'With fading interest in ODIs…': Sehwag, Shastri taken aback after poor crowd turnout starts ENG vs NZ World Cup opener
As the opening World Cup 2023 match between England and New Zealand got underway in Ahmedabad, large portions of the stadium remained empty.
The opening match of the World Cup 2023 between England and New Zealand was supposed to be a blockbuster. In 2019, the two teams competed in the greatest cricket final of all time at Lord's.
This raised anticipation for the World Cup opener in India, which featured England and New Zealand, with many expecting a thrilling match. The truth, however, was completely different.
The Ahmedabad crowd, it seems, saw things differently. The startling sight of empty seats at the Narendra Modi Stadium swiftly took the spotlight as the telecast began. The issue became even more intriguing when attendance did not rise even after the game began, raising questions about whether there was a lack of excitement surrounding the World Cup.
The unexpected images went viral on social media, with numerous well-known ex-cricketers pondering the empty stands. Among them was former Indian opener Virender Sehwag, who expressed concern over the declining public interest in ODIs while also providing a potential remedy to the problem.
"Hopefully, more people will come in after office hours." However, for games that do not feature Bharat, school and college students should be given free admission. With the declining interest in 50-over cricket, it will undoubtedly assist that youngsters get to see a World Cup game and players get to play in front of a packed stadium," he wrote on X (previously Twitter).
Hopefully after office hours, there should be more people coming in. But for games not featuring Bharat, there should be free tickets for school and college children. With the fading interest in 50 over game, it will definitely help that youngsters get to experience a World Cup…— Virender Sehwag (@virendersehwag) October 5, 2023
Sehwag is correct. The low crowd attendance in the opening half of the battle can be attributable to two factors. For starters, the weather in Ahmedabad isn't ideal for attracting tourists. With the city steaming at 35 degrees Celsius, it's not surprising that fewer people are tuning in.
It also doesn't help that it's Thursday, a working day. As Sehwag pointed out, the audience is expected to increase as the sun sets. Nonetheless, the fact that this is one of the most quiet cricket World Cup starts is cause for alarm.
The 2015 World Cup opener at the MCG drew a tremendous crowd of nearly 90,000 people, while the 2019 World Cup opener at the Oval was similarly exciting. Furthermore, the absence of host nation India from the inaugural World Cup game has diminished the atmosphere around the opening match.
The host nation has historically led off the ODI World Cup in order to ensure a large spectator turnout. However, with India set to begin their campaign on Sunday, the first four matches could be relatively dull affairs.
Former England opener Michael Atherton highlighted the issue with Ravi Shastri on broadcast, and the former India coach agreed. "The hosts have begun in recent years.
England debuted against South Africa in 2019, England and Australia began in 2015, and India faced Bangladesh in 2011. Isn't it logical for the hosts to start because it ensures a full house and gives the event an immediate boost?"
"Absolutely," Shastri said, "especially in a stadium with a capacity of 110,000." I realise you want one of the previous finalists to play, but have a home team play at all costs. If it was India vs. England, the house would be packed.
Even on a Monday, 70000-80000 individuals would have entered. It simply adds to the buzz. There is an accumulation."