Kolkata: The Indian cricket board is mulling the idea of organising Test matches in smaller centres to promote the longest form of the game, after seeing the poor response in major venues like Eden Gardens and New Delhi's Feroz Shah Kotla during the ongoing India-West Indies series.
Expressing concern over the dwindling crowds, the BCCI said it would deliberate over the matter to bring back the spectators.
Speaking on the sidelines of the second Test on Tuesday, BCCI's chief administrative officer Ratnakar Shetty said, "We will try to do something to attract people to Test matches. We are concerned about that. We are looking into this."
"We are planning to bring Test matches to the non-Test venues. I think we will get more crowd by making this. We will discuss this in our next meeting."
IPL chairman and senior BCCI official Rajiv Shukla concurred.
"Yes, it is a concern for the BCCI that crowd turnout has been pretty low. Definitely, we have to think about alternative options. Maybe we have to now conduct Test matches at smaller centres in order to attract sizeable amount of people," Shukla told PTI.
Asked when a decision can be expected in this regard, he said, "It is a policy decision and definitely it will come up for discussion at the BCCI's next working committee meeting."
However, Shetty said that the matter would also need to discussed with the International Cricket Council as ODI venues need to follow certain guidelines in order to host Test matches.
"Certain guidelines are followed for the organisation of Test matches. Not all the ODI venues have all the facilities required to host a Test. We have to discuss this with ICC."
Eden Gardens, once known for its large and boisterous crowd, has seen largely empty stands in international matches involving home side India since last month.
The ODI against England held on October 25 saw only 27,000 people, the lowest turnout at the iconic ground in an ODI featuring India. Things improved in the Twenty20 game on October 29, when around 50,000 turned up.
However, the crowd presence hit a new low in the ongoing Test match, which had a massive build-up with Sachin Tendulkar a ton away from his 100th international century mark.
But even when Tendulkar was batting on the opening day, the second Test began with less than one thousand people in attendance on Monday, with the entire day's turnout improving marginally to 10,000 at a stadium which had in the past witnessed one-lakh plus spectators.
Even on Day 2, when India feasted on the bowlers with tons from VVS Laxman and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the numbers did not improve, with just about 8,000 in attendance in the 67,300 capacity stadium that has been hosting Test matches since 1934.
Even during the Kotla Test in Delhi, the sight was similar.
"Everywhere it's the same. The board is thinking strongly about it. We are also planning to encourage school children by distributing free tickets to them," said Shetty.
He, however, said it was not feasible to have day-night Tests.
Indian batsman VVS Laxman said he was surprised to see the Eden empty.
"Definitely surprised at the number of spectators. I saw the same in the England ODIs. It was sad to see an empty Eden Gardens. Something seriously needs to be done to get the crowds back to the stadiums. Even during the one-dayer, we always felt Kolkata is one place where you get a lot of support."
"I don't know the reason behind it. We have to find out the exact reason for the crowd not coming and think about a solution."