December 13, 2009

Indian domestic cricket

Let's bring our fans home

Aakash Chopra


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

Incentive
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.

Beginning
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.

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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 dev on (January 1, 2010, 8:56 GMT)

But we do get to see decent crowds in domestic football, volleyball, basketball, boxing... The others remain sport, but cricket has become more spectacle, less sport.

Posted by rajeev jha on (December 21, 2009, 17:13 GMT)

I think the nature of domestic cricket is like that it rarely attracted a good number of crowds in India since domestic cricekt has started . Even in the days of when we didn't have an IPL or one day format, the Ranji Trophy matches, were nevner been on full stadium. There may be number of reasons that's why crowd is not coming to watch these matches. But the fact in most of the cities very few people take care of these matches, where u have an an ordianary batsman contributing century or double and slow medium pacer will take few wickets( we don't have a genuine fast bowlers till now, no bowlers can claim that on regualar basis he cd genrate the speed of 140 -145). Moreover the slow and not so turning pitches( I feel we have also lost turning tracks, most of the pitches dosen't offer good turn) also compounded the problem.

Posted by Alok singhai on (December 16, 2009, 17:58 GMT)

Dear Akash, This is one thing which I have been wondering for a long time and a bit surprised as well that when Cricket is a religion in India, domestic matches are almost always played to empty stadiums...its also sad that only the cricketers who make to the national team get really recognised in India (IPL an exception now).. some of things that I feel can be done are: 1)organise groups (mostly youngsters) to attend the matches free and also have someone explain them about the game while they watch, 2)We Indians need loyalty and heroes... build state wide loyalty for teams using local media; create heroes at state level to help build followers; provide corporate hospitality during matches with special incentives like visit to the dressing room after the game (this can be good for the smaller companies).. the list can go on a bit more. Whatever be the means... it will indeed be great to see India's domestic games (apart from ipl) played to full houses .. Alok

Posted by Ashok on (December 14, 2009, 3:37 GMT)

I think one approach to Ranji, is to focus on the state rivalries (eg. TN vs Karnataka can easily be turned into *war*) rather than on the personalities. Just like the Bombay Pentangular in the forties, a little bit of inter-team polemics could bring in the crowds or atleast get the buzz going. Though I wonder, who will ever hate or like the Railways??

Posted by Vish on (December 13, 2009, 20:36 GMT)

It has more to do with the format Aakash. No sane person will waste her/his time watching two sets of batsmen trying for first innings lead! It doesn't make a sense to go out to stadia when we can simply hang out in nearest mall or watch youtube vids.

Posted by James on (December 13, 2009, 19:34 GMT)

Aakash

You need to understand that people these days could care less about test cricket, forget about Ranji. I remember when Sachin broke Lara's record, the stadium was not even half full. Can you believe that? Being an Aussie i was sick to my stomach. If i could afford it, i would have flown to India to watch him break the record. Indian fans i must say do not care much anymore for the longer form of the game. They are test fans, but in a decade, India will pretty much be the 2020 capital of cricket. Test will survive but it will become a relegated format. Young guys like Rohit, Uthappa and Raina dont have the mettle for test cricket, and theres no money for them. We are facing the same issue here in Australia, once Hussey and Ponting go, with the exception of Clarke, there are not good test players.

Im afraid Ranji will lose its relevance in the next decade, just like Pura cup. You can try all you want, but if the fans dont care for REAL cricket, it wont work.

Cheers

Posted by Steve on (December 13, 2009, 18:01 GMT)

I don't think anyone should be worried about a lack of spectators at domestic cricket and I find this a really strange and an unnecessary worry wort of an article.

The fact is that people are not going to book holidays so they can go and watch a Ranji trophy game or a county championship match - but they will for a test match or one day series.

Domestic games should be there to nurture and develop talent into national teams and provide a solid base for good professionals not quite good enough for international cricket. Twenty-20 has provided good revenue for domestic teams and brought the domestic circuits around the world more exposure.

Very strange article.

Posted by Jogesh Panda on (December 13, 2009, 17:05 GMT)

Akash, there is so much cricket going on relentlessly that is highly unrealistic that common man will turn up for 4 day ranji trophy on weekdays instead of going to work or school. I guess all the Domestic matches should start only on Firday, so that on weekends people can have an option. In addition to this in cities this can be made as weekend gateways, like Cricket plus good food and some shopping market. School cricket can be encouraged to follow these games during weekends, so that selected school kids can have a small match before the start of play, during lunch or after the play, have a small games.

Posted by Kunal Talgeri on (December 13, 2009, 16:55 GMT)

If T20 is bagging mass and corporate attention in India, it was because somebody took ownership of the 'property'. Lalit Modi. Similarly, for what it was worth, Standford was instrumental in bringing some sort of a practice culture in the West Indies. Consider T&T. What Ranji Trophy needs is a person (maybe from the world of advertising who understands cricket) who is paid to champion the spirit of the domestic tournament. The BCCI can afford him/her. It is beginning to happen in India elsewhere, with Nilekani championing the unique IDs project. Anything in India revolves around the spirit of personality, backed with meaningful execution.

Posted by Sekhar on (December 13, 2009, 16:07 GMT)

The suggestions you have put forth here can bear fruit in probably another two or three years.Very few people have actually begun following Indian cricket beyond IPL and international games.The others are still unaware that Sourav Ganguly continues to play Tests for Bengal,that Murali Vijay did a near replica of Sehwag's Kanpur blitzkrieg for Tamilnadu in their match against Mumbai.The process should start with the Vijay Hazare tournament and slowly make its way into the Ranji competition.

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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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