Bengaluru Test: Empty stands greet Afghanistan debut

While the union sports and youth affairs minister, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, attended the historic Test along with Afghanistan’s chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah, fans were not seen in great numbers.

Historic moment: Afghanistan’s players sing the national anthem before start of play at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium.   -  AFP

As Afghanistan made its Test debut against India at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium on Thursday, most of the stands were empty.

While the union sports and youth affairs minister, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, attended the game along with Afghanistan’s chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah, fans were not seen in great numbers.

Hardly some 600-700 spectators could be seen in the first half an hour. At a time when the International Cricket Council (ICC) is leaving no stone unturned to popularise the game, such poor turnout in a historic match is certainly not the ideal advertisement for the game. The ICC chief executive, Dave Richardson, who attended the game, would not be too pleased with the lack of buzz.

LIVE UPDATES

The Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) officials, however, hoped that the spectators would start trickling in as the match progresses. Some of the officials reasoned that it being a working day, not many fans could make it to the ground.

Statements from heads of state

The top officials and former cricketers from both the sides appeared delighted to be part of the historic affair. Yesteryear Indian star Salim Durani, who was born in Kabul, was present to hand over mementos to Afghanistan captain Asghar Stanikzai.

The Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) chairman, Atif Mashal, read out a statement from Afghanistan's President, Ashraf Ghani. Rathore, too, read out a statement from India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.

Walking for the toss in whites for the first time, Afghanistan captain Stanikzai recited the entire playing eleven from memory, and did not even look into paper scripts. In the time of franchise-based cricket, most of the captains seem to forget the names of the players in the final eleven, but a cool and calm Stanikzai chose to be different. “All guys have first-class experience, so we can do well. May be, the first one hour it will be a good wicket to bowl at,” Stanikzai said.

As the BCCI bosses were part of the programme — arranged before the match got underway — no members from the Committee of Administrators (CoA) could be seen.