Spin bowling legend and former India captain and coach Anil Kumble has backed Virat Kohli’s suggestion of limiting Test cricket to few centres in the country. After India wrapped up a three-match Test series in Ranchi, Kohli mooted the idea of keeping only five venues to host Test cricket in India.
While his suggestion has been criticised by the board officials of smaller state associations, Kumble feels that fixing the venues will promote red-ball cricket in a better way. “I think that has certainly been one of the ways of promoting Test cricket,” Kumble told CricketNext. “It is also important to choose the time of the Test match. We all remember that during the festival of Pongal, a 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.”
He added, “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 prior to the start of the season, so that you can market Test cricket and you can make sure that the crowds 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. The atmosphere was brilliant. It [Holkar Stadium in Indore] 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.”
The reason behind the debate has been the sparse crowd that attended the three Tests in Vizag, Pune and Ranchi, a series India went on to dominate that included two innings victories. One of the possible explanations behind this trend has been the location of the stadiums which are quite far from the city.
Kumble feels apart from making the transit to the venues easier, improving facilities at the ground would also help in attracting more spectators. “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 toilet facilities. 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,” he said.