Amongst all the brouhaha about N Srinivasan losing his position at the ICC and Sourav Ganguly replacing Anil Kumble as the chairman of the Technical Committee, what slipped under the radar was the news about six additional venues being selected for Test match cricket in India.
While there is a massive following for India cricket in this country, that following is largely limited to the limited-overs internationals and the IPL. The moment a Test match drops in one of the big stadiums of the country – they are primarily selected as the Test venues – the crowds suddenly disappear, with a smattering here, a smattering there and a few thousand finally coming in at the weekend.
The first Test in Mohali between India and South Africa was the perfect case in point. Despite this being one of the most exciting Test match series in recent years, with everyone looking forward to two teams with serious talent slugging it out, the crowd at the PCA Stadium was largely disappointing.
There was hardly anyone in the first couple of days – both weekdays, it must be said – and while the crowd grew considerably on Saturday, it was nowhere near a full house.
This, to be fair, has been a big problem for India in Test matches – supporters just don't seem to fancy it enough.
The BCCI were accused not too long ago of ignoring the five-day game – the true format in cricket, the format that all players are judged by – and while the Indian cricket board acted quickly in nipping that particular criticism in the bud by organising several Test matches, both home and away, they still haven't been able to entice the fans to come into the ground and watch the likes of Virat Kohli and AB De Villiers play in white clothing.
For a Kings XI Punjab vs RCB match, you would have had a full house in Mohali, with the crowd cheering both teams, considering the latter is packed with the likes of Chris Gayle, Kohli and De Villiers, but when these same players shift to Test match cricket, the response from the fans, in terms of actually going and watching it at the ground, is lukewarm, at best.
Yes, the Test matches are largely played on weekdays, and yes, it is from morning to evening, which means losing a full day at work. However, is there any doubt that if India vs South Africa in Mohali was a one-dayer on a Thursday with a 9 am start, there would not have been a full crowd?
This is where these new venues, approved by the BCCI in their AGM on Monday, could play a big role. In Karnataka, for instance, the KSCA found that you get larger crowds for Ranji Trophy matches in Mysore – yes, yes that has not gone too well, with the crowd heckling their own team -- and Hubli than in Bengaluru, which is why a fair bit of the matches have been played there.
There are a few other reasons, of course, but the crowds you get in the smaller cities are a lot better compared to the established ones when it comes to the longer format of the sport, purely because they are starved for quality cricket, and any opportunity to watch the world's best live is not one to be missed.
So, hopefully, in the future – and India are slated to play a lot of Test matches at home in the next couple of years – the likes of Pune, Rajkot, Visakhapatnam, Dharamsala, Indore and Ranchi will get a few Test matches to host, and with it plenty of support as well.
There is nothing more interesting and entertaining than Test match cricket, and taking this good-old format to all corners of the country, rather than just sticking with a few established venues, is the right thing to do and the best chance to keep the five-day format alive and kicking in India.