January 28, 2009

Duleep Trophy, 2008-09

No longer the national tournament

Aakash Chopra





"Duleep Trophy might have lost a bit of its sheen and importance in the recent past, but it is still very dear to me" © Cricinfo Ltd
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Dear readers

When I started playing first-class cricket about a decade ago, the whole purpose of playing Ranji Trophy was to do enough to get picked for North Zone in Duleep Trophy. The Ranji format was different back then. Teams were divided into zones, and would play each other before the top two qualified for the knock-outs. Hence the media coverage was also restricted to the matches in the particular zone. For example we would rarely get to know about the matches happening in the south or east. I'm sure it must have been the same for other zones too.

Doing well was important and one got noticed all right, but only in his respective zone - unless someone did something out of the ordinary, something like a triple-century or 15 wickets in a match. The knock-out matches were always pretty important, but there were only a handful of teams involved.

The real chance to get noticed at the national level would come when one represented the zonal side in Duleep Trophy. This was an opportunity for players from different states to see each other play. This tournament also included the India players since a not-so-crowded international calendar during this period allowed them to play. The players in the Indian team would often share details of up-and-coming cricketers with each other, but that was also limited to a player's knowledge of the zone he played in. The Duleep Trophy was the only platform where one would compete against the best in the country, and hence performances would get noticed too.

Those days, an ordinary outing in Duleep Trophy would severely hamper one's chances to represent the country. One would have to wait for the next edition of the tournament, which obviously happened after a year, to repair the damage.

But now that the Ranji format has changed it has become a national tournament in the true sense of the word. With the teams divided into two divisions and in two separate pools thereafter, teams get to play against different teams every year irrespective of the zones. The media coverage of Ranji Trophy has also changed with the format, and now we can follow almost every team's fortunes. One need not wait till the Duleep Trophy to know which guy is doing well in the season. While the Ranji Trophy has become more important, the importance of the Duleep Trophy has become somewhat diluted. Performing extremely well in the Duleep Trophy is no longer the only way to impress the selectors. And the fact that a lot of players play for India before playing for their respective zones these days just reiterates my point. This probably isn't such a bad thing for a player because now he has more avenues and hence more chances to leave a mark. A couple of bad innings in the Duleep Trophy are not going to push his career back by a year. On the contrary I see it as an opportunity to continue the good work, and add up to the tally of runs or wickets for the season.

The Duleep Trophy might have lost a bit of its sheen and importance in the recent past, but it is still very dear to me.

Cheers

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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 thomas on (February 2, 2009, 13:10 GMT)

What is the importance of Duleep Trophy?I don’t think this Duleep Trophy should be the basis for a ODI selection or a 20/20 selection.Such an exercise would be overrated.With variations in Power play rules,bowlers & batsmen doing well in Duleep Trophy need not do well in Odi's.Duleep Trophy has no relation what so ever to 20/20 matches.The importance should be given now to Dheodhar Trophy & 20/20 matches. All teams & players in Ranji Trophy & Duleep Trophy will do well if you have the belief that based on performance you will be picked to a higher level. Kaif played two good innings in a Duleep Trophy knock out under pressure &still manages to be on the losing side due to a narrow first innings lead how will he get noticed. The point here is Akash I believe you are playing extremely well but unfortunately you may never get noticed because the modern game seems to be all about power hitting & electrifying fielding. The artist & technician is now on the endangered species list.

Posted by Sekhar on (February 2, 2009, 11:58 GMT)

Domestic ODIs are gaining attention but it's only a matter of time before people start flocking stadia to catch a glimpse of a Duleep or Ranji trophy match.I remember watching the 2006 Challenger Trophy final in Chennai and believe me,the most minimally priced stand registered a full house. We could begin by implementing Sachin Tendulkar's suggestion--throwing open an entire stand for free to school students so that they appreciate test matches and not get too absorbed in T20. Then the domestic teams should have some recognizable names playing in them.Abhishek Nayar is yet to make his India debut but he's already hugely popular in Mumbai because of his showing in the IPL.Domestic cricketers must make use of the IPL to get recognised and then people slowly start noticing them.For the record,we went to watch the Challenger Trophy matches chiefly because Sachin Tendulkar was playing.

Posted by Sriram on (February 1, 2009, 22:25 GMT)

Hi Aakash, During the formative years of Sunil Gavaskar,Vizzy trophy,(inter zonal universities tournament)used to be very important and was even considered first class cricket.Then during the time of Md Azharuddin, tournaments like Buchi Babu and Moin-ud-Dowla used to have a lot of value.The next generation of Rahul Dravid and Laxman came thro the ranks thro the Duleep Trophy.Then came Kaifu,Irfan and Yuvi, hand picked straight from India under -19 cricket,then came Dhoni from the ranks of India-A and now the present crop of cricketers jump in straight from the IPL.So at different times,different tournaments have assumed prominence and once the other took over,the previous one lost a bit of its sheen.The only tournament that has stood the test of time has been the Ranji Trophy.Cricketers still pride themselves to be a part of the Ranji trophy winning squad.My only concern is that Duleep Trophy shouldnt be too downgraded like the Vizzy trophy in the years to come.

Posted by ravi on (January 31, 2009, 15:27 GMT)

hai akash.. nice article regarding the face of domestic cricket in india..its a good move by BCCI to make ranji trophy into elite/plate so that quality cricket is played..like wise they should think about duleep trophy they should have a league between 5 teams not as knockout which they are playing so that we can have quality cricket at domestic level this year its great to watch dravid, laxman and few more int.cricketers playing which helps youngsters share the dressingroom and also their thoughts with them which will help them in their career, if there is no duleep trophy can you imagine M SURESH of south playing and sharing dressing room with laxman and dravid which he may not have thought of, and also performing before them..its a great moment for youngsters like him...in next captains meeting with BCCI u can suggest them to have duleep trophy league basis which can help them to have a great pool and also improvement in the game.. captains like you should give pressure on BCCI to have it

Posted by Harish on (January 30, 2009, 8:39 GMT)

I thought including an international team in the Duleep trophy did its bit to increase the exposure to our zonal team cricketers. Especially the young ones. This year there is no international team in the Duleep Trophy. I wonder why. There is a Zimbabwe team in the Deodhar Trophy this year. I am still certain it would have made sense to have an international A team to play the Duleep trophy. I wonder if logistics and timeframes were the issues this year. Aakash, would you have an idea on this topic?

Posted by Neha J on (January 30, 2009, 6:33 GMT)

Hey! Sad to know about the state of domestic cricket. A lot is discussed on news channels about the developments in the Ranji format; sadly nothing is spoken about the Duleep Trophy. The BCCI has really got to take steps to improve all the domestic events, instead of just focusing on the Ranji trophy. Good luck! Neha J

Posted by shivesh mishra on (January 29, 2009, 13:42 GMT)

Good luck Akash for your innings and I am totally agree with akash that now a days not only Duleep trophy but also other domestic championships are losing their importance but at the same time BCCI should make domestic matches compulsory for international stars like in South Africa,Australia

Posted by Aditya Boresur on (January 29, 2009, 13:12 GMT)

Dear Aakash, That was a wonderful read. I remember the days when I wanted to be a cricketer myself and would follow the Karnataka team through the different matches they would play in South India. I would travel to every ground to see my favorite player Rahul Dravid play. He used to make batting seem so effortless and it would inspire me a lot. Looking back, if i had focused more on practicing than watching matches, I might have done better as a cricketer myself. But that is okay.

Posted by ravindira on (January 29, 2009, 10:05 GMT)

ya its true . ranji trophy become a national tournament

Posted by Deepak Shah on (January 29, 2009, 6:17 GMT)

Ideally, the Duleep Trophy should be the premier tournament of the country. Ranji should revert to the zonal format, and then the best from the zone would be picked to be in the Duleep team. The tournament should be played in a league format (with home and away games). Also, we should have only 4 zones. UP & Rajasthan would play for North, Vidarbha & MP for West, Chhatisgarh for East and Railways for South. So, with 4 zones, we would have 12 games of real top quality cricket. The same should be done to the Deodhar Trophy. The Duleep matches should be spread all over the season, with enough time in-between for Ranji matches to take place. In that way, teams could be chosen on form, rather than reputation. And when the tournament is spread over a long period, there is a good chance that the international stars would also play some of the games. And also allow each team to have up to 2 foreign players. This would make it closest to a Test match in terms of quality of cricket.

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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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