June 4 (Reuters) - Test-match crowds have steadily dwindled throughout much of the cricketing world while fans turn instead to 50-over and Twenty20 matches
In advance of the Twenty20 World Cup opening at Lord’s on Friday, Reuters correspondents examine attendances in the major countries:
Melbourne regularly attracts crowds of more than 200,000 for each test match and Sydney generally pulls in between 100,000 and 200,000. The popularity of test cricket shows no signs of major decline with the 2006-07 Ashes series against England attracting record crowds and almost every day of every test sold out.
Limited-overs international matches in Australia still attract bigger single-day crowds than the tests although there has been a drop in interest over the last decade, especially in Melbourne. Cricket Australia responded by revamping their competition format for ODIs and adding more Twenty20s, which have been hugely popular.
Although test matches in England usually attract healthy crowds, the first day of the second test between England and West Indies this year was played out in a surreal atmosphere at Chester-le-Street.
Swathes of empty seats were broken up by small bunches of spectators who watched the hosts pile up an impressive total in almost complete silence. The high price of tickets during a recession has been blamed plus the counter-attraction of Premier League soccer. Ticket sales for this year’s Ashes series against Australia are healthy.
India’s passionate fans have begun to turn their backs on test cricket in the last two years, coinciding with the rising popularity of Twenty20 cricket since the team’s surprise win in the inaugural World Cup in South Africa.
Crowds turned up during weekends only in the home test series win against Australia last year but sellout crowds are common for one-day and Twenty20 games despite poor facilities and often rude security officials in stadiums.
Pakistan have struggled for spectators in tests, although fans turn up in bigger numbers for one-dayers.
However, a lack of home matches since late 2007, barring the series against Sri Lanka in March which ended abruptly after gunmen attacked the touring side’s team bus in Lahore, makes any assessment difficult.
Sri Lanka rarely attracts big crowds for test cricket while the turnout is healthy in one-day games. The country depends on travelling Indian fans or groups such as England’s Barmy Army to boost attendances.
Bangladesh attracts passionate crowds for all formats even if the national team are not involved. Noisy fans turn up in large numbers to back Bangladesh even though they usually lose.
The influential Indian board now insists on playing all bilateral cricket in Bangladesh to cash in on the support.
South Africa have struggled to attract even moderate test-match crowds for series other than against England and Australia.
The recent series against Australia, a straight playoff for the ICC world number one ranking, drew more people than any series since England’s visit in 1995 although most observers believe South Africa will struggle to maintain that trend.
One-day international cricket has always attracted bigger crowds but nothing sells as well as the 20-over version of the game and South Africa has yet to stage a Twenty20 international with an empty seat in the stadium. South Africans even flocked to the Indian Premier League (IPL) this year although they knew very little about the teams.
One-day internationals almost always draw bigger crowds in the Caribbean than test matches and recent series have confirmed that trend. In Trinidad and Barbados, one-day games are frequent sellouts while test attendances continue to disappoint.
The huge popularity of Twenty20 cricket has pushed one-dayers into second place in the popularity stakes. India’s upcoming mini-tour with just four ODIs and no tests could be an indicator of a future trend in the region.
Not surprisingly for a country with a small population, New Zealand struggles to attract the same crowds as most of the other test-playing nations.
Their grounds are comparatively smaller and most test matches attract total crowds of between 10,000 and 20,000 with single-day attendances up to around 5,000.
One-day internationals and Twenty20 matches attract better crowds, usually around 10,000-15,000 depending on the venue. Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, New Zealand’s three biggest cities, get the biggest crowds. When New Zealand hosted India in a Twenty20 at Christchurch last summer, 16,000 attended the match. (Reporting by Julian Linden, Ed Osmond, N.Ananthanaryanan, Neil Manthorp and Simon Evans; Editing by John Mehaffey; To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)