Indian domestic cricket December 13, 2009

Let's bring our fans home

Free entry into the stadium isn’t translating into numbers and hence a different, more aggressive approach is required

Getting young and enthusiastic spectators involved with players is a must © Cricinfo Ltd.

Dear readers,

Isn’t it a pity that there weren’t even 100 people at the ground to watch Rahul Dravid bat during Karnataka’s match against Delhi? Well, enough has been written and talked about the interest a domestic game generates or the lack of it. Not many people turn up to watch a Ranji game despite some of the international players playing and more importantly representing their own state which I guess should mean something. After all we see fierce loyalty by the same people towards their team during the IPL.

What needs to be done?
We have seen that free entry into the stadium isn’t translating into numbers and hence a different, more aggressive approach is required. It starts from publicising using different mediums and radio seems to be the easiest and cheapest way of spreading the word. The domestic matches, at least in the games where international players are available, should be built into personal clashes.

How about watching Praveen Kumar bowling to Virat Kohli? Or Suresh Raina batting against Irfan Pathan?

Then the scores should also be aired in the evening. The idea is to make people aware about the guys who’re representing their state at the highest level. Once the sense of belonging happens, I have no doubt in my mind that people would start turning up for the matches too. I’m not claiming that the numbers will be huge but at least there won’t be empty stadiums.

How about having a contest and the selected few get an interactive session with the players at the end of the match? One could also organise so that the best supporters get a training session with the team in between matches! Distributing team merchandise and autograph bats could also help in attracting kids.

It would be unrealistic to expect people to miss their school/office and sit through four days of a Ranji Trophy match. Hence it should start with making all domestic one-day matches a day-night affair. By doing that one could make it to the ground even after their school or a day at office. Once they get to know their local stars they’d automatically follow their performances for the rest of the season. And some of them might turn up to watch the longer version too.

Players doing their bit
We, the players from Delhi and UP, did a Pulse Polio campaign during our Ranji Trophy match in Lucknow. The event was widely covered by the local media which in turn created the right buzz for both the cause and the match in the city. Players were forthcoming in their support for the event and there’s no reason that they won’t do the same if it helps promote domestic cricket. It’s just a matter of creating right platforms.

The focus, in the beginning, should be on bringing people to the ground. Initially this might cost the association some money but will have long term benefits including making money out of it.

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