February 24, 2009

Ranji one-dayers 2008-09

Picturesque venues, tiresome travel

Aakash Chopra



The Ranji one-day matches for North Zone were conducted in Himachal Pradesh this year. The choice of venue is based on a rotation policy and this year it was their turn to host the games. The state needs to have three grounds to hold this tournament because three matches are played every match day as we have five state teams and the Services in the north zone. We played our first two games in one of the most picturesque cricket grounds in the world – the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Ground in Dharamsala.

The snow-covered peaks in the backdrop add to the charm of playing cricket in this mountain city. The hotel we chose to stay in was about half an hour's drive away from the ground and driving in that kind of terrain can be a bit of a bother for some, but once you set foot on the ground, everything else fades into oblivion. I must mention here that a lot of thinking and hard work has gone into building this facility and other associations can take a cue on just how much can be achieved if one has vision and the passion. The track is also almost ideal to play cricket on as it offers enough for everyone in the business. It won't be long before an international match or a national camp is held here.

The tournament finishes in nine days as the matches are held on every alternate day and if the rest day in-between includes travelling, it can get gruelling for the players. Contrary to popular belief, a one-day match takes a lot out of a player and the lack of adequate rest and time to recover can lead to injuries and fatigue. One might suggest a player-rotation system but with selection for the Deodhar Trophy, the one-day zonal tournament, at stake one can't afford to take a break because in the end it's all about the numbers: how many runs and how many wickets a player took.

As I mentioned earlier, we played our first two games at Dharamsala and the third match was held at Una which is three hours from Dharamsala. Since the hotel at Una is adjacent to the city's bus station we tried to spend as little time in Una as possible. The incessant honking of the vehicles deprives you of much needed sleep after the game.

Here comes the most annoying feature of our scheduling. After playing the third game at Una we went back to Dharamsala to play the fourth game before coming back to Una to play the fifth and final match. Basically we played three games at Dharamshala and two at Una, which is absolutely fine, but what irks me is the fact that it wasn't scheduled in a better manner, so as to avoid such to-and-fro trips that only adds to the player's fatigue.

Why did we play the third and the fifth game in Una? Why couldn't we finish our games in Dharamsala before shifting base to Una for the last two matches? And we weren't the only team doing the shuttling between Dharamsala. There were other teams too. Only a small amount of commonsense and understanding would have saved us the ordeal. But is anyone listening?

Playing the Ranji one-day matches takes you to the old days of playing matches within the zone and keeping an eye on other teams involved because only two qualify for the knock-outs. Domestic competition ceases to be a national event for these few days. Only when your team qualifies do you ask about the other teams qualifying from the other zones, as you would eventually be playing against one of them. The general consensus among the players is that now that we have the Elite and Plate groups in the Ranji Trophy we must continue with the same format for the shorter version as well. There are always at least a couple of teams in every zone which are pushovers, but they help boost the individual performances of players, which might be enough to fetch them a place in the zonal side. But this fails to deliver a true reflection of their talent.

Cheers

PS: Please send the questions you would like me to answer in the next post. Tx :)

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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 Vinod Dhar on (March 12, 2009, 9:30 GMT)

Well I remember that when Pakistan toured India in 2006-07, the same venue was chosen to host a practice match for the visiting team. On one hand weather did not permit full usage of the entire duration of match, and on the other it was a bit hectic for the administration to ferry the teams over there. Even Pakistan team had to be divided into 2 groups as the nearby air strip can manage only very small planes. In those terms, it would be very hectic to make travel arrangements to such places. Now then IPL has also planned to host few matches at this venue, it remains to be seen whether the travel arrangements would be ok with one and every one.

Posted by Abhishek on (February 27, 2009, 19:59 GMT)

Hey Akash

Congrats Man on release of your book. You are good writer.. and better batsman. So keep on batting. Can you please tell me where I need to buy the copy of your Book online? I am currently located in US.. But I hope they can mail it or something.. Do let me know if you get this messsage. Its been pleasure reading all your articles. I liked the one where you described about the food for domestic cricketers. Can you write one more column about food as international cricketer. That is always good to know. Otherwise one can never get insight what's the life off the field for cricketer. Also one more question for you, Do you read the comments that you get on cricinfo articles??? Bcoz I always wonder if you even follow it or not?? The most imp thing is you keep doing your batting going for delhi.. Hayden got back very late to international cricket.. still made it.. You might be destined with same fortune.. But for that keep scoring tons of runs for Delhi..

Take Care Buddy

Posted by Advait on (February 27, 2009, 2:21 GMT)

Hey Akash,

Awesome pic of the ground, made me search on the web for more. Is this ground located in Chail? Which claimed to be world's highest cricket ground. I bet there were physical challenges to playing at such high altitudes.

Thanks again for your blog.

Posted by Raj Raguraman on (February 25, 2009, 15:39 GMT)

Hi Aakash,

I was highly impressed by the grounds picturesque beauty. What are the steps do you think one can take to improve transportation to/from the ground so that international matches can be held there. Also does it have enough lighting facilities. I really would like to watch an international match there.

Posted by Arnav Anjaria on (February 25, 2009, 12:57 GMT)

Hi Aakash, wonderful article! Well don't you think theres vested interest of quite a few individuals behind not striving to make domestic cricket very Popular in India. Because there exist a lot of flaws in the functioning of state cricket associations, the most visible being the team selection. Had it been very popular, like it is, in say Australia or England then it reduces the chances of any purposeful descripancy? Like in todays era, it would seem impossible for the selectors to simply drop someone like Ravindra Jadeja from the T20 team or well the whole nation is angered at exclusion of Cheteshwar Poojara and Abhishekh Nair from the test and one day teams respectively. regards

Posted by Akash on (February 25, 2009, 11:41 GMT)

hi aakash

very good one mate

and a request for ur next blog:is the money earned through domestic cricket sustainable.Can all domestic cricketers earn enough for sustenance of their families or they have to alternative work during off season......after they retire ...etc

Posted by Satyanand on (February 25, 2009, 4:10 GMT)

Hi Akash , I have always wondered why the Domestic matches are not popular ,whereas the IPL seems to be such a success. If we ignore the 4 foriegn players per team , it would basically boil down to a majority of Indian players. Most ranji matches nowadays are playing to empty stands . Any thoughts on how to improve the attendance? For one , I think the State/Club youth teams can be encouraged to watch and learn from the matches(atleast)

Posted by Yogesh on (February 25, 2009, 0:44 GMT)

May be after your retirement, you can consider writing a book "Questions to Ponder for BCCI". Some of the very valid issues your raise are swept under the carpet when media or fans talk about domestic cricket. And here is my question : How do you react watching your state-mates Viru & Gambhir ? Every shot they play is just making things harder for you to get back into the team. I don't hint at any jealousy or silly stuff but I think it is wierd when you have to feel happy for your colleague(even good friends) knowing that his success makes things difficult for you.

Posted by Varun Srivastava, Wellington, New Zealand on (February 24, 2009, 22:18 GMT)

Nice article, according to me the person who rosters the matches should be an ex-cricketer rather than some official who has only seen cricket not played. I agree to the idea of having matches in places like Dharamshala and Una but these places should have adequate facilities, recently I read an article in cricinfo regarding suffering of our services team and after reading the article I failed to agree that we are talking of national level cricket. I can't understand why the board cannot have atleast standared Hotels and normal facilities in the stadium. I live in New Zealand and I am part of the Cricket Association, here even U-19 club cricket teams have their own dietitian, Physio and the Manager/Coach{in some teams Managers doubles up as coach} who looks after the itinerary. Having said all this, I know for the fact that BCCI is much more wealthier compared to New Zealand Cricket Board. All I mean is it does'nt take a lot to do proper planning if we want to look after our players.

Posted by Sriram on (February 24, 2009, 21:18 GMT)

It is refreshing to read a blog from a player explaining happenings in the tour instead of just match analysis (we have an overdose of that already). I am a fan!! P.S: Great job on your book!

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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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