November 29, 2009

Indian domestic cricket

Sizeable crowds, but poor facilities

Aakash Chopra

Hi guys,

The Baroda-UP match in Ghaziabad had a sizeable crowd at the ground. The same scenes were repeated during our game against UP in Lucknow. While it’s great for the local public to get the opportunity to see their stars from close quarters without spending money, the players also feel good to finally have an audience. After all, cricket is played for a couple of core reasons and one of them is to entertain people.

Personally, I prefer having all the first-class matches at Test centers because that’s where players will eventually be playing international cricket once they graduate from the domestic level. But we have seen that, at Test centers, regardless of the players involved in the match, people don’t turn up. Perhaps it’s because they get ample opportunities to see international stars on a regular basis in both international and IPL games and hence they don’t feel the need to watch them again in the non-glamorous domestic matches. But for the people in smaller towns, it seems like a God-sent opportunity and that is made clear through their actions.

They come in big numbers and create enough noise throughout the day to make their presence felt. I remember one such game in Rohtak. There were at least 5000 people in the ground and the buzz around the stadium was unbelievable.

The only drawback of playing at smaller venues is the quality of facilities provided to the players. In Rohtak and now in Lucknow, the practice surfaces were way below par. No one in their right minds would have toyed with the idea of having a hit in the nets were a first-class game not looming large the following day. Bowlers do not bowl at full throttle and are asked not to bowl short because they could hurt the batsmen.

While the outfield in Rohtak was pretty good, the ground in Lucknow was quite uneven. On such outfields, safety is at the top of the priority list when the ball is hit in your direction, and making a good stop or affecting a run-out become secondary concerns. Let’s not forget the importance of a good playing strip, which is also an area of concern in smaller venues due to the lack of first-class games played on the strip.

Another thing that goes unnoticed is the standard of the dressing rooms. The dressing rooms and the toilets at most of the smaller venues are not good enough to host a first-class game. Also what about the basic civic amenities for the people who come to watch? These things need to be kept in mind to ensure that players are not hesitant to play at smaller centers and the spectators get value for time spent watching our matches. It’s only when all these things are taken care of that the game can reach out to more grounds and cities.

Cheers.

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Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

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Posted by Adora SoullessGhost on (May 10, 2010, 14:38 GMT)

Indeed interesting article u got here. It'd be really cool to read something more concerning that matter. Thanx for sharing such material.

Posted by Niraj Pareek on (January 15, 2010, 7:21 GMT)

Mr Aakash Chopra - The Kotla pitch fiasco shows that having matches at test centres is not the solutions..look the way your own home ground has embarrassed the country...anyways hope the BCCI wakes up and improves the pitches across the country so that even we people living in smaller cities get to see cricket up close..FYI - the ranji finals were held in Mysore (small centre?) and u would agree that the pitch was amonst the best in recent times

Posted by Niraj Pareek on (December 8, 2009, 14:15 GMT)

I feel this is being completely snobbish on Aakash Chopra's part...only delhi boys can speak like this..let me remind you sir, most of today's players are from small towns and we need more and more matches in places like lucknow and rothak.... as far as the facilities are concerned,we the speatators suffer more...you guys get paid to play and we pay but still we have no forums to complain..thanks to the almighty BCCI...anyways i request you to use this blog to promote the game and not crib for small issues

Posted by Amit on (December 1, 2009, 16:11 GMT)

Hi Aakash Good article, im one of the millions of crazed cricket fan with around 33 years of supporting people right from the days of g vishwanath till today to M Vijay, Iv been to cricket in pune stadiums where i grew up and i can honestly say that i swore id never ever go to see cricket in stadiums , Until i came to live in UK 10 years ago, Here the stadiums are top class facilities wise and you honestly feel like you are being treated like a consumer from a sales company. In india they used to tie harsh bamboo sticks with jute ropes on stadiums and we were herded like sheep everywhere. The security at these stadiums just merrily hit us with their sticks to make people move faster or clear the stadium. Honestly we were like sheep shouting and jumping for every indian boundary hit or a wicket taken. Wish the IPL marks a difference in all stadiums accross India to the way the fan ( consumer ) is treated after he purchases the ticket ( the product ).

Posted by Sekhar on (December 1, 2009, 10:20 GMT)

While Wankhede is being renovated for the 2011 WC,I wonder why nothing is done for Chepauk.From the outside,the stadium looks like it has just been constructed and is awaiting painting.The grey concrete walls and roofs are an eyesore.But I hope that we get grounds like Lords and MCG very soon.If there is one thing that can incentivise the quality of stadiums in the country,it is the IPL.As years go by fans are going to demand better facilities and boards should listen.

Posted by Arjun on (December 1, 2009, 8:40 GMT)

I have a cousin who was born and brought up in Australia. His friends and he are completely aware of the new and upcoming players in all their domestic teams. And of the domestic game schedule in Australia. A lot of this has to do with facilities for the spectators. As pointed out Wankhede is horrible. I have been to Brabourne and Chepauk and they r the same. Spectators sit on stone steps or dirty benches. The 'seats' are jampacked because the local boards have given away so many free tickets that they sell more than capacity. I can't get up and go to the loo or I'll lose my seat. The fencing and nets are so bad for visibility that ppl are always standing...so you can't see anything. And the loos... yuck. Faced with this, why would i go for a domestic match? BCCI is interested in advertising revenue and thats it.They get that due to tv viewers. Former cricketers get paid for commentary. So why care about spectators or domestic players? No revenue.. no facilities... simple, isnt it?

Posted by Vijay on (November 30, 2009, 18:04 GMT)

Fair, Akash! I think we all know who the player and many would feel that he deserves to be taught a lesson. But I'd not like to jump onto that wagon since I do not the kid personally and cannot really be judgmental about his attitude. But you guys play as a team and such attitude may cause disharmony in the team unnecessarily. I'd think that as senior players some of you can guide me with a brotherly arm over his shoulder. Not that you would not be doing it. But at the same time let the authorities know of the hardships cricketers have to go through. After all it is extremely difficult for a westerner to come here and suddenly cope with an eastern pot or vice versa...lol!

Posted by Dhar N. Prabhakar on (November 30, 2009, 17:09 GMT)

Dear Akash:

Nice Article. I am from the old gang and think there are too many venues that do not conform to certain minimum standards both for players and for the spectators.

There were only 5 test venues( kanpur, calcutta, delhi, madras, and good old Bombay) in my time and granted Cricket is a very popular game in India, there are way too many venues for international and domestic matches.

You should take this up with BCCI and let them know it will be just a matter of time before people will stop going to the matches.

Posted by Amit on (November 30, 2009, 13:25 GMT)

Dear Aakash.. as Sanjay has pointed out before, the spectator facilities at international venues are no better.. I had gone to watch Ind-SA ODI at the Wankhede in 2005.. the stadium, of course, was jampacked.. and those who had got seats (and were alone) could not go anywhere in the first innings (for fear of losing their seats). In the mid-innings break, the queues outside the toilets had to be seen to believed (minimum 15-20 people for each urinal)... needless to mention, the loos were stinking unbearably...

Posted by Aakash on (November 30, 2009, 4:03 GMT)

Dear Vijay, what erked me was that the player voiced his unhappiness even before reaching the venue. As it happened that the ground and the facilities at the venue he was not keen on going were extremely good. Just because its out of the city doesn't make it a forbidden place. That attitude would not allow the game to be taken to the interiors. I'm always advocating for good facilities but you can't discard a place just going by the name of the place.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.

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