The Baroda-UP match at Ghaziabad saw a sizeable crowd. The same scenes were repeated for Delhi’s game against UP in Lucknow. While it’s great for the public to get an opportunity to see their stars from close quarters without spending money, the players also feel good with an audience. After all, cricket is played for a couple of core reasons, one of them being entertaining people.
I prefer having all first class matches at Test centres as that is where players will eventually play international cricket once they graduate from the domestic level. But people do not turn up at Test centres, regardless of the players involved in the match. Perhaps it’s because they get ample opportunities to see international stars at a regular basis in both international and IPL games and so they don’t feel the need to watch them again in unglamorous domestic matches. But for people in smaller towns, it comes across as a God-sent chance, which is made clear through their actions and can be easily sensed.
They come in big numbers and create enough voice throughout the day to make their presence felt. I remember one such game in Rohtak. There were at least 5,000 people in the ground and the buzz around the stadium was unbelievable.
The only drawback of playing at smaller venues is the quality of facilities provided to players. In Rohtak and Lucknow, the practice surfaces were below par.
No one in their right minds would have toyed with the idea of having a hit in the nets if a first class game was not up the following day. Bowlers do not bowl full throttle and are asked not to bowl short as that could hurt the batsmen. While the outfield in Rohtak was pretty good, the ground at Lucknow was quite uneven. In such outfields, safety is the top priority when the ball is hit in your direction, and making a good stop or affecting a run-out become secondary concerns. Let’s not forget the importance of a good playing strip, which is also an area of concern in smaller venues due to lack of first class games played there.
Another thing that goes unnoticed is the standard of dressing rooms. At most of the smaller venues, they are not good enough to host a first class game.
It’s only when all these things are taken care of that the game can reach out to more grounds and cities.