With a steady stream of school buses parked at the entrance of the Shaheed Vijay Singh Pathik sports complex on Saturday, there were hopes of a reasonably packed house for the opening day of the Duleep Trophy final between Yuvraj Singh’s India Red and Gautam Gambhir-led India Blue.
However, barring the hapless kids, who watched the game in the sweltering afternoon heat under the protection of a modest white canopy, major parts of the grass banks were vacant.
Despite the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) introducing pink-ball cricket to draw crowds, the experiment, at least in terms of bringing fans to the ground, seems to have fallen short of its objective. A total of 11 Test players --- six for India Blue and five for India Red --- are playing.
The stadium also serves as the homeground for Afghanistan’s national team.
“Day 3 of the first match was the most productive. We had a footfall of 15,000 that day as it was public holiday for Janmashtami,” a ground official told HT.
While there was decent attendance during the tournament opener, the second match, which was a virtual washout, didn’t attract much crowd. The third match, played between India Blue and Suresh Raina’s India Green, also failed to bring people to the ground.
However, India Blue wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik called the crowd “decent” compared to Ranji Trophy matches.
“I remember playing a Duleep Trophy match a few years back in Hyderabad. Sachin, Kumble, Dravid, the who’s who of Indian cricket were playing, and the stadiums were not jam-packed. Even the Ranji Trophy final last season didn’t draw much crowd. However, this is a decent enough crowd for a Duleep Trophy match and I think we must credit the BCCI for introducing this concept,” he said.
With the BCCI open to extending the pink-ball experiment to Ranji Trophy, it would be interesting to see if the country’s premier domestic tournament, notorious for being played in front of empty stands, draws spectators as per expectations.
Brief scores: India Blue 362/3 (M Agarwal 57, G Gambhir 94, C Pujara 111 batting, D Karthik 55 batting) v India Red.