Indian domestic cricket November 22, 2010

The new rule book for IPL qualification

As you would know by now that I'm both a purist and a huge fan of domestic cricket and it goes without saying that any move which makes the longer format and domestic cricket significant enough, is welcomed by me

As you would know by now that I'm both a purist and a huge fan of domestic cricket and it goes without saying that any move which makes the longer format and domestic cricket significant enough, is welcomed by me.

The Indian board is making serious efforts to ensure the importance of domestic cricket isn't wasted on the players and hence have come out with a rule book with regard to a domestic cricketer's participation in the IPL. While a ceiling for their earnings via the cash-rich IPL has already been fixed, the new ruling states that one must play at least 60% of the domestic matches played by the player's respective state side. In addition to that, he must also obtain an NOC from his state association. Only then can he participate in the IPL. While the intent behind the move seems to be both in the interest of the game and the players, the larger impact is worth pondering over.

The first case I'm looking at is that of the highest run scorer in the domestic Twenty20 competition, Chetan Sharma. His batting is tailor-made for the slam-bang format, but quite obviously lacks the temperament and technique to last in the longer version of the game. In all likelihood, he won't be able to fulfil the 60% representation criteria and would have to ask the Board for special permission which he may or may not get. Assuming that not everyone gets the special permission, what would be the yardstick for such permissions, I wonder. And if everyone would eventually be allowed, then why seek one?

Now, is it really necessary to be a good player in all formats to earn your living? Not too long ago, it was the other way around. People who weren't well-versed with the Twenty20 format were treated as second-class citizens, given that a domestic player is identified with his IPL franchise and if you don't have one, you merely exist as just a cricketer. Now, if you aren't playing in the longer format (which means you aren't earning well, in any case), you can't also play in the format you prefer and make money. The world doesn't exist peacefully in extremes, for there has to be room for everyone.

If playing domestic cricket was so vital then why did we include the clause that every franchise must hire two Under-22 cricketers, in the first place? In fact a lot of franchises were also encouraged to take India Under-19 cricketers on board, if not for the current season, then for future editions. Jaydev Unadkat was one of the players distributed amongst eight franchisees by the draw of lots. One look in the IPL was enough for him to jump the queue and get picked for the India-A team which toured England. Mind you, he played his first first-class match as an India-A cricketer in England. Now, he's the fourth-choice medium pacer in Test cricket, but it may not have happened if he was to play 60% of domestic games before getting a go in the IPL.

Finally, the case of obtaining a presumably simple NOC from the state association - why would Mumbai allow young left-arm spinner Harmeet Singh to play in the IPL? I wouldn't; if I was heading the organisation, for he is one of the few guys who still flights the ball and is suited for the longer format. There is a real threat of him losing his way to suit the demands of the Twenty20 format. But what if he isn't given the NOC? Will someone pay for the financial losses he would incur?

What do you make of this? Your opinion.

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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