Today, one of Indian domestic cricket's biggest problem is that it isn't attracting enough attention or viewership or interest of the general public. The fandom is limited, and almost all of them would be "die hard" fans, branches of families who have had big interests in their local team, passing on the passion from generation to generation. In India, the best such association of fans to their domestic team can only be seen in Mumbai, and traces in maybe TN, Delhi, Bengal, UP etc. My dad tells tales about the Gopalan Trophy...such was the following of the local team in those days.
Nowadays, people don't know much about their local stars until they make an appearance on television in coloured clothings. The NEO network's two channels have helped televise some domestic games. The Challenger Trophy brings the best few in the country in a round robin league, which is probably the most viewed domestic tournament in India. Yet, Ranji trophy, or even Duleep trophy doesn't attract half as much attention of viewers or followers alike.
There has to be ways to get over this. There is.
Yesterday, while watching the channel 'NEO Cricket', I learnt that Airtel sponsors all domestic cricket leagues and tournaments in India.
Airtel is one of the leading telephone, cellular, broadband and DTH television service provider in India, with nation-wide coverage in all aspects.
I believe that this link between Airtel and the domestic cricket can help bring the cricket closer to people. Airtel can be the mediator to bring the happenings to the people.
Airtel services include packages for cricket, wherein the subscribers would get score updates and news from international games and events. Such services can be extended to the domestic set-up too.
Airtel can allow its customers to subscribe to packages for any Ranji team (extend to Vijay Hazare and Syed Mushtaq Ali trophies). The subscribers would then be given information at toss (toss, teams) and score updates at lunch, tea and stumps for all days of play. And at stumps on each day, update all subscribers with scores from all the games being played across the country.
All subscribers can be allowed to follow other non-state-specific tournaments without hassles, meaning, without any further subscription procedures. This would involve coverage of Deodar, Duleep and Irani trophy.
The cricket package for international games was priced at Rs 30 for 30 days. Airtel would know best on how to price the packages for the domestic games. Ranji season would see atleast 4 games every month for each team. There will be one-dayers and T20s too.
Marketing this is simple too. As of now, the BCCI is able to promote its domestic leagues only on its channels - NEO Sports and NEO Cricket (both paid channels, require set-top-box or DTH). With Airtel involved, there are no boundaries. Advertisements on all local channels can catch the attention of target audience better. Print media in each region can advertise for subscription of their local team's cricket update service pack.
This has multiple benefits :-
1. More people can now follow their local cricket team in the domestic league. One large step in creating a larger fandom for the domestic teams.
2. Airtel will have more revenue, might also generate more customers if the venture is a success.
A win-win situation? Yes!
I want to see that day when a Yorkshire fan would be jealous of the fandom of Jharkhand.