Isn’t it a pity that there weren’t even 100 people at the ground to watch Rahul Dravid bat during Karnataka’s match against Delhi? Well, enough has been written and said about the interest a domestic game generates or the lack of it. Not many people turn up to watch a Ranji game despite some of the international players playing.
After all we see fierce loyalty by the same people towards their team during the Indian Premier League.
What needs to be done?
We have seen that free entry into the stadium isn’t translating into numbers and hence a different, more aggressive approach is required.
It starts from publicising using different media, and radio seems to be the easiest and cheapest way of spreading the word. The domestic matches, at least in games where international players are available, should be built into personal clashes. How about watching Praveen Kumar bowling to Virat Kohli? Or Suresh Raina batting against Irfan Pathan? Then the scores should also be aired in the evening.
The idea is to make people aware about the guys who’re representing their state. Once the sense of belonging happens, I have no doubt people will start turning up. I’m not claiming that the numbers will be huge but at least there won’t be empty stadiums.
How about having a contest where winners get an interactive session with the players at the end of the match? One could also organise a training session with the team for the best supporters between matches! Distributing team merchandise and autographed bats could also help.
It would be unrealistic to expect people to miss school/office and sit through four days of a Ranji match. Hence, all domestic one-day matches should be made day-night affairs.
By doing that one could make it to the ground even a day at office or school.
Once they get to know their local stars they’d automatically follow their performances for the rest of the season.
And some of them might turn up to watch the longer version too.
Players doing their bit
We, the players from Delhi and UP, did a Pulse Polio campaign during our Ranji trophy match in Lucknow.
The event was widely covered by the local media which in turn created the right buzz for both the cause and the match.
Players were forthcoming in their support for the event and there’s no reason that they won’t do the same if it helps promote domestic cricket. It’s just a matter of creating right platforms.
The focus, in the beginning, should be on bringing people to the ground. Initially this might cost the association some money but will have long term benefits including making money out of it.