Long before the advent of pajama cricket, cricket was played only in whites. The game was always played in two innings, with a limited number of days but not limited to a number of overs. But, times change and so do sports. Limited over one day internationals started with 60 overs a side, and then were reduced to 50 a side. Then the English counties started playing 20-20 cricket which has of course now spread across the world. Cricket has changed forever and whatever is marketed better remains more popular. The IPL T-20 tournament perhaps is the most popular of cricket tournaments.
There was a time, however, when people used to throng to even watch a Deodhar Trophy game, or maybe a Duleep Trophy game. Ranji matches were keenly contested. Ranji matches threw up national level test match players. Now, of course, many players seem to be coming in through the T-20 route. The national level players have no desire (perhaps no time either) to play domestic level Ranji matches. Only national team discards do.
I saw my first Ranji match some days back when Karnataka (last year’s champions) were playing Mumbai in the semifinals at Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore. I have been wanting to watch a Ranji match for the last 6- 7 months perhaps have not found a mechanism to buy tickets. No offline ticket selling location mentioned anywhere, nor is any online selling portal mentioned. When this particular match, a call to the KSCA office sorted the problem. Did you know, Ranji tickets / entry is free? You can just walk into the stadium.
At Chinnaswamy, they had opened only one stand which was packed to capacity. Maybe a thousand odd people, all partisan, supporting Karnataka vociferously. Was lot of fun sitting through most of the second day. This was enjoyable enough to promise myself to do this again in the next season.
Did you know, Ranji tickets / entry is free? You can just walk into the stadium.
Clearly not enough people show up to see good cricket. But, why blame potential spectators.
- BCCI provides lip service to Ranji these days. Yes, the games are telecast on the tube, but not publicized. One gets to know of the results in the next day’s papers.
- The venues are fixed without much sense or logic. An example is that the finals this year are fixed to be held at the Wankhede between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. How many people do you think will show up? Would it not be better if the venue were in either of the two states slated to play the match?
- The boxes, air-conditioned areas are blocked off for members, and other sundry officials. There might be members of the public willing to pay a bit. How about opening that up?
- BCCI, in its money-making spree, has left no room for our national players to play Ranji anymore. So, you do not see the current big stars on the ground. Naturally, for most potential spectators, the attraction is less.
- This perhaps also is time for the lesser / smaller stadiums to get used. Chinnaswamy is a decent stadium with zero parking anywhere. Given that the number of spectators is less, how about developing other pitches where people could get to the stadium with some ease rather than having to walk a kilometer.
Besides the test matches, this perhaps is the only real pure form of cricket left in our country to see. Clearly most of the people who go to watch these matches are true cricket enthusiasts, and not there for a village fair which most T-20 games turn out to be. BTW, did you hear about the senior British couple from Yorkshire who come in to watch Ranji matches every year? About time, we could do something more here and encourage people to attend.