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 Shahid Afridi says India-Pakistan series more popular than the Ashes

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PostSubject: Shahid Afridi says India-Pakistan series more popular than the Ashes   Thu Jul 19, 2012 1:49 pm

Shahid Afridi says India-Pakistan series more popular than the Ashes

Crickets axis has shifted


Former Pakistani cricket skipper and all-rounder Shahid Afridi is spot on in describing India-Pakistan encounters as bigger and more popular than the Ashes series between England and Australia.The Ashes may boast of tradition and purity,but it can hardly match the excitement and passion that an India-Pakistan series generates.There are two main reasons for this.First,over the last two decades the centre of power in the cricketing world has shifted to the subcontinent.This is underpinned by the massive viewership that cricket attracts in the region.That the BCCI is the richest cricket board in the world exemplifies this point.

The numbers dont lie.The India-Pakistan World Cup semi-final last year attained record viewership with an estimated 67.3 million viewers tuning in.Compared to this,the last Ashes series in 2010-11 only saw an average of 1.14 million people tune in.This was even trumped by the India-Australia series earlier this year that generated an average viewership of 1.49 million.The Ashes used to be the marquee event in the cricketing calendar at a time when England and Australia were the only top Test playing nations.That is no longer the case in the 21st century.Thanks to a billion-plus cricketcrazy fans,the Indian and Pakistani cricket teams have attained a superstar status that their English and Australian counterparts can only dream of achieving.
Notwithstanding the quality of the games,the Ashes simply dont evoke the same passion.In any case few people have time for Test cricket today,while domestic audiences in England and Australia have moved on to sports other than cricket.Thats hardly the case in South Asia,where cricket is akin to religion.Its not for nothing that the resumption of cricket ties between India and Pakistan is being seen as a diplomatic breakthrough,with the potential to cement goodwill between the two nations.

The Ashes reign supreme

Anil Thakkar

Sportsmen as a whole are prone to hyperbole,and Shahid Afridi in particular has never been known for being particularly levelheaded.So it's perhaps understandable that he should say India-Pakistan clashes are more popular than the Ashes.But that doesn't make his claim any more correct.Perhaps his argument holds water in a crude,brute numbers sort of way the combined population of India and Pakistan is certainly larger than England and Australia's.But by any other metric,he is hopelessly wrong.

Twenty-20 cricket,glitz and glamour notwithstanding,cricket remains a sport of tradition.And the Ashes is the very embodiment of that sense of tradition.Started in 1882,it is now in the 130th year of its existence;the India-Pakistan rivalry is an upstart by comparison.More to the point,the latter cannot boast of the lexicon of traditional rivalry that the former has built up over the years.Certainly,the clashes between the south Asian giants are eagerly awaited and hotly contested in the World Cups - but a one-day contest every four years does not a rivalry make.

The heart of a true rivalry in cricket remains the Test arena.And there,India-Pakistan clashes are sorely lacking.Ashes lore can boast of Bodyline,Bradman's Invincibles,Botham's Ashes in 1981,the 2005 classic and many more legendary clashes besides.The odd gripping contest between India and Pakistan aside,the South Asian rivalry has a bare cupboard by comparison.Wrapped up as it is by jingoism and frenzied flag-waving,the brutal truth is that the tension in India-Pakistan matches comes from off-thefield political hostility between the two nations.As a pure cricketing contest the Ashes,with its legions of tradition-respecting fans,reigns supreme.
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