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Domestic calendar needs revamp - Aakash Chopra

Sharda Ugra

November 15, 2011

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Aakash Chopra pulls the ball during his 55, Tamil Nadu v Delhi, Ranji Trophy Super League, Group A, 7th round, 2nd day, Chennai,   December 26, 2007
Aakash Chopra: "Even if a player makes a name for himself in the IPL, I would still advise him to get a season of first-class cricket under his belt" © ESPNcricinfo Ltd
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Aakash Chopra, the former India opener, has called for changes to the domestic game, including a remodelling of the Ranji Trophy points system and a more reasonable and thought-through calendar for first-class cricket. Chopra was releasing his second book on Indian first-class cricket in New Delhi and his statements on the game - he also said the Duleep Trophy had made itself redundant by turning into a knock-out format - came in the presence of BCCI official and IPL chairman Rajeev Shukla.

Chopra, who made his first class debut in 1997-98 and currently plays for Rajasthan after a decade with Delhi, was speaking at the release of Out of the Blue: Rajasthan's Road to the Ranji Trophy. The event was attended by a large number of first-class cricketers from four teams - Rajasthan, Delhi, Tamil Nadu and Railways - all gathered in Delhi two days before the start of the third round of Ranji Trophy matches.

In a discussion with Amrit Mathur, CEO of the Delhi Daredevils franchise, Chopra talked about the crowded domestic calendar that left teams to deal with preparing for a four-day event through the staging of a Twenty20 tournament. "All first-class players would be happy to play eight months a year but it needs to be more sensibly organised. You have two four-day events, two T20 events and two one-day tournaments. This year we played the Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament before the Ranji Trophy kicked in. We prepared for the four-day game by playing with the white ball."

The Duleep Trophy's knock-out format, he said, had robbed the tournament of its stature. "I used to love the Duleep Trophy, performing in it meant performing against the best in the country. But with a knock-out format it is meaningless because your chance has gone if your team loses." The logic behind using the Kookaburra ball in the Duleep Trophy, he said, was also undermined by the format. "If you play just one match with the Kookaburra, you don't get enough muscle memory on how to play with it. Once a year with the Kookaburra is not enough."

The Ranji Trophy points format awarding three points for a first innings lead and five for an outright win served no purpose, as the difference between a victory and a draw was a mere two points. "We need to reward and encourage teams to win matches, bigger incentives say 10 points for winning a game, and bowling and batting points so that the losing team goes away with something. We need to find a better solution."

The IPL, Chopra felt, was a proven platform for many youngsters but it was unreasonable to expect success in the T20 format to be a launch pad for an India place - and the exceptions who had made the breakthrough had influenced the ambitions of their peers. "There are many players, like Deepak Chahar and Ashok Menaria, who have the ambition for not just the Duleep Trophy but a chance in the India team... The fire is still there for them, but not for everyone. Some players are short-sighted and think that you can can actually bypass the rigours of first class cricket, through the IPL become the next Rahul Sharma... Even if a player makes a name for himself in the IPL, catches the eye, I would still advise him to get a season of first-class cricket under his belt."

Chopra is one of the most prolific contemporary chroniclers of the first-class game, writing columns in newspapers, speaking on television and, with Out of the Blue, producing his second book on the Ranji Trophy. His first, Beyond the Blues: A First-Class Season Like No Other, was about Delhi's victory in the 2007-08 Ranji Trophy season.

At Tuesday's book launch event, Rajasthan's players were welcomed into the hall and seated at the front, where they watched a short video produced by Rajasthan's data analyst Manish Goyal with footage from their Ranji-winning season, set to Right Said Fred's "Stand Up (For the Champions)". For everyone involved in it, the story of Rajasthan's achievement will always remain, on film and on paper, recorded by one of their own. Not even Mumbai's 39-time Ranji winners have that.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Farce-Follower on (November 17, 2011, 0:47 GMT)

@AbySiby : Spot on...no use Virat Kohli too hanging around...Delhi has sunk to new lows. Akash Chopra has made many terrific observations. Good on him.

Posted by Paddle_Sweep on (November 16, 2011, 14:15 GMT)

Hats off to Akash Chopra. At least there is someone who speaks with sense and with clarity.

Posted by   on (November 16, 2011, 14:14 GMT)

Dear Akash, your views are as insightful as always. There is a dangerous trend of IPL becoming short cut to Test/ODI-- For outright win there should be 8 to 10 points Scheduling and venues are also disadvantageous for South Indian teams as it is rainy season here at that time. Pl do write something about the pitches--Do you think out right win is a possibility? Most of them are flat and we cannot produce pace/swing bowlers in these pitches--We can only genrate batsmen who amass tons in local pitches but invariably fail in foreign tours You certainly deserve a place in BCCI thinktank if BCCI wants to take cricket forward in the country Pl. continue your articulation whenever you have the opportunity

Posted by AbySibyKalapurayil on (November 16, 2011, 14:06 GMT)

Chopra, u missed one point... The importance of releasing bench players in Indian Team of ongoing series. In England and some other parts of the world, players who were not playing in the international match are released for county matches. It will give them match practice rather than warming the bench.

I just heard that BCCI released Rahane for playing tomorrows Ranji Trophy match for Mumbai against Karnataka. I think Rahul Sharma and Varon Aaron should be released too, as they played very less First Class Matches(Rahul-10 and Aaron-12)...

Posted by ZIMMYZIMMY on (November 16, 2011, 9:34 GMT)

GOOD WORDS....LETS SEE,IF THIS WILL IMPLEMENT EVERY GOOD PLAYER WILL COME TO SEEN....

Posted by Shredderwoods on (November 16, 2011, 8:13 GMT)

Akash, I would really like to you move up the ladder. I see that you have vision and you understand the problems. What is needed from you to be ambitious and do something what you feel about than merely writing.

Posted by Tendulkars_Tennis_Elbow on (November 16, 2011, 5:57 GMT)

Good job Akash. Hope the BCCI takes note.

Posted by CricketChat on (November 16, 2011, 0:35 GMT)

Having followed Aakash for many yrs now, I think he speaks more sensibly than so called experts like Sunil, Ravi, etc.. If BCCI cares for Ind cricket, they should include him in the think tank along with Sourav. May be the realization that he has no chance for higher honors has prompted Aakash over the yrs to highlight many shortcomings in Ind administration. All the same, he makes more sense than some of the more well known names from yester yrs.

Posted by   on (November 15, 2011, 22:54 GMT)

Chopra is our own Peter Roebuck. He writes with so much clarity and details. Brings you close into the ring having been in the ring understands players point of view....though all ex-cricketers cannot be good writers e.g.Gavaskar and shastri.

All the best Chopra

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