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The recently concluded semi-final between North and West Zone vindicated my point of curtailing the maximum number of overs at a team’s disposal for the knock-out matches. It was, as usual, a batting paradise in Rajkot and both teams knew that the toss might just decide the fate of the match. And boy it did…that too with style.
West scored nearly 800 runs, perhaps the highest in the season, and batted North out of the game. Yes, North could have fought harder and got closer to the total but overhauling it was a forgone conclusion. But what followed after West got a mammoth 465-run lead devalues the importance of a first-class century. West opted for some batting practice instead of going for an outright win which was perhaps there for the taking. But since a first-innings lead was enough to see them through to the finals, they can’t be blamed for not forcing the issue.
Both Pujara and Rohit scored centuries in the second innings. While you can’t blame them for using the opportunity, you can argue the quality of bowling that was thrown at them. Two-thirds of the total overs were bowled by part-time bowlers who would not trouble a front-line batsman, especially on a batting beauty in Rajkot.
Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not taking anything away from them because it’s not their fault that part-time bowlers were bowling at them. I have also helped myself to a couple of such centuries in my first-class career. The point that I’m trying to make is that does it serve any purpose? All these runs and centuries adds up to the final tally of runs scored in a season which in turn are kept in mind while selecting a player for the next level. But is it fair to count these tons scored in a game of only academic interest and against a not so good bowling attack? I don’t think so.
There are a lot of such games in a season where both teams are playing for the end of the match fully aware that there would be no result. In these matches captains preserve their main bowlers and hence runs are not at a premium.
My suggestion is that the umpires, in consultation with the referee and both the captains, should have the right to call off such games. There may be three sessions left in the game but if both teams are not going to force a result, it’s better to call it off than go through the motions. Till we limit the number of overs or add batting and bowling points in the system, it’s better to do away with such meaningless innings.
© 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.