October 12, 2010

Indian domestic cricket

Don't let domestic tournaments die

Aakash Chopra
India Red pose with the Challenger Trophy, India Blue v India Red, NKP Salve Challenger Trophy final, Nagpur, October 11, 2009
Genuine efforts must be made to sustain a potentially successful property  © ESPNcricinfo Ltd
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A fiery Sreesanth bowled a rather fine delivery, and in his follow-through, tried to intimidate the batsman. Unfortunately for him, the batsman happened to be Sachin Tendulkar who got stuck into Sreesanth. What followed was a flurry of boundaries as the rookie was shown his place in the man's world. Another game, this time in Mohali; young Piyush Chawla came out of nowhere to breach the master's defence with his googly. He immediately became a household name and the player for the future. After all he had dismissed Tendulkar.

This is the story of the Challenger trophy on two different occasions. The tournament was introduced to give the best 36 in the country, a chance to play against each other under lights. It was as close as one could get to play an international match against or with the top stars. The Challenger trophy grew in stature as people started flocking the stadiums and even the broadcaster got decent numbers. Since other 50-over domestic tournaments are rarely played under lights and to packed houses, it was a wonderful opportunity for the youngsters. While for the selectors, it was a chance to have a first-hand knowledge of the young and upcoming cricketers in the country.

The Corporate Trophy, another tournament introduced by the BCCI last year, too had a lot of potential and benefits, both on the field and off it. It involved all the big corporate teams in the country, and hence ensured not only a good competition, but also jobs for a lot of cricketers. The tournament rules meant that companies had to start employing players through the sports-quota and not make do with players playing for them on stipend. And for the big corporate houses, especially those who are already involved in the IPL, like Reliance and India Cements, it meant doing something worthwhile outside the IPL.

This is the story of two successful 50-overs domestic tournaments which promised and delivered, yet fizzled out in due course of time. The reason isn't hard to pin down - this year's edition of the Challenger trophy is played at a time when India is locking horns with Australia in a Test series, meaning that the best 16 players would not be available to participate in the tournament. The timing of the tournament has defeated the very purpose of its inception. Since playing under lights is no longer a catch for the domestic player, post the IPL, the only lure is to compete with the stalwarts, an opportunity the Challenger Trophy offered. After all how difficult would it be to find a four-day window to hold one of the most important domestic tournaments?

And then the case of the Corporate Trophy which involved more teams this year; however bigger is not always better. All the teams played three consecutive 50-over games in three days, with the top team in each group making it to the knockouts. How does one expect the quality of cricket to be good when you play every day? Obviously some of the games became a drag and failed to produce quality cricket. It shouldn't come as a surprise if some of these teams choose not to take part next year.

The point is simple - genuine efforts must be made to sustain a potentially successful property; not only to safeguard its sanctity, but also to keep both the players and the viewers hooked. And if the calendar doesn't allow a show, dump it, otherwise it becomes obligatory and lacklustre.

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 MasterClass on (October 18, 2010, 6:55 GMT)

Aakash, as a fan of Indian cricket, I'm more interested in seeing the youngsters than the stalwarts in the domestic game. The only value for having the stalwarts (for the audience) is the thrill to see how the youngster's perform against them. Of course I'm sure the young players probably learn a lot from the veterans. I feel it's actually better if an India A side tours abroad and takes on provincial teams in Australia, SA and England. And there needs to be a way to view these matches so that serious fans can follow the progress of the future Indian stars. I'm sure this can be done with the internet so costs are kept to a minimum and participation to a maximum.

Posted by bonaku on (October 13, 2010, 18:49 GMT)

Well said, but do u think they will hear you ?

Posted by Ankur Lathwal on (October 13, 2010, 15:42 GMT)

I completely agree Aakash.In India,we get more attracted towards charming & celebrity oriented cricket rather than good quality cricket.Infact,apart from Challenger & Corporate Trophy,if we could only improve the structure of our Ranji League & Vijay Hazare Trophy,it would be enough to nourish young talent as well as attract common audience. I always believe that our Ranji sides play very few matches as compared to county cricket & the players don't get that much exposure.Although,we are no.1 in the test scenario,but if we look only at domestic cricket,we are nowhere near Australia & England.I think the number of mathces should be increased & we should split our 28 domestic sides into 2 or 3 divisions so that better sides play equally better teams.For example,why Karnataka & Mumbai met in the final of Ranji only.A league match between them would have been fun. :)

Posted by abhinav anil on (October 13, 2010, 9:55 GMT)

hey akash just read ur 'BEYOND THE BLUES' yesterday.cudnt take my eyes off it for a moment.hope u release future editions of ur diary notings.n wud luv to read ur experiences from ur stint in d nat'l team from 03-04.plzz consider d suggestion.cheers

Posted by vaibhav on (October 13, 2010, 8:58 GMT)

You should also take up the point of fair selection ! What was the basis of selaction in Chalenger trophy . Why was Kaif not there . why Rahane is not called up !

Posted by harshad sankhe on (October 13, 2010, 8:54 GMT)

very good coloum written with lots of understanding and study.keep it up

Posted by Amit on (October 12, 2010, 18:46 GMT)

Hi Aakash,

Nice article.

I have techinical question for you and hope to get a answer from you.

I am a right handed batsman and have some trouble facing left arm over the wicket bowler who bends the ball in late. I do open my stance a bit but then I have trouble playing strokes on the off side. Any suggestions?

Thanks,

Amit

Posted by Srini on (October 12, 2010, 14:38 GMT)

Totally agree with your assessment. These tournaments are building blocks for unearthing new talent and must be given their due place in the schedule. The team composition is also very important. We don't want teams to be composed of too many regulars either lest we defeat the purpose.

In fact, attendance to these games should be made free of charge to encourage future stars to get a feel of the sport and competition levels.

Posted by SeeYem on (October 12, 2010, 13:16 GMT)

The Challenger Trophy already seems to be on downhill. Due to clash with Aussies tour, many of the India stars were missed - Sehwag, Gauti, Dhoni, Raina, Zak, etc. all. If we were indeed serious about this tournament, this could have been done at a better time.

Posted by Sundar on (October 12, 2010, 7:16 GMT)

Excellent points Aakash. Your blog is a brilliant source to know about Indian domestic cricket..Hope your criticism is taken positively and people who can do something about this, see it and realize the value of it. I hope you're considering a position in administrative capacity in the future, after your cricketing career. :)

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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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