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Nagpur Test struggles to attract the punters

Phil Long | 15:45 UK time, Sunday, 9 November 2008

Once again it's the issue of crowds, or more specifically lack of crowds, at Test matches here in India that has raised its head as the four -Test India versus Australia series comes to a conclusion.

Turn on your TV and you'll have seen block upon block of empty seats in the brand new VCA Stadium here in Nagpur.

Oddly though the low crowds at the Test shouldn't offer any indication that there is a lack of interest for the visit of India and Australia to India's City of Oranges.

In fact, the Old VCA Ground in the centre of the town was heaving with supporters keen to grab a look at both teams training on the two days preceding the Test and the queues snaked out of the dusty old stands onto the surrounding streets for two or three hours on both days.

That makes it even more of a shame that the final Test has been viewed by such sparse crowds.

nagpur446.jpg

We all know that Test match cricket is struggling to find a niche in India these days so how's this for an inspired bit of marketing?

Here in Nagpur, daily tickets were not on sale for the Test match and only season tickets at Rs 750 (£10) , Rs 1000 (£13.50) , Rs 6000 (£80) and Rs 10,000 (£134) for all five days were made available.

Obviously that's great if you're able to see the whole game but not really a sound financial decision if you can only make one day.

It sparked such resentment locally that the newspapers on the first morning of the Test carried various pictures of demonstrations at the old VCA Ground.

Of course, as well as ticket prices the location of the new stadium doesn't help to drum up support.

The new VCA Ground isn't just on the edge of town but some 15 kilometres from the centre of Nagpur (although most auto-rickshaw drivers will tell you it's 25km!) so getting to and home from the ground is rarely straightforward.

The Wardha Road linking Nagpur and the stadium has been earmarked as prime development land and in the future the new VCA Ground may not be the relative blot on the landscape it is now.

For the time being though it's either an expensive slog out to the ground by auto-rickshaw or taxi or the usual helter- skelter bus journey packed to the rafters with eager cricket fans keen to make the start of play.

Once you have arrived there is, as always, a decision made by local administrators that makes you scratch your head and smile.

Now I know the ground is brand new and relatively spick and span but surely the decision not to let supporters drink water and eat the food they've purchased at the food stands in their seats is taking things a bit too far!

It did mean though that the quieter passages of play were enlivened by the surreptitious smuggling and consumption of food and water into Gallery S-I by the most unlikely of 'criminals'!

But now it's time to turn away from sparsely populated Test grounds and turn my attention to the packed-to-the-rafters appeal of the seven-match ODI Series against England.

I've got my trains booked for the seven-match, 19-day epic journey all over this immense country and if the pre-series hype is anything to go by I doubt there 'll be a spare seat at any one of the matches.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Some thoughts:

    -Who sets the pricing for Test matches?

    -How do the prices compare to IPL season ticket prices?

    The cynic in me wonders if the BCCI sets these pricing policies for Tests so that they can say 'Test cricket isn't popular compared to IPL games'.

    -"surely the decision not to let supporters drink water and eat the food they've purchased at the food stands in their seats is taking things a bit too far!"

    Proof that it's not just ICC tournaments with idiotic rules.

  • Comment number 2.

    The crowds at the one-dayers will definitely be better.

    Good luck Phil, and have a good time touring the country and witnessing the cricket. The venues for the ODIs are not the popular, large cities, but hey, this is a great opportunity to check out some smaller Indian cities that you would not normally go to.

  • Comment number 3.

    I'm in Mumbai for the 2nd Test. Surely there'll be a bit more enthusiasm in a city with 20million cricket fans?
    Speaking of which - anyone know how i can guarantee a ticket?

  • Comment number 4.

    I too am in Mumbai for the 2nd test and will be disappointed on two counts, firstly if I have to pay what appears to be a lot of money for India and secondly if the ground is half empty. Cant help thinking that the idea that the BCCI are making test cricket as unpopular as they cab so that the twenty20 version becomes their baby to control the cricket world.

  • Comment number 5.

    BCCI could take many different steps to make the situation better for fans of test cricket, especially with all the money they have.

    But why would they when they can turn peope away from test cricket and get India hooked on ODI and 20/20, the format where they get $$$.

    Greed is playing a part in every decision the BCCI makes.

  • Comment number 6.

    Well if the BCCI want to use ODI and 20/20 cricket to control, I suggest we stay well clear from them.
    The Indian Cricket Board must stop trying to dry up cricket in the quick over format.
    Hope England's Cricket Board stays well clear of trying to what the BCCI.
    20/20 makes money but it can turn fans away if it gets too much coverage.

  • Comment number 7.

    How, Longo, do I get a job like yours?

    If not your job, itself.

  • Comment number 8.

    I fail to see why India v England will sell more tickets than India v Australia.

    If you are not going to sell tickets for matches between the world two best teams, then may I suggest that there will be a lower turnout when England play.

  • Comment number 9.

    Getinthebath:

    You'll probably find more England fans going to India than you've had Aussie fans going to India, hence more tickets sold for England's Tests over the Aussie Tests.

  • Comment number 10.

    The crowds for Test cricket in India have been dropping for 25 years. Prior to India's win in the World Cup the ODI format was scarcely seen and not taken seriously in India. Until then the grounds heaved with supporters, even for the last day of a dead rubber. After India won the World Cup crowds switched dramatically from Test cricket to the ODI format.

    The transition is beautifully described by Vic Marks in his wonderful book "Marks out of XI" on the 1984/85 winter tour of India.

  • Comment number 11.

    The low attendance is a phenmenon all over the world. It is pretty obvious that the cricket boards are not depending on ticket sales collections for survival, and they are getting aplenty of revenues by the sale of TV rights. I think they should make test-matches free till the crowds return( if they retrun), an then start charging for the tickets again. It must be so sad for the cricket greats of the likes of Tendulkar, Ponting etc to perform in front of empty seats.

  • Comment number 12.

    it is a shame about the prices, especially since test cricket is head and shoulders above the other formats. Yes, T20 is rubbish and should only be viewed by ignorant football fans.

  • Comment number 13.

    Been to Nagpur the last time England toured and met the most money grabbing and objectionable officials in test match cricket (only Sydney comes close for stupidity). India is a money orientated cricket society who have no time or thought for Test cricket or England's fans unless money is generated... every year England tour there it is almost guaranteed one test will be in Mumbai just so they can rake in the money from England's fans who will go only for the test or go to Goa before and/or after. The BCCI is a disgrace to cricket in general and I for one would be happy to have them barred from world cricket, oh oh oh but sorry of course India is innocent of all charges, let's put a pretend riot on TV, let's show 5 of the ost beautiful and rich on TV blah blah blah - the sooner world cricket wakes up to what they do, how they act and takes a stand against them the better - the only test side I want to see the Aussies beat is India and though it won't happen this time I only wannt to see India get thrashed because their cricket is all based around money - shame on them - and for the record England have signed a contract with them and our position is somewhat powerless for legal reasons - surprise surprise the Indians have all monetary bases covered!

  • Comment number 14.

    With all the money in the other forms of the game, it is now urgent to address the continuation of test cricket, I would suggest that entry to test cricket is made free to those who wish to go and that it is supported entirely by TV. In order to attract more interest it would also make sense to have a "World Test League"

  • Comment number 15.

    Roooonited, quite disappointed to read about your experiences. Totally agree with your point of view on the Indian cricket scene. What gets my gall is in spite of making all this money, the facilities and the pitch conditions at the grounds are a disgrace. Some of these grounds should not even be given an international status. The bounce on Day 1 Ind-Aus Test Match Pitch at Bengaluru was awkward, that goes a long way to say about the cricket situation in India.

    On the other point, however, you make it sound as if making money is a crime. The BCCI has every right to rake in the maximum profits from every game in India. Well, if British tourists would like to visit Goa, then its makes a great sense to combine a test match in Mumbai and a trip to Goa. Whats wrong if the BCCI cashes in on this? If you want to save money, do not go to Goa - its your choice. Its like saying that the museums of London charge too much money for entrance. Well, its their museums, and their call. If you think it costs a lot, you skip it, and hang around on the South Bank for free. Making money is important for the sustenance of the sport in the country. Check out some boards that have totally become bankrupt over the past few years like WI, NZ, SL. ECB is also down that path, and thats why they are singing deals like Stanford.

  • Comment number 16.

    Could the empty seats have anything to do with 12 overs an hour? On last day, it was down to overs an hour. Do cricketers expect people to pay to watch them waste time?

  • Comment number 17.

    Always fascinating to read about what goes on in other countries that you do not visit frequently. Always interesting to see that greed and stupidity are universal even in the developing countries. Also reassuring to see that incompetency is not just the forte of the ECB but applies to other boards as well.

    The situation to all these problems is quite simple but will never be applied probably because it is just too simple Every country has some form of governmental control with regard to sports. The UK could not have won the 2012 Olypmics without the active and financial support of the government. These people are supposed to be like civil servants (ie neutral and independent) in order to make sure that the interests of society are served first.

    If a government appointed person (or committee) had to pass final approval on all the plans and proposals made by the cricket boards (ANY board for that matter)then maybe the ridiculous ticket pricing schemes seen at the last World Cup and outlined above would not have been implemented. Frankly, the UK government should have stopped the ECB from selling the TM cricket rights to Sky or at least insisted that highlights are shown on a NON-commercial channel like the BBC as the sport is supposed to be part of our heritage. The same applies to football and rugby but only tennis and snooker seem to get away with this - until they end up on satellite sooner or later as SKY and others run out of football matches to show.

    Before anyone starts shouting out about freedom of choice and non-interference in free market economies just remember that your taxes (If you live in the UK) have been used to bail out PRIVATELY owned banks and other financial institutions. If the government can afford to spend billions of our hard earned pounds to do this then monitoring and influencing important sports at a fraction of such investment should not be difficult. It is just a matter of will and whatever wins votes.

    The problem with most sports now is that they are all run like a business. Sports and games are part of every countries culture and if museums were run in the same way then we would not have any left to visit. Making money is not a crime but if that is the only point of the whole exercise then just ask us, the public, to buy shares in the enterprise and not bother watching or getting involved in the actual game itself.

    As someone who does not pay to go to watch any sporting event any longer you would think that the increased TV coverage would suit me down to the ground. However, I choose not to go because I do not want to be a hypocrite and I feel genuinely sorry for those who do want to go but cannot afford to do so.

    We seem to go between feast and famine -from touts charging 10 times the face value of a ticket to empty stadiums because no-one thought to consider the importance and relevance of the local people who want to support their national heroes. I respect the businessmen who make money for themselves because they are good at it but I admire those who make the 'right' decision (Often the most difficult one!) much more. It is diffcult to enjoy sports in the current climate as much as I used to do in the past because financial considerations are now so important that the actual game itself seems to be a side show. Look at the Sheff. Utd and West Ham court case. Is this going to be the norm? Maybe we should buy tickets to go and watch the court-room action instead. Better than watching some teams play live in the cold winter weather!

    I like sports in general and cricket in particular because it is all simple in theory if much more difficult in practice. Now that it is all packaged, produced and promoted just like any other commodity it is just not as appealing to me. I would blame the Yanks for this but they are no worse than anyone else in this global marketplace. To hear the criticism heaped on Pietersen's head for making a throw away remark about their opponent's needing the money more is just an indication of how we think nowadays. I admired the fact that to Kevin the money was NOT the whole point of the match but to others it just seemed as if he did not care about winning! I think he cared about winning the tournament and that the money was just an uneccessary distraction. In 2005 did anyone mention the money the players earned whilst winning the Ashes? This was a given and not really that relevant as an incentive.

    Anyway, congratulations to India for a well won series and all the best to England.

    Cheers, Joe.

  • Comment number 18.

    The word 'situation' in paragraph 2 should, of course, be 'solution'. Not enough blood sugar before lunch!

  • Comment number 19.

    Intersting read and some obviously very intelligent people commenting on this situation.

    I am English and randomly, through choice though, found myself in India with the intention to go to the 3rd test between India - Australia in Chandegarh.

    After a very interesting coach trip from Delhi, with some amasing sights along the way, we finally found ourselves at the hotel, luckily for us, it was also the players hotel.

    Anyway, we headed for the ground on day 1 and searched for the 'Ticket office', heavy security and incompitence met us at every corner and after being sent the full circle of the ground looking for the mysterious 'Gate 5', where we were promised the 'ticket office' existed, we stood bemused by the fact there just IS NOT A TICKET OFFICE!!!

    We decided to head for the VIP area with the hope of catching someones attention, 8 lads, all with hard earned money in our pockets, ready to spend and we could not get into the ground for love nor money.

    After 2 hours, we finally caught the 'head of security' and asked the question....."can anyone get us into the ground, we have money to spend!?". He headed off in the direction of the VIP area and came back minutes later with a full book of tickets, ripped off the necessary amount and in we went!

    If it is this difficult for foreigners to aquire tickets, is it any wonder that the grounds are empty.

    Once inside, we thoroughly enjoyed watching the 2 best test teams locking horns and the added bonus of watching the Aussies getting a pasting, but each and every day we went (3 days in total) we were met with the same problems and mind boggling answers to our simple request for tickets.

    All the talk of goverment intervention and fat cats making the money etc is all probably true, but surely the facilities actually at the ground need serious attention and better organisation.

    Good luck England for the coming Series

    Anthony

  • Comment number 20.

    Some of the comments made on this blog are good food for thought, but most are pretty much garbage. Firstly the thought of an England fan lambasting India for being a money orientated cricket society is just laughable at best considering the Stanford farce. If there's any cricket board that should be barred from the face of the earth it should be the ECB for thinking that taking part in the Stanford series was a noble resistance to the IPL, which at least gathered some sense of team pride - just look at the Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings for proof of that. Since England lost the excuses and attitude of 'oh it was just a bit of fun, we didn't really take it that seriously' has been typically English in its farcical nature. Hopefully the forthcoming series will repeat some Carry On Cricket from England just for pure comedy value if nothing else.

    A lot of the comments about the grounds in India are correct, they are very poor in terms of facilities, but then again a country as big as India with a very recent economy boom will take time to correct its shortcomings and these changes have been coming with the new stadiums being built, especially the great new stadium in Mumbai. But make no mistakes, I would much rather go to a ground that doesn’t have proper facilities but in which we can support our team along with other proper supporters. Not go to a ground that charges diabolical prices, provides decent enough facilities but has a strict ‘No flags, no horns, no noise, no standing up, no sign of human existence’ policy. I have lost count of the amount of times that I have been to an England match and seen England fans sit there reading newspapers for the entire match and just give a passing glimpse to the game in front of them. I’m sorry but for all those fans who are hoping to go to India to read newspapers, don’t bother going and let real cricket fans buy your tickets. I have also lost count of the amount of England fans who go to get drunk and pick a fight. At every cricket match I have been to I have witnessed England fans fighting…with other England fans. It’s a shame that most of these so-called ‘fans’ started watching cricket in 2005 because of a victory parade and because it was a nostalgic fashion accessory.

    The worst ground of all has to be Lords. I’m told that by paying 50 quid plus for a ticket I am not allowed to support my team and must observe a comatose state of silence, just because I am in ‘the Home of cricket’. Nonsense. I go to cricket matches to support my team, make noise for them and wave my flag with the rest of my fellow supporters, not feel a ‘historical spirit’ which everyone pretends is there but really isn’t.

  • Comment number 21.

    Phil

    Any advice for trains between the Cuttack and Guhawati one dayers? Trying to make sense of the timetables is proving difficult.

    Cheers

  • Comment number 22.

    nagpur is my hometown. I am aware of the distance of the newground . My Dad went to watch the match. He had to purchase a 5 day ticket costing Rs 750 which I beleive is quite costly by Indian standards. My dad could just go for 2 days out of the 5 days. I beleive the tickets should me made cheap and facilities should be available for eating,drinking and toilets so that people can enjoy the cricket and feel comfortable.

  • Comment number 23.

    I would say cricket especially now with IND v AUS rivalry has been turned into big battle grounds.

    e.g. checkout this blog:

    http://popularsledging.blogspot.com/

 

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