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Imagine this - There are two nets and about 15 batsmen queuing up for a few throw downs. Quite chaotic, you might think. Before you start racking your brains let me tell you that it wasn’t some kind of competition or a coaching session. It was the scene at the nets every morning of our T20 tournament. There were four state teams playing in the two morning matches at two adjacent grounds but at the same venue. All teams shared the facilities right from the dining area to the lavatories. Only the dressing rooms were not shared as makeshift dressing rooms (a covered seating area) were erected for two teams at the adjacent ground. The scenes at the nets were quite interesting both on the eve of the match and every morning.
Firstly, batsmen were not allowed to use spikes while batting for the fear of ruining the surface. Well, would they tell the same batsmen not to wear spikes during the match? Then, since there were only two nets to accommodate players from four teams, none of the batsmen would get more than a few balls for throw downs. Is it the ideal preparation for a match?
Yet, a set up like this definitely helped in building up the camaraderie between players from different states. Sharing the same net for throw downs meant that a bowler from Punjab was bowling to a player from Delhi and Haryana along with bowling to a batsman from his own side.
You might wonder why the batsmen didn’t have a hit in an open area? Why were they crammed up in just two nets? The early morning dew makes the outfield quite wet. And of course, bats tend to spoil if played with a wet ball. Please don’t get me wrong I’m not blaming the hosts because there’s only so much they can do. The infrastructure is not meant to accommodate so many cricketers at the same time.
Then every state team had five matches in six days. At times the team which played the game in the afternoon, finishing at 5pm, was back at the ground at 8.30am the following morning to play their next game, staring at 10am. The teams which had back to back morning matches had it easy but only just. The morning match would finish at 1pm, with the next match scheduled for 10am the following day, sparing less than 24 hours for the player to rest and recover.
Also, we all realise that a T20 game doesn’t require as much effort as a fifty over game. But then why don’t we see other T20 leagues and tournaments around the world getting over in a week? Another problem along with high fatigue levels, perhaps leading to injuries, is that there’s hardly any time to recover. The loss which should hurt is not that bitter and the win is not that sweet either! After all there’s another game to be played in less than 24 hours. How long can you mull over a loss or celebrate a win?
Nevertheless, I’m tempted to call this T20 tournament a ‘carnival’ not because it lacked the seriousness of a tournament but for the environment it created. Ninety players from six states assembled every day, ate together, shared stories and renewed friendships. One rarely gets an opportunity like this.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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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.