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Sick of Overly Simplistic Arguments from Elitists

by Mahek

A recurring theme over the recently concluded Border Gavaskar Trophy has been that of how test cricket should only be played at major test venues. The definition of a major test venue is very vague and subjective. These venues are supposedly located in places where people love test cricket. These venues have history. These venues have huge crowds coming in. There are a lot of other characteristics but they're all very simplistic in their definition and don't consider a large number of factors.

The people who are incharge of building public opinion love to talk about this. They seem to think venues like Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai, Kolkata have a rich history and get huge crowds everytime. I don't know what game they're watching because none of the last four tests at these venues were sold out. Yes the odd day or two might have been, like when India were about to complete an historic run chase at Chennai. Or when Sehwag was hammering the Lankan bowlers at the Brabourne. A half-capacity Eden Gardens didn't sell out until the final day when India were chasing a win that would keep them top of the table. The Bangalore test that got over today didn't see a sell out crowd a single day. Maybe to the so-called experts think a stadium filled to 70 percent capacity counts as a full house. What they fail to mention is these cities/metropolitan areas are four of the five most populous ones in the country. What they ALSO fail to mention is that the Wankhede, Brabourne, Eden Gardens, Chinnaswamy and Chepauk are all located well within the city and are quite easily accessible to the majority of the population.

But then it's so much easier to just pass judgment on the popularity of test cricket in places like Ahmedabad, Mohali and Nagpur than to analyse why tests in these cities don't draw as big a crowd as the "traditional" test venues. I'm sure the experts aren't aware of where these stadiums are located - They cover tests held at these venues. So why is it that they can't understand the simple fact that it's a lot easier to go to the ground that is close to where you live & is easily accessible thanks to the public transport in the city? Maybe it's because these posh bastards haven't taken the bus or rickshaw since the Maruti 800 became affordable. Maybe they just like to it in their airconditioned media box and look at the empty stands to pass judgment on the lack of interest in test cricket in that city, when they should really be wondering why the BCCI

a) Scheduled a test to start on a Monday.
b) At a venue which is 30 kilometres from a city which doesn't have any bus routes within 30 kilometres of it.
c) And rickshaw drivers aren't ready to take you there because they won't get anyone to come back with.
d) Is only selling 5-day passes instead of allowing fans to choose what day they want to go.

But ofcourse the media won't talk about it because they themselves come from big cities. They'll talk of the smaller venues only hosting LOIs even though everytime there's a good test match they'll talk of how test cricket is the real deal and how this test has revived test cricket.

While we're at it, how do you define the historicity of a venue? How exactly is the Motera not an historic venue? Last I checked it was the Motera where Sunil Gavaskar scored his 10,000th run, Kapil Dev went past Sir Richard Hadlee's record of most test wickets, and Tendulkar scored his first double hundred. It is also where Javagal Srinath ripped through the South African batting lineup with figures of 6/21 in the fourth innings. I was there on Day 3 of that test and the crowd was as big as the one in Bangalore today. Needless to say it was even bigger on Day 4 when Srinath bowled a spell for the ages. I was also there when India decided to play it safe against England in 2002 because they had the series lead. It was so boring the crowd was chanting the name of England's substitute fielder Usman Afzaal. It was so boring that they cheered the run out of Shiv Sunder Das because they knew Tendulkar was in next. Ofcourse Tendulkar blocked just like his teammates and we went home feeling cheated because India could have won the match but decided to play it safe. More recently, the first test against Sri Lanka started on a Monday. The pitch was a road and both teams batted big. With draw being a foregone conclusion on Day 5 the people of Ahmedabad came out to watch Sachin Tendulkar score a hundred. Again, the stadium was as packed as the Chinnaswamy was today and just as raucous.

Mohali is in a worse position. The stadium is located well outside Chandigarh which has a population of a little over a million. Unlike most of the new stadiums and the old ones that have been renovated, there are still concrete bleachers in most stands and these stands are also uncovered. I wonder if mediapersons would pay to sit in one of those stands for five days if they didn't have the kind of money they do.

The new stadium in Nagpur is also really far from the city with no public transport connecting it. Yet the BCCI in its infinite wisdom decided to only sell 5-day passes to the inaugural test at this venue. You would thought the board would go out of its way to ensure there was a bigger crowd for Sourav Ganguly's farewell test, a test in which India was set to regain the Border Gavaskar Trophy.

I think this was a really disjointed and incoherent post because I'm just really ticked off by people who have never been to a test at a smaller venue acting like they know the people from these places. But I really don't care because not only does it insult the love for test cricket in these places, it also allows the BCCI to do absolutely NOTHING to bring crowds to test matches.


Manik said...

@Mahek - I understand where you're coming from when you say that the elitist's arguments are a little over-simplistic...But on the other hand I do feel that there's some truth to the statement that some venues do have a test-match culture while others don't so much. Otherwise, how do explain that the new Nagpur ground or the Mohali ground, where you say there are so many difficulties of distance,smaller population etc, are chock-a-block filled for many meaningless ODIs, IPL matches etc.In the past 1 year Nagpur venue had more than 2-3 ODis and T20 matches n IPL matches. All of them were house-full, while not a single day's test cricket was even close to being so!Altho must say, not selling daily tickets for tests is a super-dumb idea!

Mahek said...

Watch the highlights of the IPL matches at these venues. They weren't sold out for all the matches. And if we're making that argument then none of these major venues were sold out for tests while they're more than sold out for LOIs. There's also the advantage of coming in during the evening for LOIs, something tests in their current avatar don't provide.

I'm not saying Nagpur and Mohali will draw big crowds even if you put an effort into it. They have a much smaller population than the major cities so it's only natural that it's harder to fill a stadium there than it is in Mumbai or Kolkata. But it is the duty of the BCCI to do its best to promote cricket in these centres. If you don't do that you will only decrease the chances of building support in these places, which will also lead to a smaller pool of players. I find it amazing that informed people talk of shrinking rather than growing a format they believe is the pinnacle of the sport.

Unknown said...

Mahek, I don't think that the argument ever should be about which city respects Test cricket... it should be about which administration does. I frankly feel that the new ground in Nagpur is a waste.

I have been to both the old and new stadiums at Nagpur (though I have not yet seen a match at the new one). The old one is pretty small, but bang in the center of the city. That meant that the size could not be increased, but there was always scope to increase the facilities at the old ground. It would have not only saved a lot of money that was invested in the new stadium, but also ensured that the crowds would have flocked even for Tests.

I remember Tests played at Nagpur's old VCA stadium... and I remember good crowd even for India-Zimbabwe matches. I believe that a Nagpur Indian loves his Test cricket just as much or as less as a Bangalore Indian.

It is the package that you offer them (if I could use the word 'package' as a summary for all the points that you mentioned in your article) that matters.

achettup said...

This is a good post because it illustrates the laziness of the media and their playing to an audience. In general I think its fair to say that ODIs have sold better than Tests simply because the ratio of things you'll get to see to the amount of time you can spare works out best for people who want to experience a match. Most people certainly don't have the freedom to attend all five days of a test match, that happens irrespective of whether you live in the metros or one of the smaller cities.
In trying to create the argument for representative venues, there has been an exaggerated attribution to the alleged historical importance of these stadiums. It would perhaps make more sense to be logical as Mahek has been here and note that this has more to do with their location and proximity to larger populations. And of course were the packages made more attractive for spectators, surely it would be just as easy for people from outside the metros to travel to them as it would be for the apparently-more-cricket-crazy metro fans to flock to the out-of-the-way venues?
I am in agreement with many of the points of this post because I think it is wrong to insinuate that those in the metros inherently possess greater quantum of love than those outside of them. Good stuff, Mahek!

MouseMan said...

Dude, I accept your point on the test culture thing. But your other points are all in favour of these venues not being granted tests namely population, location, transport, facilities etc... The population thing is especially significant. I agree though that the BCCI really messed up.
If you look at it, Eden gardens, Wankhede and Chepauk have gone in for renovation rather than new stadia. Even with Chepauk being one of the smaller grounds. So why exactly did Nagpur go for a new ground?
Also what exactly is the Venue Rotation policy supposed to rotate? How is it that Nagpur and Mohali get more tests than Kolkata or Delhi or Kanpur? Again BCCI politics.
The media opinion is also influenced by the Aus- Eng system. Especially by the Boxing day-MCG and New year- SCG kind of thing. That's why the insistence on fixed tests at fixed grounds.

Gireesh Subramaniam said...

Mahek,I have a few reservations on this simplification theory.I think you are referring to Probably bhogle or Prem panicker..

First,I dont think i have heard anyone come out with all his reasoning for this 'test history' stuff.But i do believe that even from a financial standpoint ,it is a good thought.If you have a pongal test at Chepauk or a durga Pooja test at are assured of good crowd.

Also,the examples that you point ,are correct in the way that BCCI has to improve its scheduling to be more inclusive et al.However,given that the BCCI is well BCCI,wouldnt it make more sense to ask a little less of them than ask them to think.

Also,this centre of city is not valid.MG road in blore,if your house happens to be JayaNagar or Malleshwaram,it takes ages to reach M.G.Road.

May be the connectivity point is valid one.But all that only shows,if there is a Sick unit in your company,would you not give it more favourable circumstances to grow ?So having fixed test venues for certain time of the year and promoting a culture of watching Cricket might actually be a good thing.

elegantstroke said...

@Gireesh - I thought he was referring to the fluffmaster, Sidharth Monga.

leave out the venue argument, the 2 historic tests that we have just witnessed weren't even there in the schedule in the first place. On top of this, The brilliant brains at BCCI have collided this 2 test schedule with the corporate trophy (which is supposed to be played under lights and also supposed to gather decent crowd.) did anyone ever follow that one? shows how much of blatant disregard BCCI has for domestic competitions.
even the south africa 2 tests was a last minute addition.

Expecting BCCI to do a good job at picking venues is like cherry-picking on a smaller problem when much larger problems loom at hand.

fixed tests at fixed venues, as others observe here above might actually be a good thing for Test cricket. I don't think that the format is shrunk just because it is played in fewer places. Although I do agree that pitch preparation is crucial, wherever the venue might be. Pitches like Mohali were awesome to promote Test cricket because there was bounce even on the 4th and 5th day. Shows that we can prepare decent pitches in India if we really cared.

Unknown said...

Elegantstroke, I was thinking about the comment you made about the pitch at Mohali. It was a very good pitch where 40 wickets could be taken and runs could be scored even on the last day.

But while we think of all this, it must be remembered that the groundsman had said that the pitch was under prepared due to the harsh monsoons in North India before the start of the cricket season. He was dissatisfied with it. I wonder if he had had the time to prepare a pitch, would it have been a highway then!!

elegantstroke said...

Shri - are you saying that an under-prepared pitch produced one of the greatest test matches of all time? :) we should always do that then!

I heard Ravi Shastri say in the commentary box on the fifth day that the Mohali groundsman was not surprised that the pitch had good bounce on the 4th and 5th day because the moisture had come up to the surface, enabling it. So I thought it was studiously prepared.

Anonymous said...

@Mahek - to begin with, I disagree with most of what you suggest here. Thought of putting up a comment, but it went on and on, so I have put it up on my blog. Do check.

Anonymous said...

@Mahek - Missed the post URL