February 7, 2011

Indian domestic cricket

The Duleep Trophy needs a revamp

Aakash Chopra
South Zone celebrate winning their first Duleep Trophy in 15 years, North Zone v South Zone, Duleep Trophy final, Visakhapatnam, February 5, 2011
The 2010-11 Duleep Trophy winners South Zone had not won the tournament since the 1995-96 season  © ESPNcricinfo Ltd
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Fresh from the Ranji games and straight in to the Duleep Trophy; one can't help but marvel at the latter's standard and the quality of cricket on display. Just a look at the net session of a zone team is enough to gauge the palpable difference from a state side. After all, the team which represents a particular zone is made up of the best and most in-form players of all the states falling in its purview.

Not too long ago, the Duleep Trophy was the fulcrum around which Indian domestic cricket revolved. While performing for the state, one always had an eye on a possible place in the Duleep Trophy team. You would keep a tab on how your competitors were faring and what exactly was needed to get a look in.

Back then, the Duleep Trophy was held on a league basis, which meant you played at least one game against each of the remaining four zones. This was then altered a bit by involving a foreign team to raise the level of competition, and having two groups of three teams. Even then, it meant at least two league games, with the top team from each group making it to the finals.

The format has now changed completely, with the exclusion of foreign teams and the tournament being held on a knock-out basis. The finalists from last season, along with a team picked randomly, get a bye to the semi-finals, while the remaining two teams play a quarter-final. While, in theory, a bye is a fitting reward for the defending champions and runners-up, it may not actually be the best situation for the players involved. By playing one less match, their batting and bowling statistics take a hit. One wants to have as many innings under the belt to pile on the runs or increase one's tally of wickets. But in this case, if your team did well the previous season, you get fewer chances to play.

The knock-out matches, with the exception of the final, are four-day games, which in most cases means the match gets decided on the basis of the first-innings lead, unless the track is under-prepared which is very unlikely at this level. A four-day knock-out match doesn't exactly challenge the teams enough and also mean that you might end up getting only one opportunity to showcase your skills, which may be insufficient and also dull to watch.

Just to make matters tougher for the players, there are only three days between the end of the Ranji final and the first Duleep Trophy game. The players who feature in the finals are, quite understandably, a tired lot and seldom find the enthusiasm to raise the bar so soon. Also, since the team has only one or two practice sessions together before the match, the chances of these talented individuals working as a team are not too high. Obviously then, the emphasis is on personal performances with very little regard to the demands of the team.

The Duleep Trophy is a great concept, but to ensure that its importance is not wasted on the players, the tournament needs an overhaul. More matches need to be played in order to give everyone a fair chance to make a mark, while a longer gap between the Ranji and Duleep Trophy games would ensure the zones play as teams.

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 Ashok Rajamani on (February 16, 2011, 21:58 GMT)

Agree with some of the earlier posters that it may be time get rid of the Duleep trophy. If we can somehow guarantee the partition of ALL the India stars, then Duleep is worth keeping. Keep it as a pre season tournament with the prior season's Ranji heroes playing the national stars. But this is wishful thinking. Knockout or round robin, does not matter. As for Ranji, we - atleast the real cricket fans - follow our state teams, national stars or not.

Posted by Jay on (February 13, 2011, 23:00 GMT)

Whats going in the Vijay Hazare tropphy? Rajasthan just lost their third straight match!

Posted by DINESH on (February 11, 2011, 6:34 GMT)

The aussies ruled the world from 1999 to 2008 was because of the good bowling unit and brisk run rate: Like Buchi Babu Tournament every team has to play 90 overs each on the first two days and 40 each overs each on the 3rd day so that every match will get a result, whehter it is a flat track or bowling track. The match will also be interesting and every player will have the ability of playing all formats of game. The present format only divides the players like Rahul Dravid for tests, Yuvraj Singh for ODI and Yusuf Pathan for T20. India can also have better records in all formats of the game than No.1 in tests No.2 in ODI and last place in T20.

Posted by Saurabh on (February 10, 2011, 19:20 GMT)

Akash is a good domestic batsman, and acute thinker. I think it will be good for the cricket if he can convert into a cricket administrator when he retires from cricket. He can connect well with the lowest level cricket to almost international level.

Posted by Sanket on (February 9, 2011, 22:12 GMT)

A league format for Duleep Trophy is good but can it be accommodated in the current schedule?

Posted by Sagar on (February 9, 2011, 17:38 GMT)

Didnt read Mr. Tharoors comment before posting original reply but disagree with him on B teams of the other countries. IPL/20-20 is already spreading cricket everywhere.

Duleep trophy must be the tournament to Identify the National team members as well as the first choice India A 15 members.

Posted by Sagar on (February 9, 2011, 17:35 GMT)

Duleep Trophy must include a India A, India B, and India Under 19 team. This would give opportunities for 45 more players to showcase their talent, make a comeback or knock the doors pretty early in the national team.

Two groups of 4 teams each with each team getting 3 matches. Top two teams from each group play the semi final and then the final.

In case of any tours of National team home or away, the players can be replaced giving more opportunities to more players.

4 matches can start on the same day.

Total of 15 matches to be played.

And yes all matches must be 5 days.

Difficult to fit in but for the future of cricket it must fit in.

Posted by Rajiv Raghunath on (February 9, 2011, 16:23 GMT)

Playing in the Duleep Trophy should be seen as the closest to playing for India. And those in the Indian side should necessarily not miss their zonal matches if they are not on tour. This will make the matches more competitive. If the players can make themselves available and fit for IPL, why cant they be playing in Duleep Trophy or other domestic matches?

Posted by Prakash on (February 9, 2011, 11:36 GMT)

Interesting to see Akash say "back then, Duleep trophy was held on a league basis..."

Actually, before what he refers to as 'back then' it was on a knock out basis, so to say that Duleep was the fulcrum of domestic cricket is questionable.

The key is to get test players to play...but they do not find it motivating enough. (shouldn't VVS and Dravid have appeared in this year's Duleep final?)

Posted by shri on (February 9, 2011, 9:02 GMT)

Couldnt agree more with Akash. The Duleep trophy is the only way to weigh the true worth of a cricketer. Keep 'em coming Akash.

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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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