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Your views: Will F1 take on cricket in India?

25 October 2011

Ask a youngster in India what the national sport of the country is, and you will most likely hear cricket as the answer and not the officially recognised hockey. Try driving through the streets of Mumbai and you will have to go past innumerable stones or brick stands that double up as cricket stumps.

Cricket is to India what soccer is to Brazil or F1 is to England. BCCI or the Board of Cricket Control in India manages advertising and commercial revenues in billions of dollars and is among the richest sporting associations in the world.

Come 30th October and F1 will mark the arrival of the world's most expensive and commercially successful sport to a cricket crazy nation.

Though an F1 ticket is considered to be expensive, you will be surprised to know that it is not uncommon for a popular cricket match ticket to be sold in the black market at prices that will humble F1 ticket rates.

So, what are the chances that F1 will rival cricket in India? Ask Lewis Hamilton and he might say the chances are pretty good. At a promotional event in Bangalore that was planned for 4000 guests, over 25,000 people turned up to watch Hamilton burn some serious rubber.

At the E Zone Kart track in Bangalore, you will find boys and girls in their little helmets and gloves intensely staring at the timing screen to find where they lost that elusive second. Ask Thanish, a six and half year old boy who was been go-karting for a month, who his favourite driver is and he will say 'everybody'. In just a month's time, Thanish is setting consistent laps in the lower 29 second bracket on a track that has a fastest lap time of 27 seconds in an adult kart of comparable power.

Daniel and David, the seven year old twins and first time karters are excited about their karting adventure. They know more F1 drivers and team names than the players in the Indian cricket team. Expectedly, Ferrari and Red Bull are their favourites.

Arjun, a software employee along with five of his friends is taking a 21 hour train ride from Hyderabad to Delhi to watch the race at the Budh International Circuit on the outskirts of Delhi. He says that F1 is his life and there is not a single race he has missed on television since 2002.

“The flight tickets are more than double the price for this week to New Delhi and so we were lucky to have got these train tickets”, he said trying to hide his excitement.

Hotels are sold out and so are most of the tickets at the venue. We spoke to Mr. Askari Zaidi, the senior vice president for Jaypee Sport Group which owns the circuit.

“The response to the event has been great with Indian and foreign media giving it excellent coverage. The tickets are mostly sold out and we are expecting a full house on all three days”, he said.

The $400 million track is the biggest investment into a single sporting venue in India. Compare this with the $65 million cost to construct the MCA cricket stadium, a state-of-the-art facility in Pune, India which will be opened in 2012.

Bernie Ecclestone may not be too optimistic about F1 surpassing cricket's popularity in India, but going by the excitement we have witnessed in the last few months in the build up to the race, we are going ahead and placing the bet.

by Crash.net viewer Sam Matthews in Bangalore


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