The responsibility of ensuring that the game of cricket remains to be the number one sport in the country lies with everyone involved with the game at any level. It is one huge family with over a billion members that can only get stronger in the future. Today cricket is at an advantage but with the generation cycle changing, the youth starting to find interest in other avenues and with the disposable income of families being targeted by various other modes of entertainment and sports solution providers, it is the prerogative of the representative of state cricket associations to market and package the game in a way that could engage more people than ever before and would keep the interest alive and competition away.
First class cricket matches in tier 2 and tier 3 cities are festive occasions that create a sense of community feeling, bring the city together and trigger a reason for happiness. For the sake of cricket lovers state cricket authorities should ride on this euphoric phenomenon and take the game much deeper into the roots and ensure that it spreads across a wider spectrum of the society. For fans to continue talking about upcoming players like Sumitosh Praharaj or Dhiraj Singh like the way they discussed about Sanjay Satapathy or Ajay Barik a decade back it is important for the controllers of the game to understand that the kid studying in Deepika English Medium School, Rourkela needs his dose of stars and live competitive cricket to remain motivated and continue dreaming of making a career in this beautiful game either as a player or as someone who could go on to facilitate the execution of the game in the years to come.
The moments generated out of watching a live cricket match involving stars goes a long way in inspiring the youngsters to love and live the game. While watching Rahul Dravid is only confined to bigger cities due to lack of international level infrastructure elsewhere, witnessing some classy performances by first class stars in any city and on any ground can be made possible by the state cricket associations if proper intent and interest is shown.
Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) needs to be applauded for having taken proactive steps in this direction by first conceptualising Karnataka Premier League (KPL) in 2009 and then awarding hosting rights for the second season to smaller cities such as Hubli, Manipal and Mysore. The 2009 Ranji Trophy finals in Mysore attracted 5000 people to the Gangothri Glades Cricket Ground, it is a point showcasing the clear gap between excessive demand and shortage of supply for live competitive cricket in tier 2 and tier 3 cities. It is time for Orissa Cricket Association (OCA) to sense the opportunity, understand the dynamics of the Indian domestic cricket market and act prudently before it is too late.
OCA may justify its decision of hosting all the three home Ranji Trophy matches of 2010 season in Cuttack and the explanation handed out may be rational and apt but in the bargain the game continues to lose a large percentage of growth rate. The argument may cite Cuttack offering the required home advantage but the undercurrent that flows beneath the decision is an open secret.
Baroda’s Irfan Pathan may or may not play for the country anymore but for a cricket fanatic in Sambalpur, Puri or Balasore, he still is a big name and clicking a photograph with him or taking his autograph still holds good to be a prized memorabilia material in the living room. It is the responsibility of the authorities of the game within the state to channelize the funding of BCCI and develop the grassroots in earmarked locations apart from Cuttack and Bhubaneswar to ensure that live competitive cricket is a regular occurrence in the calendar rather than once in a while occasion.
On a concluding note, in the the 1997-1998 season, prior to the internet explosion when Orissa played Karnataka in a Ranji Trophy match in Rourkela involving a few international stars, it was a massive hit among the local community. Now with cricket websites having created statistical stars out of first class cricketers, it is quite tempting to visualise the potential that remains to be explored.
This piece was produced at 9.55pm on 21st July 2010 while on the way from London to Sheffield and was published in www.orisports.com on 24th July 2010
For the 2010-2011 Ranji Trophy season, Orissa is in the elite group B and the schedule is as follows:
November 1 to 4: Vs Baroda at Cuttack.
November 10 to 13: Vs Uttar Pradesh at Kanpur.
November 24 to 27: Vs Karnataka at Bangalore.
December 1 to 4: Vs Punjab at Cuttack.
December 8 to 11: Vs Himachal Pradesh at Cuttack.
December 15 to 18: Vs Haryana in Haryana.
Probables for 2010-2011 season: Shiv Sundar Das, Bikash Swarup Pati, Paresh Patel, Natraj Behera, Niranjan Behera, Rakesh Mohanty, Subit Biswal, Rashmi Ranjan Das, Biplab Samantaray, Gobind Podder, Partha Sarathi Patnaik, Sandeep Mulia, Haladhar Das, Subhrajit Sahu, Anshuman Gope, Debasis Mohanty, Basant Mohanty, Alok Sahoo, Santosh Jena, Deepak Behera, Preetamjeet Das, Alok Mangaraj, Dhiraj Singh, Manas Muduli, Lagnajit Samal, Bibhudutta Panda.