January 7, 2009

Ranji Trophy, 2008-09

Win the toss, bag the match

Aakash Chopra



Dear readers,

Generally one must beat the opposition to qualify for the next round; a draw is never good enough. But in all probability a draw will do the job in this year's Ranji Trophy semi-finals. Both matches, though at neutral and Test venues, are being played on flat batting surfaces where the toss almost decided the outcome of the game. These are perfect win-the-toss-and-bat-first conditions. And to make matters worse for the team losing the toss, the match is only a four-day game and a first-innings lead is adequate to decide the match.

When you know that you don't have to bowl the opposition out twice to ensure a place in the final, the approach while batting changes, especially when batting first. One wouldn't want to force the issue as time is never going to be a concern. One must bat on and on for as long as they possibly can and try to bat the opposition out of the game.

There are two aspects of posting a big first-innings total. Scoring anything in excess of 400 would consume a lot of time and then, whether the opposition manages to chase it or falls short, the reply would also take a lot of time. So, by the time each team has batted once, regardless of who gets the lead, it would be near the end of the third day's play. Now, with only a day to play none of the teams would be able to set up the match for a desired result. A five-day match for the knockout stages would therefore be preferable. It's unbelievable what those three extra sessions on a wearing fifth day wicket could do to the outcome of the game.

We, Delhi, conceded a fifty runs first-innings lead in the final but since it was a five day game we knew there might just be enough to get even by the end and we did. One could argue that even a five-day match won't produce a result on such good surfaces. That too is a factor and it brings us to the state of the pitches.

Personally, I think there are few types of tracks which could ensure good cricket. The ideal track would assist the quick bowlers on day one and partially on day two as well, becomes a good batting surface on days two and three and starts helping the spinners on days four and five. But that seems like asking for too much especially in first-class cricket. So the next best option would be to either have a track where the ball does a lot in the first innings, say days one and two, ensuring that both the first innings are wrapped up relatively quickly (I dare not suggest the track provided for Delhi-Orissa game where the match got over in 120 overs), or a track where the batsmen make merry for the first two days before the spinners take over the proceedings for the remainder of the game.

But what we're witnessing in the ongoing semi-finals is the regular kind of track we're used to seeing in India. The track was good to bat on at the start and remains to be equally conducive for batting till the end, with just a hint of spin creeping in, but still, far from doing enough to force a result within four days.

A five-day match and a slightly more responsive surface might just do the trick at this level.

Cheers

PS: My book Beyond the Blues is releasing on January 8, so please wish me luck.

RELATED LINKS

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

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Posted by Megan JoyLover on (May 11, 2010, 9:13 GMT)

Really nice blog you got here. It would be great to read a bit more concerning that matter. Thanx for giving such data.

Posted by Chetan on (January 11, 2009, 19:52 GMT)

One of the things BCCI could introduce to ensure that grounds are prepared sensibly - if less than 30 wickets have fallen and the match is a draw, whatever happens to the result, the hosting association should be required to suffer a substantial boredom fine. Also no domestic or international matches for the next 12 months on the first offence, & 18 months for every repeat offence. Of course, the Ranji Trophy knockout should be 5 days.

Posted by Samir Pabari - Australia on (January 11, 2009, 8:11 GMT)

Hi Aakash, Best of luck for the book release. Always enjoy reading your articles.

Best wishes!

Posted by Neha J on (January 8, 2009, 19:27 GMT)

Hey Aakash, You've got the whole thing right; sad there isn't much BCCI does to make the pitches more bowler friendly. Spinners can still get a wicket on a flat track, unlike the quicks, who need the green strip & bounce. Seamers like Ishant & Zaheer need home pitches backing them too. We can't expect them to get us an early breakthrough in every test they play. The technical committee really has a job on its hands regarding seamer friendly pitches.

Best of luck for your book..I'm convinced it'll do well...!:D Keep the blogs coming...!! :) Cheers xD

Posted by Ravishankar Bangalore on (January 8, 2009, 12:00 GMT)

The knock out games should be played for 5 days. Deodhar trophy should be played as 5 day affair.It should be a league.Inorder allocate the window for IPL. they have shorten the game.Now Deodar trophy is played as knock BCCI instead of concentrating on IPL, they can improve the quality of pitches for domestic cricket.Please make sporting pitches.Its really hard for the fast bowlers to bowl at the flat tracks.I really feel happy for balaji. he has come back from injury. playiny this ranji season after 3 years, he has proved himself in flat tracks.He should be travelling to Newzealand for test matches. I am really shocked that TN has lost the semi final.They were consistent througt the seanson.They really messed the chance of going to final. while batting they 300/2 then suddenly they lost 5 wickets in the 2nd day morning. when up was batting they removed 3 frontline batsmen for 65. they should have played Yomahesh instead of leftarm spinner suresh.They should have played arun karthik

Posted by Mandar Kelkar on (January 8, 2009, 11:56 GMT)

Forget about the hawk eye and the sniko,Neo does not have good commentators. All the good men are sitting pretty with ESPN who don't have rights in India.

We should take a leaf from Channel 9 broadcast of domestic cricket in Aus.

Posted by Anonymous on (January 8, 2009, 11:55 GMT)

The knock out games should be played for 5 days.BCCI instead of concentrating on IPL, they can improve the quality of pitches for domestic cricket.Please make sporting pitches.Its really hard for the fast bowlers to bowl at the flat tracks.I really feel happy for balaji. he has come back from injury. playiny this ranji season after 3 years, he has proved himself in flat tracks.He should be travelling to Newzealand for test matches. I am really shocked that TN has lost the semi final.They were consistent througt the seanson.They really messed the chance of going to final. while batting they 300/2 then suddenly they lost 5 wickets in the 2nd day morning. when up was batting they removed 3 frontline batsmen for 65. they should have played Yomahesh instead of leftarm spinner suresh.They should have played arun karthik

Posted by abhishek on (January 8, 2009, 8:14 GMT)

Flat pitches make the game boring.While watching such games on the TV people get bored plus the broadcaster Neo does not use hawkeye,snick-o-meter or hotspot making the domestic games more boring.

Posted by Homer on (January 7, 2009, 17:32 GMT)

If a wicket has not deteriorated on the 4th day, odds of it changing complexion on the 5th are remote. So, adding the extra day will have no real bearing on the contest.

Instead, there should be points awarded for result oriented pitches - pitches that produce the most results ( and are within the parameters of fairness), should get to host the knockouts, semis and finals.

If the BCCI is really serious about the pitch quality, domestic results must be a factor in awarding Tests and ODIs - roads like the Kotla and Chennai should not be considered while most result oriented wickets should.

Also, a graded payment scheme for curators may help - you produce result oriented wickets, you get compensated accordingly.

And one last thing - Delhi must be penalized for producing a green top in the must win game against Orissa while producing a road for all their other home games.

Cheers,

Posted by Mandar Kelkar on (January 7, 2009, 16:18 GMT)

I see multiple things attributing to the scenario. First - the pitch : The pitch should be sporting , may be slightly in favor of bowlers so that the batsmen(their technique) are really tested. Second - The duration should be 5 days. Third - I think there arent any quality bowlers who can really trouble the batsmen on a good flat track in the domestic circuit. We need spinners with lots of variations (like Murli, Mendis) or seamers with lot of guile (like Akram, Waqar). Unfortunately we have the bowlers who would be effective only when the conditions suit them.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.

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