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Points system, pitches feature in Chopra's paper

Nagraj Gollapudi

February 16, 2012

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Aakash Chopra and Dishant Yagnik added an unbroken 91 by stumps, Hyderabad v Rajasthan, Ranji Trophy quarter-final, Uppal, 1st day, January 2, 2012
Aakash Chopra: "My paper is all about whatever is plaguing domestic cricket and it is quite comprehensive" © Sakshi Telugu Daily
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The BCCI's technical committee is set to meet on Friday to discuss a number of issues surrounding the domestic game in India, including the merit of playing the Ranji Trophy quarter- and semi-finals over four days, and hosting all Ranji games at neutral venues.

In what could been seen as another positive step, the board asked the veteran domestic cricketer and former India opener Aakash Chopra to send in a paper with his suggestions and recommendations to improve domestic cricket. The paper will be presented at Friday's meeting in Mumbai, chaired by former India captain Sourav Ganguly.

The idea to pick Chopra's mind came from Ratnakar Shetty, the BCCI chief administrative officer. An avid reader, Shetty was impressed by Chopra's writings over the years in various media outlets, including ESPNcricinfo. But last November, when Rajasthan (the team Chopra represents as a professional) came to play in Mumbai during the Ranji Trophy league phase, Shetty suggested to him that a better forum would be to write directly to the board's technical committee. "Because the decisions are taken by them," Shetty explained, while speaking to ESPNcricinfo. "I told him since he was still playing his points would prove useful." Chopra finally sent in his paper earlier this week.

Chopra's paper is exhaustive with elaborate recommendations. Shetty said the points have been passed to the technical committee. "My paper is all about whatever is plaguing domestic cricket and it is quite comprehensive," Chopra told ESPNcricinfo.

The key issues Chopra has raised are the points system currently points in place, the quality of pitches, and the role and relevance of tournaments like the Duleep Trophy. Chopra, who has always been blunt in his opinion pieces on domestic cricket, said that his paper stressed upon the solutions, too, without just harping about what ails the game.

"If we can correct these things, the rest would take care of itself," Chopra said. "If you talk about pitches, everyone knows that we must produce lively and sporting tracks."

Consequently, in a radical move, the board's working committee recommended that the league matches during the Ranji Trophy be played at neutral venues, drawing a mixed response from the players. Shetty said the technical committee would deliberate on the matter tomorrow.

Chopra said that this scenario had been created only because the state associations refused to pay heed to the board's grounds and pitches committee's brief. "Unfortunately it is always about what suits their (individual states') players and what their position is during the league phase."

A prime example of a bad pitch was January's Ranji final played in Chennai between Tamil Nadu and defending champions Rajasthan. Though Rajasthan won the title, Chopra agreed that the dead and slow pitch was a bad exhibition of the current state of affairs with regards to playing surfaces. "We had the head of the pitch committee and the south zone member on the pitch committee [present], and we were playing at a Test centre. All of them could do absolutely nothing."

As a solution, Chopra has a better approach than playing at neutral venues: the grounds and pitches committee must be made accountable for each and every first-class ground in the country. "If you cannot monitor it successfully, the state association should be slapped with financial penalties for making highways."

Chopra felt the current points system - that gives teams three points for securing the first-innings lead in drawn games - made for boring cricket and rewarded mediocrity. "We have to do away with the first-innings lead points. If it is retained the points accrued should be minuscule. It should not have a huge impact towards the end of the season."

As a counter measure, Chopra felt it would be good to introduce points for batting and bowling as is the case in England. "Then there should be a huge bonus for an outright victory, both in terms of points as well as money."

The monetary reward, Chopra stressed, would come into play during the knockouts where teams can't have the points system and they would rely on the first innings lead. "I am 100% certain that teams would go that extra yard because every cricketer likes to have his kitty full."

Chopra was also concerned about the domestic calendar which kicks off in October and is choc-a-bloc with players participating in various tournaments till March before the IPL begins in early April. "The calendar is crowded and something needs to be done about it," he said.

Several cricket watchers including Harsha Bhogle have suggested that the Ranji Trophy should abolish the Elite and Plate group format, and the number of teams should be brought down from the existing 27 to 12. "There is a radical thought that fewer teams would mean better competition," Chopra said. "That is true. But is it is possible within our system?" Chopra has said that since that is not "plausible" he has some suggestions where the BCCI could make the most of the 27 teams and how the competition would be a level-playing field.

Chopra also endorsed the idea that knockout games should be played over five days. "My issue is that, in knockouts, a lead of one run cannot be a substantial differentiator between the quality of two sides," he explained.

According to Chopra, in a four-day game there is no time to bounce back if the opponent takes a lead, no matter how marginal. "If you eliminate that by having a five-day game there is more time if you have the intent. And in knockouts teams definitely would like to make a match out of it but there needs to be a realistic chance in terms of time."

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by prasanna_79 on (February 17, 2012, 16:01 GMT)

The main thing to be done to improve the quality of first class cricket in our country is to increase the no. of matches & duration of the duleep trophy..! The performances in the duleep trophy needs to be given more weightage while selecting test teams.. There is absolutely no need to reduce the no. of teams in the ranji trophy..! In fact the best players from each zone (based on their performances in ranji) should be selected in the Duleep trophy zonal teams and each zone should play one another in neutral venues and on sporting pitches.. If possible, the matches can be conducted in some of the grounds in england,australia or south africa to test their mettle thoroughly.. Only those who perform consistently in Duleep trophy should be given priority while selecting test teams in future.. By doing this , the standard of Duleep Trophy will improve dramatically and the urge to get into the zonal team would act as a catalyst for players to perform to their best in ranji.. Hows d idea..?!

Posted by   on (February 17, 2012, 1:48 GMT)

Step in the right direction I would say, however the concerns I still have would the number of teams, we have far too many teams. There has to be a way of including players from smaller states. Ideally not more than 16 teams should compete. The quality of pitches we all know has been a huge concern for many years now, while there is no harm in producing rank turners the issue is we have been producing dead pitches with nothing in them absolutely nothing in them. In places like Chennai, Mohali & to an extent in even in places like Mumbai & Bangalore we should have green pitches and test some of the aspiring batters. Finally I'm not convinced about neutral venues, understand even on home pithches there are hardly spectatotrs but on neutral venues the interest will worst. We should continue with home matches however with clear diktat if pitches are dead there would penalty in monetary form and points would be docked. If we can do these no reason why our structure can't be competetive.

Posted by lokphy on (February 16, 2012, 21:27 GMT)

I wonder he be made test captain of india and allowed to pick his own team.. might be he will bring back no.1 status and maintain it for long, like he is doing with Rajasthan...

Posted by Roykunal on (February 16, 2012, 20:19 GMT)

Good start but we have to wait to see how many of these points are considered by BCCI finally.The major problem is with the pitches.Our soil and weather are not similar to Eng,Aus or SA.But we can atleast prepare result oriented pitches which can be spin friendly.So that if touring teams comes to India,we can also beat them 3-0 or 4-0.Instead of that,we produce Highways and even sometimes the touring teams gains a heavy lead.Atleast we should try to be nearly invincible at home.And atleast one pitch with pace bowling conditions can be prepared for each zone.

Posted by Cobra0077 on (February 16, 2012, 18:24 GMT)

Part of Chopra's comment is ok, but, the rest caters to a lot of thing's that would lead to India's biggest problem and that is corruption. First and foremost BCCI should start with basics and that is the main playing field (the part that can be controlled i.e.; weather cannot be controlled). Have the Technical committee come up with a solution to pitches with a pitch that is acceptable to be even to all players and that is the pitch should be fair to all sorts of bowling and also fair to the batsmen. Second, T20 and ODI have many rules that are against bowlers (it's a form of discrimination), let the game be played as it should be played, get rid of power play, etc. & 2 different versions of wide ball (test) etc. Make the game decisions more accurate, but, that decision should be made by the umpire (many games are lost or won by limiting no. of appeals). The above should be a good trial and if successful then BCCI should recomend this system to ICC and remember India will be ahead.

Posted by   on (February 16, 2012, 17:59 GMT)

lets scrap the unnecessary tournaments like duleep trophy,deodhar trophy.Prolong the Ranji trophy till end of February with more matches and less groups( Instead of 4 groups make it three).Let IPL teams have a longer format tournament running parallel to ranji Trophy with major players running from December to February.

IPL Teams 5days DEC-FEB T20 APR-MAY STATE Teams 4days NOV-FEB 50 MAR-APR U22 3days NOV-FEB

Posted by chsj on (February 16, 2012, 17:31 GMT)

Even for drawn games, the bowlers should be rewarded too - say not just giving points based on first innings lead alone, but also to the team that secured more wickets in the match; which could make second innings also matter in addition to lead in first innings. Another aspect for drawn games could include run-rate difference too, so at least the boredom of dead pitches could be reduced a little.

Posted by Unmesh_cric on (February 16, 2012, 16:59 GMT)

I agree with Akash Chopra about the points for the first-innings lead. This year's Ranji final was a prime example. Rajasthan did not win the match, but won the trophy based on the first-inning lead. Also, the 4-day format for league matches means more draws. If you look at the points table, there are only a few wins and teams are happy as long as they get the first-inning lead, which is sometimes related to who wins the toss. Kudos to Akash Chopra for at least trying to help Indian domestic cricket.

Posted by ToTellUTheTruth on (February 16, 2012, 16:22 GMT)

Who better than Akash to point out the flaws in the current system. I congratulate Ratankar Shetty for his vision in recruiting Akash to come up with this review. BCCI does good some times. Great job and a huge pat on back for all BCCI technical/non-technical management teams. Get Akash as the "on field" expert in the technical committee at the earliest.

Posted by   on (February 16, 2012, 15:56 GMT)

I have to agree with the changes to the point system. Going for victories should be rewarded, it will develop a killer instinct among the players which will eventually translate to the national side. Also sporting pitches does not always mean seamer friendly ones, even spinner friendly ones are important as playing spin is also an art. We should have a good balance of pitches around the country, whichever is the central authority for pitches should be given more powers to ensure this. But i disagree on giving less importance to the zonal competition. Duleep trophy is more competitive than Ranji for sure as the elite in each zone play against one another.

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