Indian domestic cricket March 9, 2010

Time to scrap a few domestic tournaments?


In the current scenario, the Deodhar Trophy gets over in four days and as many as three teams may get to play only a match each © Cricinfo Ltd

For a cricket-crazy nation, there is perhaps nothing that can qualify as ‘too much cricket’. A game of cricket keeps everyone happy, right from the organisers, the media to the spectators. The players too get a fair deal of exposure with some good money flowing in anyway. No wonder then that it’s raining cricket all the way - a story best told by the current domestic calendar with over seven trophies squashed in a meager six months.

Good sense prevailed, when the BCCI decided to temporarily dump the Deodhar Trophy, owing to lack of time. The right wing then stood up to defend the honor of this prestigious tournament. ‘How could one of the oldest and the most exalted tournaments be scrapped?’ Well, it didn’t. The Deodhar Trophy is currently being rushed up in four flat days as opposed to its regular two-week long schedule.

Sample this – the IPL ends on April 25, while the ICC World Twenty20 starts five days later. This roster may have well managed to save a clash between the two events; it has unfortunately taken a toll on the domestic tournaments, the Deodhar Trophy being the worst hit. Now with only a total of nine days left between the finals of the Vijay Hazare Trophy and the beginning of the IPL, the only way out for Deodhar was to convert a hitherto league based tournament into a knockout.

Not too long ago,the Deodhar Trophy was held on a league basis wherein all teams got four games each. Four opportunities meant that the winner was the team which played well throughout the tournament and the top performers were the ones who performed consistently. In the current scenario, the tournament gets over in four days and as many as three teams may get to play only a match each, which in my mind is not enough to judge a team or a player. One off day in the field means the end of the tournament. Does it really give the players the opportunity and the platform to stake their claims? Aren’t we already devaluing what used to be an important tournament?

The Deodhar Trophy, despite being reduced to a knockout tournament, is slated to finish on March 9 while the IPL starts on the 12th. The IPL teams in turn would be left with only 2 days to get together and strategise their game plan. This certainly, by no means, can suffice for meticulous planning before an event of this huge a gravity.

The coach/captain’s decisions and strategies would then be influenced by reputations and gut feeling which is not the right way to progress. There would apparently be very little time to have a proper plan in place in which everyone has a defined role to play. And if one tries to do that, like John Buchanan did last year, it would be thrust upon the players with no room for negotiation or debate. This isn’t an ideal preparation, in turn affecting the quality of cricket played in the IPL.

Point being this - Are we sacrificing quality for quantity?

The first edition of the Champions Twenty20 League may give us some indication with this regard. Not even a single Indian team made an impact. Indian teams were outplayed on their home soil and it was New South Wales from Australia who went on to win the tournament. While we take a lot of pride in the standard of cricket played in the IPL, which is actually of high quality, our teams’ debacle at the international stage must not be ignored. After all, our teams fielded as many as four overseas cricketers as opposed to none by the overseas teams. So what was the difference? Well, all the other teams were playing together as a team throughout the year, which made up for the lack of world-class players amongst their ranks. They played as a team wherein everyone knew their roles, knew about each other’s weaknesses and strengths and looked out for their mates. On the contrary, Indian teams got together only a few days prior to the tournament and it showed. They lacked the cohesiveness of a team and were relying heavily on individuals to pull them through.

Aren’t we doing the same thing once again? We may not realise it because all the teams are equally affected by the lack of preparation but we must learn from our experience in the Champions League. The need of the hour is to either create a proper window for every domestic tournament or else do away with a couple in order to enhance the quality of the remaining tournaments. It’s the quality that attracts people to the sport and not the quantity.

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