India scoreboards still old-fashioned

India has embraced cricket in the 21st century like no other nation but the scoreboards in the Indian grounds still look old-fashioned

Updated: March 22, 2011 15:02 IST
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New Delhi: India has embraced cricket in the 21st century like no other nation with a wildly popular Twenty20 competition packing modernised stadiums as Test crowds dwindle.

But this is also a country where young men don whites even for an informal Sunday morning knockout game on the grass around New Delhi's landmark India Gate, pitching stumps on any spare patch of ground they can find.

The cricket-loving public in the country of more than a billion people shows an intriguing mixture of sentimentality alongside a thirst for the very latest innovations.

In New Delhi's Feroz Shah Kotla stadium a huge screen is set up on one side of the ground showing replays of the action on the pitch and the faces of the batsmen at the crease.

But if you look over the other side of the ground, time appears to have stood still as a team of scorers scurry around inside an old-fashioned scoreboard, changing the numbers manually.

It is the same at many grounds across the subcontinent, with traditional black scoreboards with white numbers sharing stadium space with flashy new electronic hardware.

And India is not alone. Even at the new Pallekele and Hambantota grounds in Sri Lanka, old-fashioned boards have their place, and at Colombo's R. Premadasa stadium a small army of operators keeps the scores ticking over in an enormous structure.

There are 21 people working on the four floors of the Colombo board.

But there are exceptions. At the Bangladesh grounds used for the World Cup in Dhaka and Chittagong, there are only electronic boards.

Krishna Tiwari, a scorer for the Indian cricket board with two decades' experience, says the traditional black-and-white scoreboards containing a wealth of information are still a prominent part of the scenery.

During matches, Tiwari, who sits in the press box in Delhi, communicates with another scorer in the scoreboard, and a team of around 12 young men scramble to update the numbers.

Each has his own job, one looking after a batsman and one the extras tally, for example.

They are each paid about 800 rupees ($18) for a one-day match by the Delhi and District Cricket Association.

Modern big screens offer the spectator a host of features including replays and information on umpiring decisions so why do old-fashioned scoreboards continue to feature so prominently?

"It is a tradition but the only good thing is that it gives employment to a handful of guys," said the unsentimental Tiwari.

"I like electronic boards because there is far more room for human error with a manual scoreboard and I'd like to see more electronic scoreboards."

Cricket statistician Rajesh Kumar believes old-fashioned scoreboards add to the atmosphere at grounds but sees electronic boards as the future.

When asked why traditional scoreboards have lasted so long in modern grounds, he said: "The main reason for this is the non-availability of technical personnel, who earn their living in other professions."

"I suppose in the next five years, most of the Indian grounds will have electronic scoreboards in view of the additional requirements from cricket enthusiasts," he added.

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