Anurag Thakur pointed out the low turnout for India's Test match against South Africa in 2015 ©Getty Images (File Photo)
Anurag Thakur pointed out the low turnout for India’s Test match against South Africa in 2015 ©Getty Images (File Photo)

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has asked the seven traditional centres to get their act together and attract more crowds for Test matches to be hosted by India in their upcoming home season. 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, namely 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 has said that it cannot market the game alone and will require the support of these associations as well. READ: Anurag Thakur proposes changes in Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy

According to the, 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. READ: BCCI: Duleep Trophy 2016-17 will witness day-night Test

The section of the letter that pertains to the marketing of the game reads the following: “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 turnout 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 fewer spectators at bigger venues which have huge sitting capacity. Even centres like Mohali could not 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.