Leicestershire look to gain from Asian influence

Saturday, August 4, 2007

"Jeetega bhai jeetega, India jeetega," - the constant chorus was not at any Indian stadium, but here during India's practice match against Sri Lanka A, and local wisdom says that the decibel level will only go up as and when the Indian batsmen take centrestage.

Indian students, who are in large numbers at the university here; professionals and businessmen settled here and families who migrated from India years back are the "local" Indian fans here.

It is to acknowledge the presence of this sizeable Indian population here that the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) decided to slot this practice match at Leicestershire.

The Leicestershire County Cricket Club, struggling with infrastructure problems, can't really hope for an international match. But, till they come up to that level, practice matches like these-featuring India or Pakistan- are welcome.

The club is looking for sponsorships that can help them buy land so that the club can be shifted and a new stadium built. The current Grace Road address has not helped. "For starters, the entrance is not from Grace Road. The public finds it very confusing," says Caroline Lucy, the commercial manager here.

Given the Asian dominance in Leicester, and their influence on cricket in this region, the club can try to improve facilities which, in turn, will assure major financial gain if international cricket is held here on a regular basis.

The clubs present address was actually supposed to be temporary, when it was shifted from near Aylestone Road, when the original venue was used as a wartime depot.

"It is not as if this venue doesn't have proper facilities. We have a lot of space. But again, if we intend to convert this into one that satisfies international requirements then there is a lot of work to do, lot of money that will be needed," says Paul Maylard-Mason, the chief executive of the club.

And news that the original ground of the club has been marked for developmental plans by the city council has invited criticism.

Maylard-Mason added that hiring Asian cricketers to play in the first division county here is a successful way of luring sponsors. "The community is flourishing here. Big names from Asia can play a huge role in marketing the game and that is very important if the club is looking to open up financial avenues," he said.

Huge posters saying Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly will be batting here tomorrow have fans rushing for tickets. Though they will not see two of them -Tendulkar and Ganguly-in action.

A tour game in a packed stadium, with spectators indulging in beer and the bhangra-it is definitely due to the Asian influence here.