India news January 17, 2012

Punjab bars Under-21 players from Twenty20

ESPNcricinfo staff

The Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) has barred its Under-21 players from taking part in Twenty20 cricket, including the lucrative IPL. The decision was taken at the state association's Administrative Committee meeting in Mohali on Sunday and will need to be ratified at the next Executive Committee meeting.

The move comes at a time when the IPL has been cited as one of the reasons for India's abject surrender of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in Australia, where the visitors have lost the first three Tests, the last two by an innings. "The idea was being discussed among PCA members for some time now," Sushil Kapoor, the PCA spokesperson, told the Mumbai Mirror. "It was felt that youngsters were losing their focus and were not ready to grind it out during the two, three or four day games."

Punjab is the first state association to restrict its players from the shortest version of the game, and their stand is counter to other associations such as Maharashtra, Karnataka, Orissa and Jharkhand that have started their own T20 leagues. The board is aware that some players may not be happy about the decision, but association secretary MP Pandove said it was done in the larger interest of cricket.

"Look, we are the first Association to take this step in the interest of players, many of whom I know will not like it," Pandove told PTI. "We strongly felt that 17 to 21 years are formative years for any player and there should be no distraction. The step which we have taken is in the larger interest of players and the country's cricket as a whole."

Punjab has allowed one exception to their ban. Players who are contracted by BCCI will be allowed to play Twenty20 cricket even if they are under the age of 21.

Former India batsman Vikram Rathour, who is the assistant coach of IPL franchise King's XI Punjab as well as coach of Punjab's Ranji Trophy team, told ESPNcricinfo that he had been spoken to by the PCA before the decision was taken at the meeting. "I wasn't part of the meeting and was spoken about it, principally I agreed to the idea. I think it is a good call. More than people being concerned about young guys getting lots of money from T20 and losing focus, I had cricketing concerns."

He said the players had trouble adjusting from the T20 cricket to four-day games, something he noticed while working with the Punjab team during the week between the end of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy T20 competition league phase and the start of the Ranji Trophy. "At that time, we had been working on getting the players to play the reverse sweep and the upper cut. Then a week later we had to ask them to leave the ball because we had switched to four-day cricket. even the most experienced players found it a struggle, it was too much for the youngsters to adjust."

However, Rathour said that it was possible the PCA may have to make considerations for players who were exceptionally suited for a shorter format of the game, though the principle on which the new rule had come into being was worth sticking with. "I always believe that it is possible that a good player in the long format will be able to switch to the shorter format but it doesn't happen the other way around."