Much change has been on the anvil in the world of sport. But even the good has been lost in the background, even in cricket, in the midst of the din of money rolling in as the Indian Premier League comes around. As broadcasters are forced to choose as also, the sport amongst its own factions, a question is being posed about cricket’s ability to co-exist not only with other sports in the country but also, within its own ranks, without one swallowing many and at what cost?

In a world where the way the sport is being viewed and perceived is undergoing a sea change, will cricket adapt to course correction, willingly of course?

Female presenters too can be classy. What a refreshing way to watch sports, focussing on the sport itself for a change! The ICC Women’s Twenty20 World Cup might have only become eye-catching in the end stages when the Indian cricket team once again came tantalisingly close to getting their hands around a trophy.

But it demonstrated a lesson some of the presenters and indeed broadcasters could take away from the tournament itself with former cricketers setting the tone.

In an apt lesson that the quality of the match itself is enough to grab eyeballs, the women presenters and commentators, alongside former England captain, Nasser Hussain, and Pommie Mbangwa of Zimbabwe, were dressed stylishly and yet sublimely appropriate for the occasion. They wore chic trousers and tops that bordered on formal and fancy without being over the top, keeping it classy.

That alone was enough to knock this tournament out of the park. Not only were the women cricketers making a case for themselves, but also, shaping the way that sport can be conducted without the garish costuming of women for the sake of capturing the roving male gaze. Not only does that do the women a disservice but is also an injustice to the men who watch the sport for the sport, reducing them to be objectified as much as the women themselves.

In the case of both semi finals and the final, where there was extensive time on air and before and after the match, the conversations were moderated well, and focussed on the matches, instead of the frivolous, something gone amiss at times that seemed to be the case in the ongoing India Australia Border Gavaskar Trophy.

Garish to say the least is the oft repeated criticism of women having to stick out like sore thumbs, instead of being lauded for their knowledge and quality. And it is quite sad to see that even Mayanti Langer who has a sporting acumen unparalleled to most on air presenters, has been reduced to looking like an out-of-place fashion model. This is cringeworthy to put it mildly.

The most telling matter, those Cinderella-like heels looking out of place on the cricket field. Can somebody point this out before the next cricket fanfare, the Indian Premier League, is likely to see more of the garish?

Why do women who fight for equality make themselves look like fish out of water with how they choose to present themselves. They could stand out if they shared their acumen about the sport, rubbing shoulders with their male counterparts while also dressing classily as the women in the tournament have done throughout? No one was complaining about losing spectatorship because of it.

Something to learn from the likes of Anjum Chopra and Mithali Raj for the way they present themselves and the sport, in and out of the commentary box.

India’s current skipper, Harmanpreet Kaur, cut a disheartened figure at the end of India’s semi final, which they lost to Australia. Although the margin of victory looked close, in reality, Australia did put the Indian fielders to work and but for some sloppy fielding, victory might have been India’s.

The women’s team have now made the finals and semifinals repeatedly and the captain’s own batting innings, before an unfortunate run out, looked like it would get India home. But they were bettered by their counterparts who just pulled out an inch ahead when it mattered most.

South Africa too were breathing rare air, in their own backyard. While the men’s team have turned into something of a ghost in terms of team composition and results, the women’s team appear to have surprised themselves. They dug their heels in, evidence in how Laura Wolvaardt batted and let their work do the talking for them.

In fact, as South Africa’s bowlers once again put up a consolidating effort Woolvardt almost made up for South Africa’s slow start with the bat by punching some valuable runs to ease the pressure as the scoring rate went up to the hosts needing 90 runs from 45 balls.

South African entered the match as the team to score the least during the powerplay overs while England had the highest. Yet South Africa slowly picked up pace and momentum and with wickets in hand, stunned themselves into nearing pulling one on Australia as they did over England to get to the final to make it a spectacular Sunday in front of home crowds.

The women’s team seemed to have an ambassador in Siya Kolisi, who led a more cohesive team at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, where traditionally the rugby team has shone better than the men’s cricket team, winning three out of three World cup final appearances. And the women did not disappoint.

Tazmin Brits, who nearly quit cricket and missed an Olympic appearance in 2012 in javelin throw when she suffered a freak car accident at the age of 19, has been resplendent with the bat in the semi final and also, when she took four stunning catches that turned the tables of on the favoured England team. Appropriately the Olympic tattoo on her arm might get a World Cup or even a Proteas badge as she alluded after.

Shabnim Ismail is the most experienced player in the team and alongside captain, Sune Luus, who was only confirmed as official captain before the match led South Africa’s hopes before the match. However, even as Wolvaardt’s innings set hearts racing, it fell short of the effort put up by Beth Mooney for Australia earlier in the day as Meg Lanning picked up the trophy for Australia for the sixth time out of seven finals that Australia’s women have now featured in.

It is a different feeling irrespective of the outcome because the women’s South African team seem to have caught the aspiration of the rainbow nation whose men’s cricket team is in the doldrums and has been for a significant period of team, in denial and in the hands of corrupt cricket board operations until recently, denting their reputation as underdogs punching above their weight when they returned to the international game in 1991.

South Africa’s men's team, which has struggled to meet the nation’s quota systems and faced issues of racism related issues, haven’t really had the integrated success that the rugby team has. The women’s success is said to be a pointer in that direction, which is certainly a significant shift in the beleaguered country’s cricket fortunes.

Meanwhile while the women have been given their space on television, another significant and refreshing aspect has been watching youngsters and children come out in numbers at the cricket stadium for the World Cup. It is not something one is accustomed to viewing in the men’s matches, even when the stadia have tended to be empty, as was seen abysmally even during the high profile India Australia Test series.

It is not hard to see how the seats could be easily filled up if the gates were thrown open, even at concessional rates to these youngsters, a repeat suggestion that has fallen on deaf ears. There is no point complaining about losing aspiring young sportspersons to other sports when they have not been given enough incentive to experience the game first hand.

As a corollary to it, television viewership seems to now come at a significantly exorbitant price, being prohibitive for some time even in the Mecca of cricket, UK, where many do not have access to the sport unless it is on cable subscription.

It is a real shame because it keeps passionate audiences away from the game only for the cricket boards to then conveniently label Test cricket in particular as being endangered. It is a real shame where England are almost reinventing the way the five day game is played, and doing so in scintillating fashion, quietly taking the world by storm, away from the ICC World Test championships and away from the vast cricket viewership around the globe without access to a more reasonable way to enjoy sport, on and off the field.

It is something that all sports must consider since the idea that international sport is followed with more passion than domestic is true of most sports barring football. That being the case, even in the face of avaricious boards, unless broadcasters realise that while they are paying huge sums of money for broadcast and media rights for a small cut of the sport, they have to work that many times as hard to keep spectators, passionate and financially viable while being seasonal.

Not far might be the day when broadcasters might choose not to air cricket even at all, given that they can claim the same argument that money can be made like mangoes, seasonally in the Indian summer months when the IPL is on.

That has been the trend with cricket where entering foreign channels have often changed hands more than once over the past couple of decades, sometimes consolidating and sometimes being consumed by a rival in the dog eat dog world of sport with cricket being the most viable contest, with cable subscription for sport in India touching peak levels, the rivalry and pitch battles sometimes blacking out a sport more popular globally over time.

Now the game of one upmanship that has been the bane of cable network providers and satellite and dish providers appears to have affected motorsport world as well, much like cricket which often suffers because of overlapping matches when one broadcaster has cornered the majority of rights, forcing viewers to watch their focus match instead of their choice of match despite paying a huge fee.

While there has been a trend towards digital and internet rights with the mobile phone becoming an accessory, it seems for the moment it might be the only respite although at a significant cost for Indian viewers of Formula 1 in 2023. It is hard to see logic when at least four channels of the same sports network will be simultaneously airing the same IPL match. Does money justify the monopoly and what is the long term perspective of the network in question?

Explaining that the sport did not find a traditional television broadcaster, claiming that Star Sports, which took its feed from Sky Sports until last year, did not value the sport enough in terms of revenue for broadcast rights, Formula 1 is re-entering a new revolution where the races which begin next weekend, will now be available only on an app and streaming device in India, which will be a revolutionary taking off point if they can pull it off en masse. Undoubtedly the IPL bosses will be watching this move closely.

While Formula 1 has not ruled out finding a traditional route at a later date, it might explain where another war might break out, if the IPL decides to find its own platform, and decide to shift similarly depending on the money at stake, taking a significant chunk out of traditional broadcasters, already paying through their nose.

This might also trigger a shift away from the complaints that the spectators in India have had after the motorsport had a huge fillip with Noida filled the international race track void only to have the government’s hefty taxes take the sport out again, almost as it happened with the ICC events when it comes to cricket world cups, as the wrangling between the BCCI and the ICC have revealed over the years.

Ironically, while the likes of Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandok missed lighting the Formula 1 stage on fire on the race track, upcoming racers like Jehan Daruvala and others who are being sponsored by Indian companies and are putting India on the map in Formula 2 must now suffer this setback to make yet another impact and raise aspirations in the billion strong country. At a time when sponsorship and India could both be on the map, with India having launched its own racing league, the question to be asked is, has the broadcaster put all its eggs all in one basket?

With broadcasters looking to make back every buck they pay to the BCCI who are ruling the roost and laughing all the way to the bank, spectators have openly complained about how hoarse advertising has been injected rather against the grain of wisdom of live sports broadcast in the middle of races more recently.

If broadcasters can afford to make this kind of gamble, choosing one sport over the cost of others, it could also be asked in the same breadth whether they risk losing spectators altogether to another viewing platform and a trend towards the digital/internet age where the mobile phone might do to television what television did to radio if it hasn’t already in the arena of entertainment.

If a financially viable sport like Formula 1 chose to shun the broadcaster for lack of attention, one has to question what sport stands a chance against cricket and the IPL? Many sports suffer from lack of attention because of their commercial viability which explains why medal winners in a country like India are acknowledged only after the fact and are soon forgotten.

If the broadcasters make these kinds of weighty decisions, one wonders where new medal winners will draw their inspiration without the common denominator of television beaming sport home. How exactly is it wise to black out a sport when there is host representation as India does now more widely not only in motorsport but also, in other fields and disciplines when the broadcaster chooses to replay IPL matches alone on loop at the cost of live sports? What is the point of having so many channels in one network and calling the network sport when it panders particularly only to one tournament even within the one popular sport?

India’s wait for the next superstar might just get much longer, unless they are only wielding the cricket bat in hand, and that too not in the Ranji trophy or another domestic tournament but rather in the IPL? Is the new benchmark of sport in India?