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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

After empty stands at Ranchi, Virat Kohli wants India to have just five Test centres

After beating South Africa before near-empty stands at Ranchi, the Indian captain said Test matches should be restricted to five venues in India.

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty | Ranchi | Updated: October 23, 2019 6:11:53 am
Virat Kohli with his vice-captain, Ajinkya Rahane. (Source: AP Photo)

India should stick to having five traditional Test centres, while the rotation of venues can take place for ODIs and T20s, said Indian captain Virat Kohli after winning the third Test at Ranchi on Tuesday.

“We have been discussing this for a long time now. And in my opinion, we should have five Test centres. Period,” he said.

“I agree that you know, state associations, rotation and giving games and all that. That’s fine for T20 and one-day cricket. But Test cricket; teams coming to India should know we are going to play at these five centres. These are the pitches we are going to expect. These are the kind of people… they going to come to watch. Crowds…. So that becomes a challenge already when you are leaving the shores,” Kohli said.

“Because we go to any place, we know we would be having four Test matches at these venues. This is what the pitches going to offer. It’s going to be a full stadium. The crowd’s behind the team… Look, if you want to keep Test cricket alive and exciting, I totally agree with the fact that we need five Tests centres at max.

“It can’t be sporadic and spread over so many places where people turn up or they don’t. So, in my opinion, absolutely, we should have five strong Test centre. (And) the teams coming to India know that this is where we gonna play and nowhere else,” the India captain said.

On Tuesday, India completed a 3-0 clean sweep of South Africa, winning by an innings and 202 runs. The hosts sealed the deal inside two overs in the morning. However, the turnout at the Jharkhand State Cricket Association (JSCA) Stadium barely crossed a few hundred. According to a JSCA official, there were only 2,000 takers for priced tickets of the match.

The two teams played before virtually empty stands in the previous Test at Pune as well. Visakhapatnam, the venue for the first Test of the series was no different. India set the record of winning 11th consecutive home Test series at Pune.

Till the 1980s, the BCCI had six designated Test centres in India – Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore and Kanpur. Later Mohali was added to the list in the 1990s. Over the past 10-15 years, a proliferation of Tests venues on the pretext of rotation – read BCCI’s vote bank politics – took the game’s oldest form to almost every nook and cranny, while the traditional Test venues missed out.

Mumbai (Wankhede), the home of Indian cricket, hasn’t hosted a Test match since 2016. Imagine Lord’s and the Oval in England, or the MCG and the SCG in Australia not playing host to a Test match for three years. It wouldn’t happen.

Traditional Test centres, where fans of a certain vintage have grown up cherishing the long-form, can still draw decent crowd over five days. For example, even on a dull day at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens, at least 20,000 spectators walk through the turnstiles. Numbers rise considerably for marquee series, when India are playing against England or Australia.

Kohli refreshingly has addressed the issue. The time has come for the BCCI to revisit its rotation policy for Test cricket.

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