Chhattisgarh push for own Ranji team
The September meeting of the BCCI could offer up a new Ranji Trophy team, should Chhattisgarh be recognised as the 31st full member of the BCCI. Officials of the Chhattisgarh State Cricket Sangh are hoping they will move up from being an affiliate member of the BCCI, to its full member ranks.
After dominating the BCCI associates and affiliates championship for a couple of seasons, Chhattisgarh have been elevated into all the BCCI junior tournaments. According to Rajesh Dave, secretary of the CSCS, that in itself is an admission on the BCCI's part that the state is ready to compete at the highest level.
"Had our players not been of the required standard, the board wouldn't have promoted us to the Plate Group of the Under-19 and Under-25 tournaments. After earning the requisite experience for two years, the Under-25 players feel they are ready to take the next step forward," Dave told ESPNcricinfo. "We sincerely hope that the efforts of the players and the association are recognized, especially since we have fulfilled the basic criteria set for earning the status of a full member."
According to the BCCI regulations, an associate member can be promoted as a full member if the said member "is an Associate Member for a continuous period of five cricketing seasons, and such a member satisfies the board that the game in its jurisdiction has reached a standard justifying its participation in the national tournament of Ranji Trophy."
If the board has to grant the status of a full member on receipt of an application from the associate member, it must appoint a special committee "which the board shall consider at its next General Body Meeting. The recommendations of the special committee for the promotion shall be accepted if it is passed by 3/4th majority of the members present and voting. The board may reject any application for promotion without assigning any reasons therefore."
Last season, the Chhattisgarh Under-16 and Under-25 teams finished at the bottom of their respective groups in the Vijay Merchant trophy's zonal league and CK Nayudu Trophy's plate league, respectively. Their Under-19 team, however, finished third in their group in the Cooch Behar Trophy plate league and missed qualifying for the semi-finals of the lower tier by a whisker.
Till now, Chhattisgarh's only brush with top-quality cricket was when Delhi Daredevils' played two of their home games at the newly-constructed Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh International Stadium in Naya Raipur in 2013. Dave said that the plush stadium is "one of the 10 stadiums in the state that can host first-class games".
At the moment, despite their dire financial situation, CSCS conducts an inter-district tournament for all age groups in which 19 teams - 18 districts and the Bhilai Steel Plant as an invitational team - participate annually. The tournament, with an incentive to represent the state team, has given a ray of hope to kids in the state which has been dealing with a severe Naxal threat.
As an associate member, CSCS gets an annual grant of Rs 75 lakh (Rs 7.5 million) from the BCCI. If they are awarded Ranji status, the association will earn at least Rs 20 crore (Rs 200 million).
Dave believes that the full member status can help CSCS take their endeavour to the next step. "At the moment, we are making our ends meet somehow since the money that we get from the board is a paltry amount," he said. "If we are awarded the full member status, the inflow of funds from the BCCI will help us take the game all over the state. Most importantly, the players can earn their livelihood solely on cricket."
BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel said it will be up to the AGM in September whether to consider Chhattisgarh's request. "It is an AGM issue. At the moment, it's difficult to confirm whether it will be discussed in the AGM or not," Patel told ESPNcricinfo. "If the AGM feels it's appropriate to take the next step forward, it will surely constitute a special committee to inspect the progress Chhattisgarh has made."
A populist view among the BCCI members is that Chhattisgarh's case will remain pending even this September, just as it was in the last AGM. The primary reason, as cited by many members, is the lack of will at the top.
With the Supreme Court watching its every move, the BCCI has been walking on a tight rope. If the ambiguity surrounding the status of the BCCI chief - at the moment, the apex court has appointed two chiefs as N Srinivasan's replacement - continues ahead of the AGM, then Chhattigarh's wait might continue into the new season.
Besides, addition of a full member would mean change in the voting pattern in the BCCI. For a body that has only 30 voting members, a rise in the number of votes by a solitary vote may mean a lot in an election scenario. As a result, Chhattisgarh may just have to make do with junior tournaments for another year or two. If that happens, Dave fears the state will lose some of its main players. "The top Under-25 players want to play in the Ranji Trophy now and if our request is not heard, we fear that we will lose some of our players to other teams.
"In any case, at the moment, at least ten players who hail from Chhattisgarh are playing for various teams in domestic cricket. I just hope that the BCCI takes the future of young cricketers from the state into account and grants the status of a full member to us."
Chhattisgarh, along with the Sikkim Cricket Association, Manipur Cricket Association and Bihar Cricket Association (not Cricket Association of Bihar which has been in a litigation with the BCCI) are BCCI's associate members. Meghalaya, Nagaland and Arunachal happen to be affiliate members.
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo