India domestic news February 14, 2012

Ranji games to be played at neutral venues

ESPNcricinfo staff

All Ranji Trophy matches from the 2012-13 season onwards will be played at neutral venues, the BCCI has decided. The decision, taken at the board's working committee meeting in Chennai on Monday, will reduce home-team advantage in the Ranji Trophy by denying teams the opportunity to prepare pitches that suit their strengths.

After the meeting, BCCI president N Srinivasan said there was no need yet for an inquiry into the Indian team's poor form away from home. However, the board has taken some steps to develop cricket within the country, with the use of neutral venues for Ranji matches the biggest change.

The BCCI had introduced neutral venues for Ranji knockout matches in the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons but the move was opposed by some senior players. Sanjay Bangar, an 18-year-old veteran of the Ranji circuit, said neutral venues would give domestic players experience in varied conditions.

"It is a good move," Bangar said. "It will ensure proper facilities for players from teams which can't provide them at the moment. Also, it will give players the experience of playing in varied conditions. Right now, a Mumbai player plays half of his matches in Mumbai. So he is used to playing only in those conditions.

It will also lead to better pitches. There is a lot of pressure on home associations to prepare pitches that suit the home team. It will involve logistical issues, but it is a risk worth taking."

Narendra Hirwani, the national selector (Central Zone) and former India legspinner, said having neutral venues would allow zonal curators more control. "Yes, it will be logistically more difficult but you have to endure some pain if you want to improve the game in the country," he said. "It is practically not possible for zonal curators to oversee pitch preparation at so many home venues. Even if they go to all the venues, it is only for a few days.

"We should ideally take this a step further and improve the standard of our practice pitches. They are of such a standard usually that a spinner does not have to make any effort to turn the ball on them. He is then found out in the actual game."

The board has also announced plans for a new academy in Bangalore, the location of the National Cricket Academy. "The process is on and the budget is in the range of Rs 100 crore," Srinivasan said. There will also be India A and Under-19 tours of the West Indies, England, Australia and South Africa over the next few years. "It will start with the India A team touring West Indies in June," Srinivasan said.

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