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Trinidad spectators peeved at early start during the first ODI between India and the Windies

A handful of spectators turned up at the stadium at around 9.30 am and were surprised to find out that the match was already underway.

Match officials (R) inspect the wet field as rain interrupt play of the first One Day International match. (Photo by JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

The handful of fans on the island of Trinidad who attended the washed out first ODI between the Windies and India were miffed with the early start. One Day Internationals, if it’s a day match, always commence at 9:30 am, but the first ODI of the Royal Stag Mega Cricket Cup began half an hour earlier, thus putting off spectators who arrived at the stadium.

The Queen’s Park Oval, which is known for the calypso-like atmosphere it offers when the stadium is packed, was almost deserted. There wasn’t a soul in the Scotiabank Stand and the Trini Posse Stand, which generally buzzes with fans cheering, singing and having a ball. The stadium didn’t have its usual music blaring from the PA system during the over-breaks either.

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The only suitable description for the scenes in the stands was “It’s like someone just turned off the volume at the Oval.” Anil Balliram opened the batting for Trinidad & Tobago for half-a-dozen years in the 1990s and has also spent his entire life revelling in the festive atmosphere that lights up the Queen’s Park Oval whenever there’s cricket being played. However, he was among the 40-odd spectators who populated the stands on Friday.

The game began 30 minutes before the scheduled time

Balliram turned up at the stadium at around 10.30 am along with his family and he was surprised to find out that the match was already underway. Despite having ‘9:30 am’ printed on his ticket as the starting time, Balliram arrived at the stadium half-an-hour after the match had begun.

However, it goes without saying that the advancement in the starting time was entirely a function for the viewers back in India. The match began 30 minutes prior to the scheduled time so that Indian viewers didn’t have to stay up too late to watch the entire game.

Tony Doon, who’s been watching cricket at the Queen’s Park Oval for nearly 30 years, was visibly put off by the explanation given for the early start.

“So basically they want Indian fans to sleep more and want us to sleep less and wake up earlier. How does that work? Isn’t this supposed to be a home series for us and not them?” Doon was quoted as saying by Indian Express.

The interest level of fans towards cricket in the Caribbean has clearly dropped. The Viv Richards’ and the Garfield Sobers’ are long gone, and the Windies haven’t been able to dominate word cricket like they did back in the late 70’s and early 80’s, other than the odd triumph in the World T20. Recently, smaller teams such as Afghanistan playing in the Caribbean has not helped in rekindling the interest towards the game in fans. Doon hence said the only reason people would even turn up here would be to see the Indian stars.

Nobody wants to watch this Windies team bat

“The interest has dwindled over time. In the days gone by you could say the crowds will come in later because the West Indies would be batting second. But who’d want to come and watch this West Indies team bat? So don’t expect people to come in later,” Doon said.

“What’s worse is most of the people you see here are on free tickets. And there are others who have those too. But nobody cares anymore about West Indies playing ODI cricket,” he added.

Economy has a hand in empty stands

“It’s not profitable anymore to have these stalls as often we end up having near-empty stadiums. It’s only during the CPL that things start spicing up,” said a vendor at a solitary stall in the stadium.

Moreover, those who would have otherwise watched the game at the stadium weren’t allowed to flunk work as Friday was preceded by a number of holidays including Labour Day and a forced holiday due to the hurricane. The children are away as well as it’s exam season in most schools around the island. With heavy rains expected throughout the weekend, the scenes are likely to remain the same at the Queen’s Park Oval during the second ODI on Sunday.

“If the West Indies even get over 200 against what will certainly be a 300+ total by India, then you might see some interest among the locals to show up on Sunday. If they get humbled, then expect more of the same,” Balliram concluded.

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