West Indies in India 2011-12 December 5, 2011

Strong crowds fill smaller venues


After half-empty grounds in Hyderabad, Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata during the India-England ODIs, the venues in Cuttack and Visakhapatnam had strong crowds for the one-dayers between India and West Indies. According to local cricket association officials, the contrasting crowd response was because of the surfeit of major matches in the bigger cities, while smaller centres were starved of games featuring India.

"In a big city a World Cup happens, the IPL happens. In Orissa, in two or three years, we get one [international] match," Ashirbad Behera, the Orissa Cricket Association (OCA) secretary told ESPNcricinfo. "Our Orissa Premier League happened and the stadiums were jam packed. We are asking the BCCI to change the schedule, to switch matches from big cities to smaller cities."

The Barabati Stadium in Cuttack, which seats 45,000, was full for the first ODI against West Indies, whereas Eden Gardens was half-empty in October.

The stadium in Visakhapatnam, which has a capacity of 20,000, also had a full house for the ODI between India and West Indies. It was the second ODI held there in just over 12 months. Before the Australia ODI in October 2010, Visakhapatnam had to wait nearly four years for an India game. It has had only four international matches since the new stadium staged its first ODI in April 2005.

Indore, the venue for India's fourth ODI against West Indies, will stage its first day-night match at the Holkar Cricket Stadium, where only two one-dayers have been held so far, in 2005 and in 2008. Before 2005, ODIs were played at the local government owned Nehru Stadium, which staged nine matches between 1983 and 2001.

Narendra Menon, the secretary of the Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association, said that all tickets available online for the Indore game - about 30% of the total - had been sold out. The association began selling the remaining 70% through local banks this morning. The capacity of the stadium is 26,000.

"This match is [taking place] after three years. The last [international] match was in 2008. People are naturally waiting to have one-day match," Menon said. "[In the bigger venues], if you include IPL matches, they have 25 matches like this. How can you expect all the time, houseful? You can't."

Since December 2008 the Feroz Shah Kotla hosted eight ODIs and two Tests (it was also banned for a year by the ICC for a poor pitch); the Wankhede in Mumbai held the 2011 World Cup final, three other ODIs and a Test, while the Brabourne Stadium also hosted a Test; and Eden Gardens staged five ODIs, two Tests and a Twenty20 game. All three cities also have IPL teams, which play seven home games each season.

Orissa has written to the BCCI asking to host Test matches and Menon said they would like to hold Test matches in Indore as well. "Definitely. Our ground and wicket is absolutely as good as all other grounds in India." Unlike Orissa though, MP has not yet officially asked to host a Test but the plan on doing so in the near future. "We are going to have Duleep Trophy final this year, so I am just waiting for that match to be organised properly. We have never had any five-day match at this ground. If the Dileep Trophy match goes up to five days, we will see the behaviour of then wicket, and then we will ask."

When the Barabati Stadium in Cuttack was renovated to add 6000 seats to its previously existing 39,000, organisers said they improved facilities for spectators by adding more toilets and drinking water outlets, and arranged to have local music played in the stadium. And when they were unable to accomodate the demand for tickets, the OCA put up 10 giant screens outside the ground. Behara said, "Outside the stadium 25,000 people were standing."

At a time when a jaded audience and an overdose of cricket is emptying grounds in major urban centres, Indian cricket's smaller, less glamourous venues are making a strong case to stage the big games.

Tariq Engineer is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Manesh on December 7, 2011, 8:24 GMT

    @Ahsan_Shere. Yes, as it is in the Hattrick of Irfan Pathan in Pakistan or Viru's 300 in Pakistan. Isn't it?

  • Dummy4 on December 7, 2011, 8:10 GMT

    No centres should be "BLACKED OUT" like Kolkata or Mumba-as someone suggestsi. There were reasons why crowds were low, and the main reason was TOO MANY GAMES in a short while at these centres and OVERPRICED TICKETS. In Nagpur in 2009-2010 we had 7 games in 4 months including 4 internationals, 2 ODIs and 1 20-20 and 1 test and for the last game (test) in Feb 2010 crowds were poor when NO DAILY TICKETS were kept and stadium so far away- 18 km away- no buses arranged. People again screaming "Black out Nagpur". Why black out? Make sure that the same centre doesnt get so many games in 4 months. Nagpurians had seen enough cricket to last a lifetime in those 4 months. How can they have the same enthusiasm? I keep saying, if you give too many games, response willbe poor. Kolkata had 3 International games in less than a month. If you do the same to Cuttack, Vishakhapatnam, they will also not see strong crowds. KEEP CHEAP TICKETS and DAILY TICKETS in tests.

  • Dummy4 on December 7, 2011, 6:16 GMT

    I don't cuttack should host a test match coz the pitch is as flat as it gets but I want to atest match at vizag which has good bounce and carry for fast bowlers .

  • Vincent on December 7, 2011, 5:39 GMT

    smaller venues, LARGER VOICES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Ashok on December 6, 2011, 20:07 GMT

    I am fully in favour of giving a test match status to both Cuttack & Vishakapatnam at the expense of bigger cities who are unable to draw crowds. However BCCI should advise these places to upgrade theirfacilities - roads, railways, air, + Hotel accomodation.Security facilities must also be reinforced. This is the only way out to avoid empty stadiums for good cricket matches.It appears Eden garden & Mumbai stadiums have lost their magic to draw crowds.Hence they should be eliminated from the test centres.

  • Big on December 6, 2011, 19:56 GMT

    So why no mention of Ahmedabad? Was it full, half empty or what? @Ahsan_Shere, there is nothing wrong with the crowd supporting their teams. For instance, England fans had their Captain go the opposite team's captain to get England's batsmen dismissal reversed. Are you suggesting that if India ever played in Pakistan, their crowd would cheer Indian players achievements? Crowds go silent when they see unexpected, like the spectacular collapse of Indian batsmen in 3rd ODI against WI.

  • rahul on December 6, 2011, 17:28 GMT

    Yes, India should play games in small venues. Big city crowds are a pampered lot that don't deserve to watch cricet. I am sick of reading articles from Bengalis about the great Kolkata fans. Who don't even show up for a test match. And when they do, they become a cause of national shame by trying to stop India from loosing by rioting.

  • Dummy4 on December 6, 2011, 17:15 GMT

    Thats what I have been saying for the past so many years. Give games to cricket-crazy and cricket starved areas so that you will see full houses. The metros get too many games- too many one-dayers and Tests and as if this was not enough, now IPL games too have been added which reduces the ticket buying cost and enthusiasm. If games are got ONCE IN A WHILE and cheap DAILY TICKETS are kept, Tests will see full houses at Indore, Gwalior, Cuttack, Lucknow, Vijaywada (yes, Vijaywada) Vishakhapatnam, Kochi, Goa, etc.

  • Dummy4 on December 6, 2011, 12:58 GMT

    Good Strategy by BCCI. These tactics can not be done other boards where the grounds are located only in major cities and few , even though they are grand in size and structure. The Board can now concentrate to majestify the grounds located in metros with high capacity, low price .Such stadias should show our economic clout and our countries growth story, which will help in eliminating the westeners thought of poor India. Rural grounds will help in bringing cricket to the nook and corner of the country. We are biggest cricket playing nation by population, land mass, talent wise, quality, passion and by all means , so we should use it to our full potential

  • suresh on December 6, 2011, 12:00 GMT

    Why is it that these matches are being played on weekdays? Is BCCI taking the audience for granted? Already, the Tier 1 cities have realized this and the sparse crowds speak for themselves. The smaller towns would get there soon...

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