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Sunday, 26 June 2016
Test cricket is in danger, get your act together: BCCI writes to associations
Shirke has asked traditional test associations to make a short presentation during BCCI’s working committee meeting on June 24.
Get your act together, danger to Test cricket’s popularity is clear and present, is the message the BCCI has sent out to the seven traditional Test match centres in India. While six new venues are being tried out this season, seven established centres have also drawn a Test match each. The BCCI wants these seven associations — Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Chennai, Mumbai, Karnataka, Hyderabad and Bengal — to come up with preparation and promotion plans for the upcoming Test. BCCI secretary Ajay Shirke has sent a letter to these seven associations to make a short presentation on their plan in the working committee meeting on June 24 in Dharamsala. The BCCI says that they can’t market the game alone, and need the support of these associations.
The letter also points out the non-negotiable criteria for hosting the match, from clean toilets for the fans, accessible areas for physically handicapped spectators, numbering of the seats, to 10% ticket reservation for girls and underprivileged. “Needless, to say the matches are allotted subject to fulfilling BCCI conditions like compulsory numbering of seats, clean toilets, separate accessible areas for physically handicapped spectators, mandatory 10% ticket to underpivileged and girl child.”
The section of the letter that pertains to the marketing of the game reads thus: “As your venue has been allotted a test match this season, BCCI would like to call you for a presentation during the working committee meeting, on what steps you would take to popularize test cricket and bring the spectators for the match allotted to your association. What are your plans to raise awareness for the match and marketing for the same? BCCI can’t alone walk in the direction and it would need your support for the same to make it successful. The presentation should cover all these points and should be for about 5-7 minutes.”
Last November, Anurag Thakur, the then secretary, had pointed to the low turn out in a Test in Mohali (against South Africa) to make his point about Test cricket’s dying popularity. “If you look at the game at Mohali, and even globally, the following of Test cricket is going down. We find less spectators at bigger venues which have huge sitting capacity. Even centres like Mohali couldn’t manage to get enough people to the ground. I think it is important to reach out to the tier-two, tier-three cities where you can have a larger audience. And I personally feel that will help. If you look at Mohali, Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, they host T20 games, IPL all in a year. That’s the reason the crowd stays away from the Tests matches.”
Now, the board has asked the associations to shape up and come with plans to tackle the problems. There are two schools of thoughts regarding promoting Test cricket in India. Some believe that some existing centres should not be given Test matches as they have repeatedly registered low crowd attendance. Others believe awarding to newer smaller centres is the way to go. In addition to awarding Test debuts to new venues — Rajkot, Ranchi, Pune, Dharmshala, Vizag and Indore, the board wants to push all the established venues to come up with plans to promote Test cricket if they want to continue to get matches.
“As you are aware, the popularity of Test cricket is shrinking day by day, and it is huge challenge to get spectators to the ground to watch a five day game in today’s fast paced world. BCCI, therefore this year has taken test cricket to 6 new centres, which would be hosting test match for the first time,” Shirke wrote in his letter to state associations.
Cricket conclave on June 22
The BCCI will seek the feedback from the Ranji Trophy coaches and captains on the proposal to play Ranji games at neutral venues. The plan to play at neutral venues had thrown up dissenting voices from the playing fraternity – current coaches, captains, players and state selectors, and the captains and coaches can discuss the issue in the annual coach and captain’s meet on June 22 in Dharamsala.