Mohali:An India-Australia Test match should have crammed the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) Stadium here with spectators, but it was played to near-empty galleries to leave administrators scratching their heads.
India won the Test by a record 320-run margin on Tuesday, but the usual euphoric celebrations one associates with such an event was missing.
There were not many to greet even Sachin Tendulkar on becoming the leading scorer in Test cricket.
With the success of Indian Premier League (IPL), fears that Twenty20 cricket will erode the popularity of Test cricket made the cricket administrators sit up and think of measures to revive interest in the traditional form of the game.
The PCA stadium here, regarded as one of the best cricketing facilities in the world, has a capacity of 30,000.
On any given day, the genuine spectator strength at PCA was between 1,000 and 4,000. Everyday about 5,000 students from rural areas of Punjab, who were brought here courtesy the Punjab government and the PCA, made up the number.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) is mulling over the dwindling popularity of Test cricket and chief executive office (CEO) Haroon Lorgat, who was here during the match, made his disappointment known.
"I saw Tendulkar crossing the 12,000-mark. The empty stands are a matter of real concern. This is something we have to look into because we need to promote and protect this form of the game," Lorgat said.
"In Bangalore, we had good crowd, but we are disappointed by what we saw here."
Lorgat added that it was a challenge for the world body to generate interest among people for the five-day game.
"It is a challenge for us, no doubt about that. Of course, there is great attraction for the shorter versions of the game. The administrators and member boards have a task at hand to convert that interest in Tests as well," he said.
He also said the sanctity of Test cricket cannot be compromised at any cost.
ICC's principal adviser and PCA president Inderjit Singh Bindra was more forthright in his views on the dwindling crowd.
"We have to be more spectator-friendly. The State Associations need to create more facilities," Bindra said.
"It is not the question of money being made out of TV rights alone. At the end of the day, we are affected if people don't turn out. It will impact everything, if crowds stay away from Test cricket," he pointed out.
Bindra said one reason for poor turnout could be that the ground had hosted 13 matches, mostly ODIs and IPL Twenty20 matches, in the last couple of years.
Bindra though denied that T20 is the reason for the dwindling interest in Test cricket.
"The T20 has in fact attracted more people to Test cricket. Even the TRP ratings for the current Test is high which shows more people are watching the game on TV," he added.