Sizzling test matches bring back crowds

Test cricket, after all, needs such publicity. It is looking up for now. Over to Rajkot.
India's bowler Jasprit Bumrah celebrates for the wicket of England's batter Ben Foakes during the fourth day of the second Test match
India's bowler Jasprit Bumrah celebrates for the wicket of England's batter Ben Foakes during the fourth day of the second Test matchPhoto | EPS

Two riveting back-to-back contests and the romance of Test cricket seems to be back. There was ebb and flow. There were moments of sheer brilliance with the bat like Ollie Pope in the first Test and Yashasvi Jaiswal double-hundred in Visakhapatnam. Then there was an interlude: Jasprit Bumrah’s magic spell with the ball to set India’s comeback win in the five-match series. A heartening pattern emerged in the middle—the strength of the crowd in not-too-traditional Test match centres. In Hyderabad, more than a lakh went through the turnstiles to watch England turn over the hosts. Vizag, which last hosted a Test five years ago, showed a similar appetite. Yes, students were granted free seats, but the state associations’ efforts should be lauded. The ticket prices were affordable—the cheapest day tickets were available for `100. It also helped that the English fans—despite the gripe that the tickets were put on sale too late—travelled in numbers. Thus the atmosphere at both venues resembled a carnival.

It was not always been like this. A few years ago when Virat Kohli was captain, he had urged the authorities to lock in specific Test centres where getting in the crowds would not be a problem. With games scheduled in three more non-traditional centres—Rajkot, Ranchi and Dharamshala—it will be interesting to see if the appetite for the five-day game is growing. The rise may be because of several reasons. One, India have got a very good record at home and the opportunity to watch them face an elite side does not come around all that often. This could also be the effect of Bazball on Indian crowds. It has been well documented what they have brought to the game with their quick-scoring and general emphasis on being positive at all times. In the end, it inarguably made Test cricket a better spectacle.

It is a feel-good story that Test cricket needs after struggling for the last few years. Even before the year began, South Africa's decision to send a scratch team to New Zealand set the cat among the pigeons. Now performances like Bumrah and Pope’s— two of the greatest performances seen in the subcontinent—have invariably put more derrieres on seats. Test cricket, after all, needs such publicity. It is looking up for now. Over to Rajkot.

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