Although cricket remains the lifeblood of India's sports fans, it is in dire need of fresh ideas to power the game within the country and across the globe. And what better way than bringing together players of three generations to provide perspective on how to take cricket forward while ensuring
its integrity is not surrendered.
A large number of empty seats in Ahmedabad, where India wrested a clear advantage on Friday in the first Test against England, pointed to one of the challenges cricket officials are faced with. Test cricket's declining popularity, particularly in the sub-continent, has set alarm bells ringing but is Twenty20, particularly the Indian Premier League (IPL), to be blamed?
World Cup-winning skipper, Kapil Dev, former India batsman, Ajay Jadeja, and livewire of the current limited-over teams, Suresh Raina, representing successive generations in the game, came together on Friday for an engaging session at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit titled "Spreading the Passion".
Kapil Dev has always praised one of the biggest modern incentives for playing -increasing money in the game - but saw no merit in the International Cricket Council's (ICC) decision to allow day-night Tests.
He felt playing in whites is important to retain the integrity of the game's ultimate format, but insisted the authorities, particularly the Indian board, should look to market the game better. If that means entertainment during intervals like Australia, so be it.
"I still believe in white clothes," Kapil said. "When TV shows only T20, you have to do marketing. In our days, there was no other option (but play Tests). Today there is an easy way out (play T20). Somewhere, the BCCI should take the initiative."
Raina spoke for many lesser players as well when he welcomed the money IPL has brought into the game. "I belong to the middle class, there is not enough to look after my family but thanks to IPL many can take care of their families."
Jadeja said interest in Test cricket was flagging because the focus was no longer on the 'triumph over adversity' stories that used to be handed down generations in the game, but on statistics.
"It used to be about what happened, not the numbers. You have to find what interests people."
While Raina is a prime example of a player not from the metro making a mark in the India team, Jadeja said, unlike in the past, the support system to hone skills are available in smaller towns as well, where aspiring players also find more time than their city counterparts to play and train.
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