Sehwag, Shastri is taken aback. Large stadium sections remained empty as the World Cup 2023 opener between England and New Zealand began in Ahmedabad.

The World Cup 2023 opener between England and New Zealand was expected to be a crowd-seller. Four years ago, the two teams engaged in the greatest cricket final of all time at Lord’s in 2019. This created high expectations for the World Cup opener in India, featuring England and New Zealand, with many anticipating a blockbuster contest. However, the reality was quite different. The Ahmedabad crowd, it seemed, had a different perspective. As the broadcast commenced, the overwhelming sight of vacant seats at the Narendra Modi Stadium quickly stole the spotlight. The situation became even more intriguing as the turnout failed to improve even after the game began, prompting doubts about whether there was a lack of buzz surrounding the World Cup.

This is how the stadium looked after the first 25 overs.(AFP)
This is how the stadium looked after the first 25 overs.(AFP)

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The Impact of India’s Absence in the ODI World Cup Opening Match on Public Interest(Sehwag Shastri is taken aback):

The surprising visuals took social media by storm with several noted ex-cricketers pondering over the empty stands. Among them, former Indian opener Virender Sehwag expressed concern, emphasizing the diminishing public interest in ODIs while also offering a potential solution to tackle the issue.

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“Hopefully after office hours, there should be more people coming in. But for games not featuring Bharat, there should be free tickets for school and college children. With the fading interest in 50 over game, it will definitely help that youngsters get to experience a World Cup game and players get to play in front of a full stadium,” he posted on X (formerly Twitter).

The 2015 World Cup opener at the MCG witnessed a massive attendance, with over 90,000 people in the stadium, and the 2019 World Cup opener at the Oval was equally engaging. Furthermore, the absence of host nation India in the first game of the World Cup has dampened the excitement surrounding the opener. In the last three ODI World Cups, the host nation traditionally kicked off the tournament to ensure a massive fan turnout. However, with India scheduled to start their campaign on Sunday, the first four matches may turn out to be relatively lackluster affairs.

Should Host Nations Begin Cricket World Cup Tournaments for Maximum Excitement?

Former England opener Michael Atherton raised the same to Ravi Shastri on air, to which the former India coach had a similar point of view. “In the last few years, the hosts have started. England began against South Africa in 2019, England and Australia played the opener in 2015, and in 2011, India played Bangladesh. Isn’t it sensible that the hosts should start because it guarantees a full house and give the tournament an immediate lift.”

Shastri replied: “Absolutely, especially in a ground like this, which has a capacity of 1,10,000. I understand you want one of the former finalists to play, but at all costs, have a home team play. If this was India vs England, you would be guaranteed a full house. Even on a weekday, at least 70000-80000 people would have come in. It just adds that buzz. There is a build-up.”

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