Indian domestic cricket February 7, 2011

The Duleep Trophy needs a revamp

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
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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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • 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.

  • Jay on February 13, 2011, 23:00 GMT

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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?)

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Jay on February 13, 2011, 23:00 GMT

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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?)

  • 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.

  • Babu on February 9, 2011, 7:09 GMT

    Hope this would be done for the coming season!

  • K. Chandran on February 8, 2011, 17:23 GMT

    Yes I agree with Aakash, one more thing in this tournament lot of current Indian players missing because of tour iterniary, BCCI directs the players play complusory in the Duleep trophy even adjust FTP.

  • Mubin on February 8, 2011, 11:45 GMT

    @Shashi Tharoor - Great idea Sir.

  • varkey's on February 8, 2011, 7:40 GMT

    Happy thing of this year event is team gone for more attack(on batting) won the game.. far better than Rajasthan and chopra's technique to defend for 3 day and win. its victory for south zone batsman

  • Neeraj Vairagi on February 8, 2011, 5:07 GMT

    Agree with Venkat. We are not in the condition to revive Duleep with the coming of tantalizing IPL prospect. BCCI should do something for Ranji as it is something which is more alive rather than dead like Duleep trophy with the players hardly having a team feeling in duleep trophies

  • D.K.DAS on February 7, 2011, 13:40 GMT

    As usual, Akash Chopra has come out with some problem, which nowadays is not getting enough attention that it deserves, and used to get some 20-25years back, long time by today's fast life, one would say, but the senior age followers of the game would distinctly recollect how this forum brought into limelight (place in India team) to many illustrated luminaries of Indian cricket, -take Dilip Vengsarkar, Kapil Dev, or more recently Anil Kumble, - all by performance in either Duleep trophy or Irani Trophy, both of which are now conducted just for formality, rather than basic purpose of unearthing hitherto unspotted talent. Now natuarlly even participating players just donot take with similar intensity. Why such tournaments, even University level tournaments had unearthed so many, ask Gavaskar, Vengsarkar.. Unfortunately with current fiasco of 20-20, all such conventional tournaments have taken a back seat, and thus no wonder a Saurabh Tiwary sells at many times the price of Manish Pande

  • Shashi Tharoor on February 7, 2011, 12:42 GMT

    Agree completely with you, Akash. I'd go further and suggest the inclusion of "B" Teams (second XIs) from Sri Lanka, Pakistan,and Bangladesh to make it an even stronger 8-team competition with two leagues of four teams each, semi-finals and a final. It would also be a great Indian contribution to the development of 5-day cricketing skills in the subcontinent.

  • R Sriram on February 7, 2011, 12:16 GMT

    The whole concept of Ranji Trophy with only 4 days and flat pitches which produces only draw in itself requires a big overhaul.

  • venkat on February 7, 2011, 11:50 GMT

    The Duleep trophy is an anachoronism. Even for the few followers of the domestic cricket, the duleep trophy means nothing. A lot of us follow the Ranji trophy very closely and are even passionate about the team we support. But nobody including the players themselves are bothered about a zone. Honestly, a player takes a lot more pride in representing Mumbai or Tamil Nadu than in representing a west zone or a south zone. It is best that we scrap this tournament and concentrate on making the Ranji Trophy the marquee tournament in our calendar. We should also make the Ranji trophy a keenly contested tournament and there should be an intensity to every game. We are much better off removing the Duleep trophy rather than trying to revive it.

  • Haridsh on February 7, 2011, 10:47 GMT

    This is a very good decision

  • Raj on February 7, 2011, 10:46 GMT

    Yes need to be modified according to the current scenario

  • kailash on February 7, 2011, 8:58 GMT

    I think Akash makes a valid case. There are also needs to be more teams to bring in the competitive spirit. The foreign team was a very good idea and should be restarted. Maybe every year, you could have the best team from a region invited to the Championship. This will be a good exposure for all.

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  • kailash on February 7, 2011, 8:58 GMT

    I think Akash makes a valid case. There are also needs to be more teams to bring in the competitive spirit. The foreign team was a very good idea and should be restarted. Maybe every year, you could have the best team from a region invited to the Championship. This will be a good exposure for all.

  • Raj on February 7, 2011, 10:46 GMT

    Yes need to be modified according to the current scenario

  • Haridsh on February 7, 2011, 10:47 GMT

    This is a very good decision

  • venkat on February 7, 2011, 11:50 GMT

    The Duleep trophy is an anachoronism. Even for the few followers of the domestic cricket, the duleep trophy means nothing. A lot of us follow the Ranji trophy very closely and are even passionate about the team we support. But nobody including the players themselves are bothered about a zone. Honestly, a player takes a lot more pride in representing Mumbai or Tamil Nadu than in representing a west zone or a south zone. It is best that we scrap this tournament and concentrate on making the Ranji Trophy the marquee tournament in our calendar. We should also make the Ranji trophy a keenly contested tournament and there should be an intensity to every game. We are much better off removing the Duleep trophy rather than trying to revive it.

  • R Sriram on February 7, 2011, 12:16 GMT

    The whole concept of Ranji Trophy with only 4 days and flat pitches which produces only draw in itself requires a big overhaul.

  • Shashi Tharoor on February 7, 2011, 12:42 GMT

    Agree completely with you, Akash. I'd go further and suggest the inclusion of "B" Teams (second XIs) from Sri Lanka, Pakistan,and Bangladesh to make it an even stronger 8-team competition with two leagues of four teams each, semi-finals and a final. It would also be a great Indian contribution to the development of 5-day cricketing skills in the subcontinent.

  • D.K.DAS on February 7, 2011, 13:40 GMT

    As usual, Akash Chopra has come out with some problem, which nowadays is not getting enough attention that it deserves, and used to get some 20-25years back, long time by today's fast life, one would say, but the senior age followers of the game would distinctly recollect how this forum brought into limelight (place in India team) to many illustrated luminaries of Indian cricket, -take Dilip Vengsarkar, Kapil Dev, or more recently Anil Kumble, - all by performance in either Duleep trophy or Irani Trophy, both of which are now conducted just for formality, rather than basic purpose of unearthing hitherto unspotted talent. Now natuarlly even participating players just donot take with similar intensity. Why such tournaments, even University level tournaments had unearthed so many, ask Gavaskar, Vengsarkar.. Unfortunately with current fiasco of 20-20, all such conventional tournaments have taken a back seat, and thus no wonder a Saurabh Tiwary sells at many times the price of Manish Pande

  • Neeraj Vairagi on February 8, 2011, 5:07 GMT

    Agree with Venkat. We are not in the condition to revive Duleep with the coming of tantalizing IPL prospect. BCCI should do something for Ranji as it is something which is more alive rather than dead like Duleep trophy with the players hardly having a team feeling in duleep trophies

  • varkey's on February 8, 2011, 7:40 GMT

    Happy thing of this year event is team gone for more attack(on batting) won the game.. far better than Rajasthan and chopra's technique to defend for 3 day and win. its victory for south zone batsman

  • Mubin on February 8, 2011, 11:45 GMT

    @Shashi Tharoor - Great idea Sir.