January 9, 2010

Indian domestic cricket

Ease the workload, increase the output

Aakash Chopra


Each domestic team should play at least eight first-class games © Cricinfo Ltd
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Six different trophies, three different formats, all crammed up into a five- month window - India’s domestic season runs at a breakneck speed. To make matters a wee bit tougher for the players, only a three-day breather is granted between first-class matches (in the league phase) and even lesser between the shorter formats.

Perhaps, one wouldn’t have whined over this ‘cricket congestion’ if it had served the purpose it had accidentally set for itself. One would assume that a choc-a-block schedule like this, might amount to teams and players getting a lot more games to showcase their talent. Unfortunately though, this isn’t exactly how it transpires on the ground.

Would you believe if I were to tell you that quite a few teams/players play only five first-class matches in these five months - a match a month? And those five matches get over in five straight weeks. All hell would break loose if one gets injured or goes out of form during these five weeks. There’s hardly any scope of recuperating from an injury or regaining form in such a short time. Odds often stack up when time runs out.

To this crisis, add another five matches each of 50 overs, yet another set of pressure-laden Twenty20s and the team’s fortunes of an unyielding season get sealed.

This is pretty much the story of those teams playing in the Plate division, which unfortunately do not qualify for the knock-outs in all the three formats. There are eight such teams in the Plate division which is nearly a third of the total number of teams (27) playing in the Ranji Trophy.

But things are quite different for the teams that make up the Elite division. More number of teams in this division (15) mean more matches, and more matches in turn mean more chances of displaying and polishing one’s skill. Six teams out of 15 in the Elite division qualify for the knock-outs as opposed to two from 12 in the Plate division. Also, players playing in the Elite division get noticed a lot more which in turn brightens up their chances of getting a place in the Zonal side for the Duleep Trophy. All of this puts the this division players on a higher pedestal, something which perhaps has hitherto not been taken into account.

In my opinion, talent without opportunities is as bad as having no talent at all. In order to give everyone equal number of outings, we must change the existing system of distinction between Elite and Plate division.

My suggestion would be to divide the 27 teams into three groups/divisions of nine teams each instead of the existing two. This set up would ensure each team play a minimum of eight first-class games. The winners could be decided through knock-outs. This revamped order is sure to consume more time and hence might even take a toll on the Duleep Trophy. Yet, it would be an idea worth a thought. After all, the Duleep Trophy is also a knock-out tournament and only one team can play three games, i.e. the team playing the quarter-finals also ends up playing the finals. The rest play either one or two games at the most.

Counterparts in Australia and South Africa host 10 first-class games for each team, while the number shoots up to 16 in England. The idea is simply to provide the players with a) equal and ample opportunities to showcase their talent, and b) a less complicated roaster which leaves the players the time to recover and get back.

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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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It is rather interesting for me to read the post. Thanks for it. I like such topics and anything that is connected to them. I definitely want to read more soon. BTW, rather nice design you have at this blog, but what do you think about changing it once in a few months?

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Posted by Emily FunnyGuy on (May 11, 2010, 3:40 GMT)

Truly great post u have here. It'd be just great to read something more concerning this topic. Thnx for sharing that data.

Posted by Harish on (January 15, 2010, 4:24 GMT)

I do read all the articles of the Insider as well, Just that I feel that even beyond the blues can go beyond just questioning the current setup and suggesting improvements (I must say he does that pretty well), Just that he is best at writing about cricket, players and giving gyaan on the Ranji cricket scene. Just my opinion. To each his own isn't it?

Posted by Chinmay on (January 13, 2010, 17:45 GMT)

I would like to see just one Elite group instead of two, and that too composed of 10 teams in (down from the current 15) This leaves the two plate groups with 8 teams each giving them 7 FC games. Each season, the bottom 2 of the Elite group relegate, the next four bottom placed teams (positions 5-8) play in a relegation play off and the top 4 qualify for semis. For Plate group, top team in each group gets a direct promotion to Elite and the second and third placed teams play against each other for the 3rd and 4th promotion spot.

Posted by Anonymous on (January 13, 2010, 16:18 GMT)

hi Akash, I think the way of evalutaion should not be solely based on the first innings lead, but at the same point point we cannot neglect the lead as well , the number of points earned by a team sholud be decided by the final status of the match and also there should be more sporting wickets to play the ranji matches .

Posted by Sanjay on (January 13, 2010, 13:21 GMT)

Harish, Aakash is writing about the nuances of the game in his widely read column The Insider...I don't know the frequency of his articles but I suggest you to read that. Cheers.

Posted by Harish on (January 13, 2010, 9:32 GMT)

Hi Akash, I have read your book as well as most of your blogs over the past 2 yrs or so. Please treat my comment as a honest suggestion and constructive feedback. Your entries seem to focus on the scheduling, operational aspects of BCCI, pitches and a string of other things that are not cricket related per se. If you wish to use this as a forum to try if it can be seen by BCCI officials or generate public opinion around the same - I could see some point. In my opinion, I have enjoyed your articles on the mental, physical and strategy aspects of the game. Use your analysis to spread knowledge about the game we all love. Operational nitpickings are not as important as the game itself. I had this comment about the book as well, hence the post. Thanks!

Posted by David on (January 13, 2010, 8:54 GMT)

My 2 cents.

1) Have 3 Groups of 9 each. Let the Top 2 qualify for a super six league and then the top 2 perhaps can play a KO final to be the ranji champion. The champion would have then played 13 Games. 2) Stop giving points for First innings Lead, This will discourage teams from playing for "Batting practice". 3) Change the format to 5-Day at all phases. You will get more results.

Posted by Krish on (January 12, 2010, 22:08 GMT)

But quantity didn't add to quality in the past. Right? You play one game against Mumbai or TN or Delhi and prove your worth. I would want to have 5 day games for all knock-outs and in sporting wickets like Mohali or Mysore. That is cricket in even terms. Not run pilers like Wasim Jaffer batting day and night scoring 300. That is useless cricket.

Posted by Sanjay on (January 12, 2010, 19:23 GMT)

I completely agree with your suggestion of min 8 first class matches. We will have to be little innovative and daring in re-structuring the leagues. First, we will have to reduce number of first class teams to 24 (20 would be better). More is not merrier. We will have to consolidate few teams. Vidarbha, Goa, Tripura or Jharkhand (& likewise) need not be a separate team. They can be merged to neighbouring teams. May be, pre-qualification tourney to identify star players could be need of the hour.

Less team will increase to quality of players and overall, competition level. Also it would be easier for match scheduler.

All knock-outs (incl QFs, SFs) should be 5-day affairs and played in neutral venues & sporting wickets so that matches are not decided on first-innings lead. Start the session from Sep and play the games on those locations where rain is not a threat in Sep-Oct (such as Tamil Nadu, Hyderabad or deep North).

My 2 cents

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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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