After ordinary turnouts at the venues for the three-match Test series between India and South Africa, Virat Kohli has asked for the longest format to be restricted to a select five venues (without naming names), so as to encourage more fans attend the games.

India completed a 3-0 whitewash of South Africa to continue their extraordinary home record in Test cricket — this was the team’s 11th consecutive series win at home. But the Indian skipper, who is a well known advocate for the health of Test cricket, was not pleased with the crowds.

“We’ve been discussing this for a long time now, and in my opinion we should have five Test centres, period,” Kohli said, after the Ranchi Test where India completed the whitewash. “I mean, I agree.... state associations, rotation, giving games [to many more venues] and all that, [but] 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’.”

The three matches against South Africa were played in Vizag, Pune and Ranchi — all non-traditional Test venues. In fact, all three venues were hosting just their second Test matches. All three venues are recent additions to ever-increasing list of Test venues in India.

In fact, the last 10 Test matches in the country have been hosted by 10 different venues. Mumbai, for instance, has hosted five matches in the last decade (four at Wankhede and one at Brabourne stadium) while Chennai has hosted two matches since 2009. The number stands at six for Eden Gardens, since November 2009.

Most Tests hosted in India

Venue Matches hosted
Eden Gardens, Kolkata 41
MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chepauk, Chennai 32
Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi 34
Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai 25
M.Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru 23

“We go to any place, we know we’re having four Test matches in these venues, this is what the pitch is going to offer, it’s going to be a full stadium, the crowd’s behind the [home] team, and look, you want to keep Test cricket alive and exciting. I totally agree with the fact that we need five Test centres at the max,” Kohli said.

“It can’t be sporadic and spread over so many places where people turn up or they don’t, so in my opinion, absolutely. You should have five strong Test centres that teams coming to India know that this is where they’re going to play.”

While it is true that England and Australia witness strong spectatorship for Test cricket during their respective summers, it is also due to the fact that the venues there are audience-friendly while we have seen on social media that Indian cricket stadiums do not necessarily make it easy for the average fan to enjoy a nice day’s out. A traditional Test center or not, fans are less likely to spend five days (or even two) at a stadium if they are going to face one discomfort of another.

The feeling among the administrators seems to be divided.

“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.

Will restricting Test cricket to five venues help more fans come and support the longer format? Or is India now firmly a white-ball market where people will turn up only for T20Is and ODIs?

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