Each bid to mask makes lapse more glaring. Precisely that seems to be happening with the Caribbean Premier League. That is also feared to happen with the Indian Premier League if there are no crowds trough the 60-match, 53-day tournament in Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Stands filled with colourful spectators, tongue-in-cheek captions on placards, dance, drama and the deafening sound of celebrations over the years have become as integral part of professional sports as the action in the middle. Club fans have grown into communities with strong conviction. Their presence adds to the intensity of the LIVE action.
Ironically, but truly, their absence has taken the sheen out of the action of the Caribbean Premier League.
Sports history is laced with occasions when an act in the stands has made bigger headlines than the match action. Instances like a fan shouting “Will you marry me Steffi….”, or displaying placards like “I love you Zaheer…” Sachin you are married, but please marry me…”, “Kohli marry me…” have been broadcasters and scribes’ delight. A match behind the closed doors will never create these talking points.
Players are performers like orchestra artistes, who play to the galleries. The din in the stands has a direct correlation with the rush of adrenaline.
The digital peripheral boards displaying brands become jarring without the familiar colourful backdrop of vibrant fans.
A game in daylight being played for “only for television” appears as shallow as the hollow backdrop of thousands of seats in the empty stands.
It further appears that the league organisers and broadcasters have erred majorly in projecting what they don’t have. The life-size cut-outs to give the feel of a crowd in the stands, the artificial crowd and vuvuzela noise make the vacuum of those integral ingredients more glaring, more frustrating, more agonising.
Just like the missing familiar sight of English spectators through the duration of Test matches in England makes the games dull, leagues without fans appear a well-cooked cuisine without garnish, a freshener without fragrance, a symphony without orchestra. Fans are not used to it. It will have no worth without fans.
Its true exceptional circumstances call for exceptional measures. Equally true is the fact that LIVE professional sport will remain lifeless without its core consumer – the fan in the stadium.
The cricket world has taken a cue from England and Wales Cricket Board to create bio-secure bubbles for players and officials to organise games with zero possible exposure to the novel coronavirus threat.
Can some way be found to allow the spectators, too? At least up to one-fourth of the total stadium strength. CPL has missed the bus. But, will the UAE authorities and the Indian Premier League like to set the precedence. For, the COVID-19 threat is here to stay. And, as the experts say, we have to find ways to live and grow with it.