If there is one thing that should be guaranteed to fill a stadium in India, it is surely the sight of the country’s favourite son, one Sachin Tendulkar, about to embark on his seemingly never-ending quest for his 100th international hundred. With that in mind, one would have expected the Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi, capable of holding 50,000 fans, to be heaving with queues around the block, and replete with ticket touts on every corner doing a roaring trade during yesterday’s play.
Alas, that was not the case. Only 8,000 turned up to see what could quite easily have been Tendulkar’s finest hour – he eventually fell agonisingly short – and if a report of one fan’s experience from earlier in the Test is anything to go by it is no wonder. In summary, he and his wife were thwarted at every turn in their attempt to buy tickets, including one laughable excuse that the ticket offices were closed because it was a Sunday. This is a Test match for goodness sake – an international sporting occasion! Can you imagine turning up at Wembley for the FA Cup final only to find it closed?
Anyway, I digress, what the article outlines is what is best described as shoddy organisation and ruthless inefficiency to the extent that if I were to be cynical for a moment, then I might suggest that the cricketing authorities were trying to undermine Test cricket in order to push people towards their favoured form of the game, namely Twenty20 cricket and in particular the Indian Premier League.
However, I doubt that is the case. It is, in all likelihood, simply a case of the shambolic mismanagement of cricket’s purest form of the game; the form which all true cricket lovers most admire; and is where this article ties in with one I was going to write a couple of days ago.
A group of enterprising fans have created a petition called Testing Times which is, I quote, “a campaign for the preservation and protection of Test and First Class cricket around the world.” Their ultimate aim is simple enough (“we want the ICC to stop eroding the importance of Tests by shortening key Test series in order to fit in more limited overs internationals”), but they have decided to start small and the petition itself is one which calls for England’s marquee series against South Africa next summer to be extended from three to four Tests at the expense of a couple of one-day internationals.
The series will undoubtedly be an entertaining one, however long it is, as is demonstrated by the nature of the South Africans’ current series against Australia, but would surely benefit from an extra Test.
As for the campaign itself, well their Twitter account has over 1,500 followers and they have already been retweeted by Jonathan Agnew, Ben Stokes and Lalit Modi among others. They also have 600 likes on Facebook and over 1,800 signatures on their petition – their ultimate aim is 28,000 (the capacity of Lord’s) - so far . Who knows, perhaps if they reach 100,000 they may even get a debate in the House of Commons!
Joking aside, it is debatable whether the campaign can be successful in the era of cricket that is dominated by TV companies and broadcast rights – the reason for the postponement of the Test Championship – but it can’t hurt to sign anyway. Can it?