Ranji Trophy 2013-14 January 6, 2014

Unfair to not release players for Ranji - Prasad

Venkatesh Prasad, the Uttar Pradesh coach, is disappointed over the BCCI's decision to not allow six New Zealand-bound India cricketers to play the Ranji Trophy quarter-finals. Suresh Raina and Bhuvneshwar Kumar (UP), Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane (Mumbai), Stuart Binny (Karnataka) and Mohammed Shami (Bengal) could have played in the quarters starting on January 8. However the BCCI decided to let these players depart with the rest of the India ODI squad for New Zealand on January 12, the last day of the quarters.

Prasad, the former India seamer and bowling coach, had sent a written request to the board via the Uttar Pradesh Cricket Association on January 2, the last day of UP's final-round match against Railways in Lucknow. "They did not approve," Prasad told ESPNcricinfo.

The biggest disadvantage, Prasad reckoned, was that the Ranji competition would be diluted. "You want the best players in the tournament to compete," Prasad said. "It also helps the youngsters in the squad who can only learn from the international players."

Prasad failed to understand the hurry in sending the players specifically on January 12 when India are scheduled to play their first match only a week later. "They could have departed a day later. In any case they are playing their first match on January 19," Prasad said.

The national selectors and the Indian team management should have taken the initiative, Prasad felt. "Just imagine Bhuvneshwar going to New Zealand with confidence and rhythm having played this match," Prasad said. Bhuvneshwar, Prasad pointed out, has not played a game since a month and would have only benefitted from playing against a quality opponent like Karnataka. "Bhuvneshwar has not played since the first ODI in South Africa," Prasad said. "If he had played Karnataka, it would only help his match fitness."

According to a senior BCCI official, most of the players were returning after a full tour of South Africa and it was only just that they relax. "They have just come back from South Africa. Also, they leave shortly for what will be the start of a hectic year. So this is the time where they need to relax and recuperate."

Ashok Malhotra, the former India batsman and currently Bengal coach, agreed with Prasad that international players "add to glamour quotient," thereby enhancing the image of the Ranji Trophy. Malhotra said he is yet to hear from the Cricket Association of Bengal, whom he had asked to check if Shami could be allowed to play the quarter-final against Railways. "I don't mind having Shami even till the 11th in case the Indian squad is leaving the next day," Malhotra said. "By playing or being there he increases the morale of the Bengal side."

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo