February 15, 2010

Indian domestic cricket

It's not the quantity, it's the quality

Aakash Chopra

"If you don’t have a good enough team to compete then you must hire professionals to make one" © Cricinfo Ltd

A couple of years ago, Wasim Akram, when asked about Indian domestic structure, remarked - “To improve the standard of cricket, India must reduce the number of teams playing in the Ranji Trophy."

He went on to observe that India "were sacrificing quality for quantity". Well, I beg to differ with him on this. While I acknowledge that it is imperative to have a strong domestic set-up, one also needs to understand the dynamics of this country. We are a nation of a billion people with cricket as our religion. Obviously then we need a bigger platform to accommodate its students.

Wasim’s comments perhaps stem from his appreciation for the strong Australian and South African domestic models with only six teams apiece. While the set-up has proved to be a success in these countries, in India it might well filter out talent from the heap rather than identifying and nurturing it. Let’s face it, a total of 27 teams in the Ranji Trophy amounts to just about 297 playing members from a pool of thousands across the length and breadth of the country. Trimming these figures down would well mean snatching away of crucial opportunities.

Quality, undeniably, is a huge concern, and the BCCI has by and large taken measures to ensure just that. State teams can now field up to three professionals in the playing XI. The onus is on the state associations to make use of this opportunity along with the funds provided by the BCCI.

Talking quality, teams in the Plate League are often criticised for the lack of it. Some feel that they deserve to be kept in that division for their sheer non-performance. At one level it’s absolutely just that they bear the repercussions of not improving as a state team but at another level their poor standard isn’t good for the health of the game in India. Also if the teams in the Plate League don’t progress, the Zonal one-day matches, which are currently in progress, would also lose its relevance.

I’d stick to my suggestion of having three groups of nine teams. Instead of just a couple of teams swapping places, a good idea would be to have three teams getting relegated and promoted every season. Teams who don’t show any signs of improvement in terms of results and producing good cricketers should not only be relegated but also be slapped with a financial penalty. The process is quite straight forward: if you don’t have a good enough team to compete then you must hire professionals to make one. Assam did exactly the same thing in the ongoing first-class season and was successful. They not only topped their group but also qualified for the quarter-finals. With that they have ensured a place in the Elite League for the next season. It’s time for others to follow suit.

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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 sutherland shire counselling psychologist on (June 18, 2010, 17:53 GMT)

Hey there - we are LOVING your blog and think there is a lot of wisdom and good advice in what is being said. Being so far away from other's here in Sydney Australia - it's good for us Psychologists to hear views from others around the world - now we know we are not alone in thinking about this. Keep up the good work!

Posted by Chanduurs on (February 17, 2010, 12:35 GMT)

I completely object with "@ramesh mysore ramarao".. See Murali and badhri proved them selfs for the last 5-6 seasons. But Pandey and others done one or two perfomences in the last season and is improving by season by season. I do agree they also had the talent to represent the India. Murali and Badhri did not get the chance since we had only one Test Debt(yuvaraj) since last 6-7 years in the middle. I relly don't know why selectors will send Sachin, Dravid, Laxman to even Bangla series also. If you really see we will trouble with 1 or 2 years, if they retire. Why dont you rotate them arround with one or two senior players. When you really test 10 you can find only 2-3 players and don't expect with 1 or 2 chances they con't hit centuries. Sachin itself taken 35 innings to hit his first century at international cricket. We all are talking about only batting, what about bowling just check how many spiners are available in india at international level, just count it will be 2 or 3 not mor

Posted by Sanket on (February 16, 2010, 20:55 GMT)

I feel 27 teams is a good number. NFL has 32 teams and EPL, which represents only England, has 20 teams with ade facto junior league of 20 more teams.

If we cannot develop 297 cricketers in a country of 1.13 billion people, we have only ourselves to blame.

Posted by sreekant on (February 16, 2010, 14:39 GMT)

What vijay and badrinath does not have talent!!!!they have scored lot of runs and badrinath is now getting his chance,after proving himself in domestic cricket,what has pandey done,tthat these guys have not done!!!!!!!

Posted by Anonymous on (February 16, 2010, 11:17 GMT)

The state associations should also hire foreign coaches for all the departments.It is best to mould the young cricketers from their earlydays.Of cour

Posted by Anand PV on (February 16, 2010, 7:09 GMT)

Agree with u ..a league like EPL will work i tnk

Posted by vas on (February 15, 2010, 22:41 GMT)

Aakash, some astute observations there. The only problem though is sometimes having the more teams mean that the culture of nurturing and development is diluted.

I look at the 297 players in the Ranji Trophy. How many of them would you say are contenders to play for India at this moment? Compare that to Australia, where you can argue at least 40 out of 66 are good enough to play for their country.

As India is a bigger country, they should have more teams. But 27 is a bridge too far. The queue of players becomes so long that each individual doesn't get the attention they deserve. Reducing the competition to 15 teams will mean the competition to play Ranji will be more fierce, and players who make that level will have the competitive mindset to succeed for India. Where do you think the competitive instincts of many Australian and South African cricketers come from?

Posted by ASONI70 @Twitter on (February 15, 2010, 19:51 GMT)

Nice article. I am always a big fan of your cricketing knowledge / writing skills. As I suggested to you in one of my tweets you should take that to next level i.e. Cricket expert / commentary box. New, improved, different voice in commentary is always welcome and good for the game. You have a potential to become one of the best in the box. Out of all cricket experts my fav Ravi Shastri, Sanjay Manjrekar and Ian Chappel. All others greats are good for nothing (Grin - in my opinon). Anyways - I am not fully agreed to your view on Ranji structure either. I'll post my analysis soon, may be send it you directly for your review and comments. I live in USA and try to draw parallel between US sports (NFL, NBA) and Cricket. Always amazed to see how NFL creates the buzz here n USA every year. Same with NBA - each team plays 88 games of the season. Way too many compare to cricket. More later, I’d appreciate if you acknowledge receiving my comments :)

Posted by David Bird on (February 15, 2010, 16:57 GMT)

I like it. I'd like the English country game to have three divisions. Two divisions has been great. Too many teams moving up and down can make it harder to follow though; sure you'll know where your team is, but it is remarkably easy to lose track of the others.

Posted by Dylan on (February 15, 2010, 14:08 GMT)

Instead of 3 groups of 9 teams, we must go for a 10+10+7 approach or maybe add another team. This will not only reduce the match but also improve quality.

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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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