Fewer Centres, Better Marketing: Kumble Backs Kohli’s Formula for Test Cricket

Virat Kohli’s assertion that a maximum of five centres across the country should host Test matches has found support in former Indian captain and coach Anil Kumble. Kohli made his comments at the end of the third Test match against South Africa at Ranchi that was played in front of sparse crowds, saying if Test cricket has to be kept “alive & exciting” then the Indian team should return year upon year to the same centres.

Kumble, who had a stint as President of the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) after his near two decade long international career, told CricketNext that Kohli’s suggestion would be a way to “promoting Test cricket” and added that to attract larger crowds for Test matches it was important to get other aspects right as well, such as scheduling and facilities for the fans.

“I think that has certainly been one of the ways of promoting Test cricket,” Kumble said. “By restricting it to few centres and not just that it is also important to choose the time of the Test match. We all remember that in the festival time, during the festival of Pongal, the Test match used to happen in Chennai. And the start of the season used to be in Delhi, Bangalore would have a Test match, Mumbai would have a Test match, Kolkata of course.

“I think it is important for Test cricket to promote these centres where people would know that these are the centres where you are going to play Test match cricket in prior to the start of the season so that you can market Test cricket and you can make sure that the crowd come in. When I was the coach, I think we played in six different centres, they were all new centres and the one centre it was packed was Indore. And the atmosphere was brilliant, it is in the heart of the city that was one of the reasons that the crowd could come in irrespective of the time of the day.

“What we need to also do is to create better facilities for the spectators to come and view the game. You know, they need to have comfortable seats, the access to the stadium, ticketing, I think use of technology is something that we need to look at when it comes to issuing tickets and then of course the basic comfort like food and water and then the toilet facilities. I think if we can provide all of that, make the spectator really comfortable then I think you will see a lot of people coming in to watch Test match cricket.”

Another suggestion to improve dwindling attendances in recent years has been to introduce Day/Night Test cricket. While most other teams have already experimented with Day/Night Tests, India are still to play one. New BCCI President Sourav Ganguly has also thrown his weight behind the idea, and Kumble too believes it can help draw crowds in.

“I think day-night Test cricket will certainly bring in the crowds towards the latter half of that game,” he said. “You also need to choose the right time of the year because we’ve seen in day-night ODIs, the ball gets really wet because of due. So, you may have to choose the venue and time of the year.

“As I said, irrespective of what you do with Test match cricket, the general expectations of the spectator to enhance the facilities and make him/her comfortable, is important as well. So, if you create all of that, you need to market it and make sure that you bring in all these measures - ticketing, access, comfort, and then of course if you can come in at 6 in the evening, after work, after you’re done with your routine, to come and watch a few hours of cricket, I think that’s where we’re headed. So, yes, I’m hoping that very soon you’ll see India also experimenting with day-night Test cricket.”