Ranji Trophy, 2009-10 January 3, 2010

How to reduce draws in knock-out matches

Some incentives to encourage teams to go for an outright win, instead of sitting back after gaining the first-innings lead

Mumbai didn't bother pushing for a win after taking a 236-run lead against Haryana, opting for batting practice on the final day instead © Cricinfo Ltd

Not even a single Ranji Trophy quarter-final match produced an outright win. All winners were decided on the basis of the first-innings lead. This happened primarily because there wasn’t enough time to go for an outright win and also there was no intention to force the result.

Neutral Curators = A good batting surface The BCCI did the right thing by appointing neutral curators for the knock-out matches. It was the second best thing after hosting the matches on neutral venues. Yet, the curators only get a few days to prepare the track as the venues depend on the teams qualifying. All that they can do is to not allow the hosts to prepare a track which suits their needs. For example, they would not leave too much grass to assist the quick bowlers or an underprepared wicket to suit the spinners. But that invariably results in preparing a good batting surface. And in any case it’s unfair to expect a miracle in four-five days of preparation. You can’t change the nature of a particular track overnight.

Four days not enough Only the teams which are in good form (both batting and bowling) make it to the last eight. It is rather difficult to take 20 wickets of the team in good form on a good batting surface. WV Raman, the coach of Tamil Nadu team was quoted saying, ‘from here onwards (quarter-finals) the teams batting well will win the trophy’. And he was correct in his assessment. Teams go into the match with the intention of batting-out the opposition. Since an outright win isn’t necessary to go to the next round, the focus is on batting for as long as possible. Teams rarely worry about the scoring rate, which at times, makes the game boring to watch. But you cannot blame the teams for that approach either. The game gets over as soon as one team gets first-innings lead however slender it might be. Imagine a team getting a five runs first-innings lead!! Falling short by a few runs doesn’t mean that the opposition was superior or your team was outplayed.

Solution For starters it won’t be a bad idea to make all knock-out games a five-day affair. That would give teams a ray of hope to make a comeback even after conceding the lead. Also it will keep the team which has got the lead on their toes. That’s exactly how it panned out for us, Delhi, in the finals in 2007. Uttar Pradesh got the first-innings lead but there was enough time left in the match for us to make a comeback. Secondly, there could be a cash reward (this could be implemented for the entire season) for an outright win. This would encourage teams, once on top, to tighten the noose and not use the last day for batting practice.

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