March 9, 2010

Indian domestic cricket

Time to scrap a few domestic tournaments?

Aakash Chopra


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
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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.

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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 santhoshkudva on (March 11, 2010, 17:24 GMT)

scrap all three. ranji, duleep and deodhar. not because of their loss of importance, but because you dont respect them. not having them at all is better than conducting them in such a lackadaisical manner. let us choose the lesser of the two evils.

Posted by sukamal ghosh on (March 11, 2010, 14:06 GMT)

i think the deodhar and duleep trophy should be scraped altogether instead they should start a tournament in lines FA cup england where all our states team would play a knockout tournament in T-20.it will huge help in promoting the games as well giving new talent a chance.imagine a good fast bowler from say goa or tripura getting a chance to bowl at sachins and sehwags and doing well.

Posted by Raj on (March 10, 2010, 4:16 GMT)

IPL players just used Deodhar trophy to get some practice before the mage event..example: Yusuf

Posted by AndieRae on (March 10, 2010, 0:19 GMT)

You asked the question - Are we sacrificing quality for quantity? Answer - Not at all. It has been sacrificed for the IPL. The danger is that India will lose it's cricketing identity and simply become a commercial showboat for egos and fat wallets. Money has clearly sedated the West Indies team; let's hope the same does not happen when it comes to India's 'proper' cricket. It's not as if the IPL sides shone in the Champions league.

Posted by SaleemB on (March 10, 2010, 0:06 GMT)

Frankly I don't like the T20 format at all. It ain't cricket. I would much prefer to have an English County kind of system where instead of 20 overs the matches are played over 50 overs in the IPL. Plus a couple of foreign players should also be allowed in every Ranji team to raise the level of domestic cricket. BCCI contracted players should also be made to compulsoraily participate in a certain number of domestic games every season. The international calendar needs to be planned with the domestic calendar in mind.

I would also do away with all the Zone competitions. To me they don't make sense in terms of enhancing cricketing abilities of players. These competitions are played just for a prestige standpoint. The all star game is a fantastic idea and the Deodhar trophy should be a knockout tournament There should just be two zones - either North and South or East and West.

Posted by "Punter"bonafidebeagleboy@yahoo.in on (March 9, 2010, 20:50 GMT)

@Gowri... Well,I ain't biased with IPL here but I can say one thing here,no matter there has been Cash all the way in this type tournament,it has surely given players a good exposure before they head to the main battle ground. It isn't with India,other teams have been benefited from this viz Watson,White,Jadeja and many more... I see cricket more a winner here than the business bosses.. And as far as merging RCB+Karnataka and etc etc domestic franchise teams with state teams I can say that,fist priority has always been given to the local ranji domestic players and then comes other state signings..IPL is a domestic tournament,but the orthodox state names are replaced by flashy ones just like RCB for Karnataka (the id has been displayed so that,any cricket enthusiast can use it constructively in sharing his views and experiences about the game)

Posted by Hassan Farooqi on (March 9, 2010, 17:42 GMT)

One of many reasons test cricket lost its charm is because it is no more the event of the year. I remember the pre-ODI era when no more than a couple of teams visited, and test match was indeed a test of mettle between two professional teams. Even a draw drew crowds.

Posted by Anurag Pandey on (March 9, 2010, 13:38 GMT)

contd. The Duleep Trophy should be a knockout competition in the middle of the Ranji season. The same for the Deodhar Trophy, the teams for the Deodhar can be voted in by the fans online. It should be played mid season like the All Star game in NBA. Deodhar Trophy should last just one week (probably around Diwali/Eid). The season started should be the Irani Trophy like it is. The season ender should be the Ranji final, played after the IPL final. There should be no finals and semis for the Hazare Trophy but the winner is the league leader after playing everyone home and away (30 games). The IPL should be split into 2 divisions when the number of franchises increase. The top 8 in Hazare Trophy will go to IPL div 1 and the bottom 8 in IPL div 2. This will ensure that the franchises treat the Hazare Trophy with respect.

Posted by Anurag Pandey on (March 9, 2010, 13:32 GMT)

Great Article. I think the domestic calendar needs a complete overhaul. The tournaments that need to be cancelled are - Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and Challenger series. We don't need a domestic T20 competition when we already have the IPL. Apart from this the Vijay Hazare Trophy needs to invite the franchises to take part so Mumbai Indians replace and Delhi Daredevils replace Delhi and so on for associations which already have a franchise. In due time each association will have a franchise associated to it. No foreign players allowed for Hazare Trophy (or maybe 1 or 2 if they are available). The Hazare Trophy and Ranji Trophy should be played in parallel. 2 weeks for 4 Hazare Tophy games (home and away, during the weekend and day and night when possible). Next 2 weeks for 2 back to back Ranji games and then back to your franchise for the Hazare Trophy. This way the franchises are worked the year round and won't exist just for the IPL and Champions League.

Posted by Rajit on (March 9, 2010, 12:46 GMT)

What you are saying is right Akash...Infact recently Rahul Dravid also pointed it out in one of the piece that India needs to schedule 5-6 home tests every winter and for all the concerned in scheduling the the domestic as well as international matches that is going to be a real challenge.As regards domestic tournaments,BCCI needs to wake up to make them more crisp and interesting from a spectator perspective...Challenger Trophy is one which must be scrapped first and also domestic T2o (Mushtaq ali trophy)

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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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