Why Tests moving to smaller cities is good news for cricket
Test cricket, the oldest form of the game, found its 22nd venue in India when the third Test began at the Holkar Stadium at Indore. It was after a long time that the Tests were shifted from the conventional venues to a new stadium. Indore, despite having a rich cricketing history waited for a long time to host the first ever Test match.
Tests in India are usually played at venues like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore and a few others stadiums. But earlier this year, the BCCI announced six lesser known cities to host Test matches and Indore was one of those along with Rajkot, Visakhapatnam, Pune, Dharamsala, and Ranchi. Smaller cities hosting Test cricket is just the kind of push the format needs in the modern era.
Fall in Test cricket viewership
Test cricket is the highest form of cricket and players over the years pride themselves in representing the country in the format. But with the advent of T20 cricket, Test cricket seems to be losing its sheen amongst the fans, who are moving towards the shortest format.
With the introduction of the leagues like IPL and BBL, the game is being globalised in the name of T20 cricket which has emerged as the latest USP in the game.
The dip in the popularity of Test cricket can be identified from the almost empty stadiums. Except in countries like England and Australia, Test cricket is becoming the least favoured format amongst the fans and hardly a few of them bother to cheer from the stands. Where T20s produce big hitting and the games end within hours, not too many people wish to watch a game which goes on for 5 days.
Cricketers still rate Test cricket very highly and many former greats of the game and the ICC have expressed huge concerns over its decreasing reputation. India, which is the biggest cricketing centre in the world has seen dwindling fan following for the longest format of the game and a few measures have to be taken so that Test cricket stands firm along with ODIs and T20s.
The BCCI has made the right move at the right time by giving a chance to smaller venues to host the longest form of the game. The more conventional cities get plenty of matches to host and thus the fans there are less concerned about the game. But the smaller ones get one off game but with the opportunity to host Test cricket, people get a chance to witness their favourite stars in person, live.
Indore’s people still love Test cricket!
The move to shift to Indore proved to be a success even before the start of the game, as there were large hordes of fans outside the ground waiting to enter and experience international cricket. The game started with a huge cheer and with the chants of India-India. It was an extremely rare sight to see in Test cricket and one that we often only witnss in T20s and ODIs these days.
Within minutes of the start of the game, the stadium was almost full and buzzing with the fact that India was batting first. It was quite evident that the fans wanted Test cricket in the city and were waiting for a while to witness the game.
The way every run was cheered proved that the crowd in the smaller cities are deprived of the live game and are still ready to make it to the venue even for 5 days.
Indore and cricket
Indore has a rich cricketing history and it is a pity that it had to wait for such a long time to host the first ever Test match. Colonel C.K. Nayaudu, the first captain of the Indian team, was from Indore.
The Holkars from the city were a dominant force in Ranji Trophy and won the trophy 4 times and finished as runners-up 6 times in the period between 1945 and 1955.
Sachin Tendulkar scored his 10000th run in ODI cricket in Indore against Australia in the year 2001. Virender Sehwag became the second ever player to score a double-century in ODIs when he scored 219 runs in the year 2011 against West Indies at the Holkar Stadium, which was the highest score in ODIs at that time.
Test cricket was the only thing that was missing from the city’s history books and it finally got the coveted prize. The stadium and the fans certainly welcomed it with open arms.
The stadium itself has world-class facilities for players and the stands are named after legends like Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, and Anil Kumble.
Such cricketing history is not limited to the city of Indore but numerous other venues in India which are full of stories and rich history. It will only be beneficial for the game that the fans of such cities return to the stadiums and help in increasing the popularity of Test cricket.