After India’s dominant Test series win against South Africa, Virat Kohli made an interesting suggestion to boost audiences for the longer format: restrict Test cricket to five big centres in the country.
The captain’s comment came after the matches in the series, part of the ICC Test Championship, saw poor turnout at all three venues – Visakhapatnam, Pune and Ranchi.
“In my opinion, we should have five Test centres at most. It can’t be sporadic and spread over so many places where people may or may not turn up. Teams coming to India should know this is where we are going to play and nowhere else,” the captain said after the Test.
“I mean, I agree [with] state associations and rotation and giving games and all that, that is fine for T20 and one-day cricket, but Test cricket, teams coming to India should know, ‘we’re going to play at these five centres, these are the pitches we’re going to expect, these are the kind of people that will come to watch, crowds’,” he added.
Kohli’s suggestion was welcomed by many cricket fans across the country. However, the cricket associations begged to differ saying this move would limit the game.
“Why limit Tests to just five cities in India? We have so many cities where there is huge passion for the game. It is important that Tests are not restricted to just five centres,” Niranjan Shah, former BCCI secretary from Saurashtra, was quoted as saying by The Times of India.
Punjab Cricket Association treasurer RP Singla said that the problem was across the board and not just in smaller centres.
“Where are the crowds anywhere for Tests? There is too much cricket through the year. There is fatigue among the fans too. Wherever you play now, the crowds will be less. And a place like Mohali is a big centre too. The venues that are hosting Test matches deserve to do so,” he said.
Back in 2015, the then BCCI President Anurag Thakur had promoted the plan to take five-day game to smaller cities. BCCI had granted Test cricket status to cities like Indore, Pune, Rajkot, Vishakapatnam, Dharamshala and they have hosted Test matches since instead of the traditional venues in the big cities.