This morning, over coffee in a cafe outside Flinders Station they were showing the recent cricket World Cup Final between Australia and the West Indies.
I should clarify. It was the Women’s world cup final, which took place in Mumbai a city with a population of around 20 million and millions of cricket-mad fans – I know because when I visited a couple of years ago and told people I was a South African living in Australia, people would shout out the names of cricket players they idolised at me:
“Jonty Rhodes. Great fielder.”
“Herschelle Gibbs. I love Gibbs”
But sipping my coffee and watching highlights of the game I noticed one glaringly obvious thing.
The stands were almost completely empty. Rows and rows of empty seats in a the Brabourne Stadium, one of India’s smallest cricket stadiums that only holds 20,000 people.
No one was watching the game in Mumbai and no one appeared to care.
According to one report I read, there were at most 1,000 people at the game with police officers outnumbering spectators by two to one.
This in one of India’s biggest cities, in a country that’s apparently cricket mad.
Just yesterday I’d read a story in The Age by sports writer Peter Hanlon suggesting that women’s cricket had come of age and they were now viewed as true professionals.
It had as its headline: “Sitting up and taking notice of women’s cricket”
Hanlon wrote of the game being broadcast live on Foxtel with ball-by-ball commentary on BBC radio.
But I doubt if apart from the family and friends of the Australian and West Indies cricket teams and a small collective of women who play the game, if anyone listened of watched as Australia raced to a comprehensive win.
They say cricket is the ‘gentlemen’s game’ and generally mean in the sense that you should play it in the spirit of fairness and good cheer. But it has a far more literal meaning.
As for this apparent rise in the profile of the women’s version of the gentleman’s’ game, it’s a theory that sails way over the stumps.