After the 3-0 Test series sweep over South Africa recently, Indian captain Virat Kohli mooted the idea of only 5 Test centres at home instead of spreading it out to lesser-known grounds. His reasoning was that this policy will keep Test cricket alive.
He said he’s fine with rotating venues for T20Is and ODIs, but Test cricket needs to be played in five main venues such as Kolkata, Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Mumbai.
Other cricketing nations also follow the same policy. For example, England play their Tests at six traditional venues – Lord’s, The Oval, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and Nottingham. Australia too have the same policy in place. Australia play Tests at six venues – Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth and Hobart. Even South Africa and New Zealand follow suit.
Besides, they also fix their Tests at certain dates and venues to help spectators plan better to visit the stadiums and watch the match. For example, Australia and South Africa host Boxing Day Tests at Melbourne and Durban respectively.
And there’s always a decent cricket-loving crowd that grace those venues due to pre-determined venue and schedule.
But thanks to India’s sporadic spread of Tests across 27 venues and 18 grounds since the turn of the millennium, fans have come out in lesser numbers in venues other than the main five-Test centres.
Besides, the five-Test venues also balance the competition and bridge the gap between the home team and opponents. For example, India are well-versed what to expect on England or Australian pitches as they have been playing consistently on those venues during every tour.
But that’s not the case in India. India played three Tests against South Africa at Visakhapatnam, Pune and Ranchi, which were each hosting just their second Test. And no surprise, South African were whitewashed 3-0.
Other than thin crowds, these lesser-known venues are yet to have top standards and spectator-friendly stadiums. For example, three-fourths of the stands in Pune didn’t have roof and fans had to sit under the sun to watch the match.
The new BCCI chief Sourav Ganguly and ex-India coach Anil Kumble too have supported Kohli’s idea of only 5 Test venues to keep Test cricket relevant.
But BCCI may lose out on revenues if they don’t host Test matches in other lesser-known venues. Besides, the state associations may rebel against this idea and calls for their right to hold Test matches.
Can the new BCCI chief solve this predicament?