The grounds for the present one-day series between India and England are not exactly empty. But nor, it is increasingly noticeable, are they full to the rafters as once they would have been.
At each of the three matches so far there have been vast tranches of empty seats and for the fourth, in Mumbai today, the Times of India reported yesterday: "With the hosts missing a number of their top stars, public response has been totally thanda." In Hindi, "thanda" means cold verging on distinctly bleak and chilly.
There appears to be an indifference to this indifference. In commercial terms it is barely of consequence.To the outside observer it hasbeen surprising, because one-day internationals in this country have always seemed to draw full and excitable houses and this series wasthe first chance to pay homage tothe world champions.
Perhaps India is turning away from one-day cricket, perhaps the spectators are weary of matches against England, perhaps they are staying away because this is not their World Cup team, containing as it does only four members of the triumphant team that lifted the World Cup that jubilant warm night here last April.
There may be one other factor, and it is to do with the intangible attribute of star quality. Two years ago the International Cricket Council conducted a survey on cricketing heroes. In England the field was more or less evenly split between five or six players, in India, 20 per cent nominated MS Dhoni, four per cent Yuvraj Singh and 75 per cent one other. For 20 years he has filled grounds and emptied them as quickly if he has been out. There is no replacing Sachin Tendulkar.
KP in full flow despite drought
On a memorable night in Mumbai nearly 10 years ago, Andrew Flintoff whipped the shirt off his back and ran like a whirling dervish round the Wankhede Stadium. England had beaten India by five wickets to tie the series at 3-3.
England have been paying ever since for that joyous, indecorous response, winningone of the 16 matches between the sides in India after that. Kevin Pietersen and Dhoni have each played 15 of those games. Pietersen has scored 703 runs at 50.21 and won once, Dhoni has score 479 runs at 53.22 and lost once.
Wait is over for umpire Asnani
What a strange tale is that of the umpire Sudhir Asnani. He umpired his third ODI on Thursday night in Mohali. It was his first for 12 years and 211 days. The official's wait between fixtures is longer than any that of any player. Jeff Wilson went 11 years 329 days without playing for New Zealand but then he was forging a rugby union career between times.
England above rank and file
The ICC are launching their Twenty20 rankings tomorrow. About time too nd expect England to feature prominently as world champions.