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T20 gets short shrift with Modi and Trump at the crease

Donald Trump, Narendra Modi, Houston, US, Virat Kohli, cricket, politics, T20, Bengaluru, Bangalore

From Howzzat Virat to Howdy Modi, the match is on.



By Bikram Vohra

Published: Sun 22 Sep 2019, 4:22 PM

Last updated: Mon 23 Sep 2019, 8:32 AM

History will be made in many more ways than one in India this evening. Perhaps for the first time ever in cricket-mad India, the game will be eclipsed by a politician. It is unfortunate that the third T20 between Indian and South Africa is scheduled to be played at Bengaluru in the same time frame that Prime Minister Narendra Modi takes the stage in storm-battered Houston with President Donald Trump. They will speak in front of a 50,000-strong crowd of Indian-Americans and a global TV audience of over one billion. The fact that Trump will address the throng for 30 minutes compels US channels to rework their schedules.

Even though there has been a surfeit of cricket in recent weeks and like with the Windies, India is a cut above the Proteas and most likely to win with ease, cricket fever does reach epidemic proportions regardless of the strength of the competition. Only this time it is likely to be beaten into second place by the sheer draw of viewing 'live' the leaders of the world's two largest democracies sharing the same stage. And not just any two leaders but arguably the most controversial, loved and loathed leaders from these two countries.

Cricket has very little chance of getting top billing this evening and it is unlikely that advertisers will get peak TV audiences like they are accustomed to in India. Even the stadium may not be that overflowing with the Houston pull just too strong.

Not that cricket hasn't been shoved aside before. When England played the Kiwis on July 14 this year at the ICC Cricket World Cup finals, it coincided with the Wimbledon finals in which, ironically, no Brits were taking part and it was with players from Serbia and Switzerland. And yet, the viewing numbers gave tennis a 16 per cent lead with 9.6 million viewers against 8.3 million for cricket. Remember that the British Grand Prix was also on the same day.

But that was sport to sport and there is this growing feeling in many nations that cricket and millennials are not the best of friends and the challenge in cricket playing nations will come from many sources.

In the case of the Houston event, the equation is between sport and politics, with the latter expecting a humongous one billion global viewers on par with the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony and the 2015 Cricket World Cup, but more than FIFA World Cup per match, and twice as much as the Apollo XI moonlanding and half as much as Princess Diana funeral and the 1985 Live Aid concert, as against a 3.2 billion aggregate. Never has any political figure attracted this sort of crowd. Modi magic occurs wherever he goes. With Trump as his partner, Virat and Co in Bengaluru today might be wondering if they are missing the greatest political event of the year.


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