Former India cricketer turned commentator Sanjay Manjrekar has seen the popularity of cricket from close quarters and feels the only way to draw crowd to Test cricket is by playing more day-night Tests.
Known for speaking his mind, Manjrekar feels it is important to ‘take the bull by its horns’. “If not for Test cricket how do we know the men from the boys. In my eyes, Virat (Kohli) is most driven when playing Test cricket,” Manjrekar said while delivering the ninth Dilip Sardesai Memorial Lecture at the Cricket Club of India on Monday.
“I have travelled around the world and seen cricket loving countries struggle to draw crowds, but we have to do something to keep Test cricket alive. The only way to get people to watch Test cricket, increase its viewership, it’s popularity and thereby its quality is by playing day-night Test matches,” Manjrekar said.
Interestingly, Committee of Administrators (CoA) member, Diana Edulji, was in attendance at the lecture when Manjrekar batted for the day-night Tests.
The BCCI has refused to adapt to the new format citing that the players are not ready, but Manjrekar believes that it is time for teams to play more day-night Tests. “An offer to play day-night cricket (by Cricket Australia) was rejected by India. The players are wary of it, wary of the pink ball, dew factor etc. I have always believed that conditions are never unfair if it’s the same for both sides. What’s happening is that we are giving perfect conditions for the players to play even if it means no one is watching,” the seasoned campaigner said.
“At the panel discussion of the Colin Cowdrey Memorial Lecture, I said the same thing about day-night cricket. But it will happen, especially in places where crowds don’t come. Have a Test match in Mumbai and you will have 10,000 people in the morning and probably 25,000 to 30,000 for a day night. People still like the unpredictability of Test match cricket. Twenty20 and ODI cricket have the same kind of script,” Manjrekar said.
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In the past the BCCI has had issues with the players and Manjrekar believes that it is important not to go that far. “There was a time when the BCCI and the players were at loggerheads. Those things are in the past. But one has to be very careful. One should not go to the other extreme and keep the players happy come what may. So, I would say take the bull by its horns, we don’t seem to be doing that anymore. Do what’s best for the game for its long-term health and make the players join, even if they are reluctant,” Manjrekar said.
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