25,619

Day 2: 15,397

Day 3: 19,518

Day 4: 27,639

Day 5: 24,836

In other words, a grand total of 113,009 — at an average of 22,602 a day.

Things were different on Saturday when Adelaide Strikers took the field against Sydney Strikers in the first BBL semifinal. A Sydney defeat would make it Lee’s final match. Before the start of the match, commentators were excited about the number of people who were thronging the stadium to watch the final.

The home team suffered a humiliating defeat in the hands of Sixers. But the noteworthy point of the match was — the record crowd. The revamped Adelaide Oval recorded the highest attendance for a sporting event in the unassuming city of Adelaide — 52,633 for a T20 match.

Cricket is arguably the third-most viewed sport in Australia, following rugby and Australian football (football is not too far behind). Cricket broke the previous AFL attendance record today. The count was significantly more than double of the average turnaround during the Test in December.

It was definitely a day to remember for Adelaide. However, this springs up the obvious question: why criticise the Indian fans for following T20 when Australian fans have been doing the same? Is it not hypocritical to blame only the Indian for the decreasing attention span of the cricket fan towards the longest format?

India is a country of billions for whom cricket is “a religion”. It organises the most glamorous and cash-rich T20 league, but cricketers from all over the world participate in it. Your average Indian fan has been admonished for flocking to IPL matches when the stands are empty for the international formats.

Will the Australian fan be blamed for diminishing the love of the longer format? Will the Australian board be rebuked for promoting the shortest format of the game above the purer and longer format?  Or one could just appreciate that Indian fans are quite open when it came to loving and getting adapting to the shortest format of the game despite a lot of controversy surrounding it?

At least the Indian fan admits he is a Twenty20 fan.

(Sudatta Mukherjee is a reporter with CricketCountry. Other than writing on cricket, she spends penning random thoughts on her blog. When she is not writing, you will catch her at a movie theatre or watching some English television show on her laptop. Her Twitter handle is @blackrosegal)