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A step ahead for Indian cricket

The restructured Ranji Trophy sounds like an improvement, but why do we still have the Duleep?

Harsha Bhogle

June 15, 2012

Comments: 35 | Text size: A | A

India Blue with the NKP Salve Challenger Trophy, India Blue v India Green, final, NKP Salve Challenger Trophy, Indore, October 11, 2010
The Challenger Trophy: dispensable © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

At last, some light at the end of what seemed an interminable tunnel. India's domestic cricket, as contemporary as the long-playing record and as effective as a coalition government, is letting itself change a bit. It was doing India's cricket no good at all, and while you could still do a bit of nitpicking with what this committee has come up with, the intent is admirable, and it will be disappointing if the changes are not accepted immediately.

As readers of this column may be aware, I have argued that the ideal number of teams in the Ranji Trophy is 12. Playing 27 teams entails diluting quality far too much. India's domestic cricket has long been irrelevant and uncompetitive, and at last that has been accepted. No change can begin unless there is an acceptance that the present system is ineffective.

We still have 27 teams (the political reality, as we see every day, often comes in the way of a greater good) but the marginal teams, those that bring the overall standard down, will now be marginalised further with the suggestion that you have three divisions of nine teams each. It might be harsh on them but if promotion to a higher group isn't an incentive, maybe they shouldn't be playing anyway.

There is an attempt to make each match competitive by allowing the top three in each of the first two groups to play the knockouts and the bottom two to go down. This is especially true of level two, where you could finish outside the top two, and therefore not be promoted, but still have the opportunity of playing the knockouts. And there is an opportunity for level three teams, with the top two allowed into the quarter-finals.

You could say that having two teams from the bottom nine will dilute the level of the knockout stage, but it could be just the reward for a team with ambition - as we saw with Rajasthan a couple of years ago. And even a team that finishes fourth in level one will have played eight first-class games, which is a couple short of ideal but better than how it is now.

The perfect follow-up to this would have been a respectful burial for the Duleep Trophy. When you are playing enough first-class games for your state side, there is nothing to be gained from the Duleep Trophy. Worse still, it promotes individual play, as that other irrelevant tournament, the Challenger, does too. Any tournament that has as its objective the promotion of individual effort and does nothing to promote a team ethic has to be scrapped, and so, while the Duleep Trophy honours one of our greats, it actually harms our cricket.

Any tournament that has as its objective the promotion of individual effort and does nothing to promote a team ethic has to be scrapped, and so, while the Duleep Trophy honours one of our greats, it actually harms our cricket

So does the Challenger. By allowing the winner of the Vijay Hazare Trophy to be one of the three teams involved, that is lessened marginally, but it is still an unnecessary tournament. Sometimes a body gets healthier by removing toxins. If you want domestic cricket to produce hardened team players, you cannot have events where players are just distributed around. Playing for two teams, a state team and the national team, should be good enough.

By allowing two bouncers an over in limited-overs cricket, this committee is testing batsmen a bit more and aligning rules to international limited-overs cricket, which is how it should be. It has also shown a desire to innovate by allowing one bowler 12 overs and keeping the others down to a maximum of ten. It will be interesting to see how captains play this, because, as with the Supersub, sometimes good ideas can be rendered ineffective by poor use by captains.

And right at the bottom of the pyramid comes a very interesting change. The Under-22 tournament as we knew it will no longer exist and will be replaced by the state A team, which can take players upto 25. For too long India's cricket has been obsessed with age, and that, as everyone knows, is an invitation to produce imaginative dates of birth. Many years ago the South Zone had a tournament everyone called the Junior State (the P Ramchandra Rao Trophy). You could play in it till you were 25, but not after you had made your Ranji Trophy debut. In essence it was an opportunity to look at players at a level higher than the top city league. It worked really well then, and I often wondered why the idea wasn't implemented elsewhere. Now it is going to be, but with teams allowed to play three Ranji Trophy players. I think it works well without the three, but I can see how having them is an attempt not just to make it more competitive but also to allow out-of-form state players to make a comeback. In the overall revamp it might seem like a small thing, but it shows an attention to detail that is heartwarming.

Maybe we need to look at this as Reforms 1.0, to be followed soon enough - no later than a year - by Reforms 2.0. There is room for other reforms too, especially to do with pitches; accounting in national and, especially, state bodies; and the remuneration structure for Test cricket, which should be at the heart of retaining that form of the game.

Ah, and one other thing. You put good people in good positions and you get good results.

Harsha Bhogle is a commentator, television presenter and writer. His Twitter feed is here

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Posted by Smithie on (June 18, 2012, 13:50 GMT)

@sweetspot not clear from your analysis how any of this refutes any of the answers I gave to the original questions you posed on DRS. Very interested to learn how you believe that improving umpiring accuracy from 93% [pre DRS] to 98% (post DRS) does not improve the game of cricket.??? You also continue to fail to explain why India rejects DRS.

Posted by sweetspot on (June 17, 2012, 21:27 GMT)

@ Smithie - By your logic, you have the perfect comparison platform since other captains were using DRS while Dhoni was not in the same games! Getting it wrong or right can go any way. This is not meant to challenge the captain's judgment, it is the umpire's!!! Umpires were already well over 93% right when DRS was applied to the replays from games in which it was not officially employed. DRS is not just ball tracking, it is that wretched Hot Spot as well, which we know is a flop show. This is short stuff, all right. But it's not even pitching on the same ground.

Posted by StatisticsRocks on (June 16, 2012, 18:12 GMT)

I am not entirely sure this new format is going to bring forth any upcoming talent. The change or the shift has to happen at the grass root levels. Why are we not encouraging tournaments at the university level to identify the raw talents and groom them. Ranji trophy/Duleep trophy are not of interest to common cricket loving fan of India. The most important aspect is to keep politics and influence out of it to bring forth true talents in all forms of cricket (test match, ODI, and 20-20). We need to somehow popularize the university level cricket like the NCAA tournaments in US as the teams/players play for the pride and not for money.

Posted by anil1956 on (June 16, 2012, 16:46 GMT)

I fully agree with Mr G Dalvi. Why do we have 3 teams from Maharashtra ie. Mumbai, Vidharba & Maharashtra or 3 teams from Gujarat like Vadodara, Saurashtra & Gujarat? BCCI should adopt England's structure by organizing league on the lines of Minor Counties with sub standard teams like J&K, Goa, Assam, Andhra, Kerala, Tripura & Services etc participating in it.

Posted by US_Indian on (June 16, 2012, 4:44 GMT)

Well the article and the reason for the article is good- I would like to make a few suggestions even though it ain't gonna matter much. 1. The bottom two teams of A should be demoted to B and the bottom two teams of B should be delegated to C and vice versa the top two teams of C should be promoted to B and top two teams of B should be promoted to A, which has both incentives for performers and dis-incentives for non-performers. 2. I see a lot of people asking for scrapping some teams but judging by the recent turnout of players from smaller towns is the result of spreading cricket to non metro's. so it should be continued. 3. First innings lead bonus should be abolished and results based on first innings should be prohibited too because this results in meaningless batting marathons and individual statistics. 4. Good pitches should be made. 5. There should be state championship across the globe where top two teams from every country participates. 6. promote indians to play counties.

Posted by Percy_Fender on (June 16, 2012, 4:15 GMT)

A good player should get noticed in the domestic tournaments. If there are too many tournaments, unless someone keeps performing every time, it is likely that there may be a loss of focus. That is what makes the Duleep Trophy important in my view. Here the best from each zone -- or almost the best -- gets to match their wits against the best of another zone. Since the matches are fewer there is more limelight on the better performing players. This enables a short list for the paid selectors.This apart, I feel that a good player gets noticed somehow.Ajit Wadekar and Sunil Gavaskar scored big in the Rohinton Baria and came to be noticed. Their progress was monitored with more than casual interest by genuine followers of the game,more significantly in the Duleep Trophy.Similarly, Umesh Yadav a late bloomer, got noticed because he got the prized scalps of Dravid and Laxman in a few balls in a Duleep game. The point is that from larger pools players can be short listed by the Duleep games.

Posted by   on (June 16, 2012, 2:35 GMT)

Harsha,Good Article but disagree on Duleep Trophy part.You need to select the best 15 among the top 55 players or so.Instead we can scrap the Syed Mushtaq Trophy and Deodhar Trophy giving more time and importance for Duleep Trophy as a home and away league based tourney.Ranji Trophy can be a feeder and yeah 27 teams is too high.You can scrap few teams like Goa,Tripura,Andhra,Vidarbha,Baroda,Saurasthra etc and merge them with their neighbours like Goa with Karnataka,Andhra with Hyderabad,Vidarbha with Maharashtra,Saurashtra and Baroda with Gujarat,Tripura with Assam etc.

Posted by cric_follower on (June 15, 2012, 22:01 GMT)

Why not give the Ranji teams to the IPL franchises and stop all this state non-sense business. They can get better sponsorship, get more crowds and people associate themselves with them as it is. Some foreign players will get to play. Get some day and night 4 day cricket. Spice up the wickets so there is almost always a result. Get BCCI to partner in the cost sharing, overall it will be not be a money making business. Also India's needs to cut down test cricket with weak teams. No point playing test cricket with Bangladesh, NZ and WI. Crowds don't want it.

Posted by OnlyKaps on (June 15, 2012, 21:05 GMT)

Harsha :The State A teams ---> to Ranji is a great step (getting rid of under 22) . A tournament hierarchy is required similarly for ODI & T20 (I view it as one category) . Secondly Im not sure if the reforms have touched how the Contracted list of players ( currently 36) is established. This list shd be the basis for National 11/16, and the National A side. There shd be a separate contracted list for ODI cum T20. Finally there seems to be space for ONE tournament in each of the above two category, for a zone to make a call on who are its best players they want to showcase as input for selection into the Contracted lists by the National Selectors . Call it whatever name (maybe jointly two veteran names !) but just ONE tournament. But the zone tournament must come after the base level tournaments in the schedule. If the zonal input considerations are thus satisfied then the National Selectors can comprise of just the 5 best selectors irrespective Zone, ie no quota system!

Posted by Mr_Anonymous on (June 15, 2012, 17:40 GMT)

I have mentioned before of how I would like the IPL to tie-in to domestic cricket and suggested that the uncapped players be selected only from the particular zone as the IPL team. So, perhaps MI and PW should be allowed to select only the players from West Zone. That will provide an incentive for the IPL owners to help groom young domestic cricket players throughout the year in the same zone and benefit them during the IPL. There would also be co-operation between multiple IPL franchises in the same zone which I think would be beneficial.

I would like to think of the Duleep Trophy as a tournament that selects and ratifies the best players in the zone. Its more of a chance to determine the best Ranji players that year for that zone.

There needs to be a well defined process by which a player does well in the Ranji->selected for Duleep Trophy, does well there->Selected for India "A", does well there->Selected for Indian team as gaps are identified. Often the elevation is very ad-hoc.

Posted by anil1956 on (June 15, 2012, 15:47 GMT)

Mr Bhogle, Have u forgotten that performance in Duleep used to be considered a ticket to National team. Moreover, Vizzy & Rohinton Baria Trophy were a ticket to state team. Why is BCCI not reviving those tornaments? If u think good of Indian cricket, then u ought to not just condemn Challenger trophy but also to speak up for revival of Vizzy & Rohinton Baria revival.

Posted by Leggie on (June 15, 2012, 15:16 GMT)

Commendable changes indeed and it's a step in the right direction. To make this complete though, the pitches must be made sportive

Posted by   on (June 15, 2012, 15:00 GMT)

I wonder if the experiment of two new balls can be tried in the Ranji Trophy as well, you bet that would test the technique and temperament of batsmen.

Posted by gdalvi on (June 15, 2012, 13:27 GMT)

Reducing # teams in main competition is the key. Combining some states will do real good - club chronically weaker states into 'Rest of W/E/N/C/S zones' teams. It can bring # teams to 10-12 which are relatively strong. We could also have a 2nd tier, non-FC tournament (Ranji B), which will give state players missing Ranji also an opportunity to play - and they can also provide bench strength to the A team. We really need more zonal matches for top level players waiting to get into India team, because that is where they get really tested, with a magnitude higher level of competition. Perhaps Duleep is converted into a zone level event. It goes without saying improving quality of pitch is important - that pretty much takes care of other suggestions like 90 ov per innings, or 5th/6th day. More pts for outright win will certainly provide incentive. Additional bonus pts based on at least 2-3 different margins of win, would also make it more interesting. Pls publish.

Posted by Smithie on (June 15, 2012, 12:19 GMT)

@sweetspot DRS is a GREAT cricketing idea because it increases the number of correct umpiring decisions, minimises the potential for the result of a match to be determined by an incorrect umpiring decision, reduces umpires decisions being effected by player reputations, reduces on-field player dissent, improves the experience for both ground spectators and TV audiences through increasing understanding of what actually has taken place in the game ie it improves cricket overall. The case of Sri Lanka v India when the former got 12 DRS reviews correct and Dhoni blew his straight away thru exercising poor judgement, was to the detriment of cricket because Dhoni has resisted DRS ever since. An example of how DRS has been used for the improvement of cricket is that it has forced batsmen to use their bat instead of hiding it behind their pad playing a pseudo shot without an apparent threat of LBW. The ICC has just received a report saying ball tracking DRS technology is 100 % accurate. Logic?

Posted by   on (June 15, 2012, 10:01 GMT)

I think instead of this format the following format would have been better. * Top 12 teams play in round robin league. * Out of 12, top 9 will qualify automatically. * Rest 18 teams will fight for 3 spots. * 18 teams be divided in 3 groups and they will play round robin league. * Top Team of each group will make it to final league. * Last 3 teams will relegated to lower division in the next season.

Posted by sagsaw on (June 15, 2012, 9:38 GMT)

Duleep Trophy must have the following teams rather than the Zonal Teams

India A India B India Under 19 Ranji Trophy Winners India Over 30

This will keep a pool of fresh legs available, keep the bench strength ready and also evaluate the performance and fitness levels of the older players by age ...

Each team will play the other once and the top two will play the finals ...

Duleep trophy performances to be considered to have additional weightage as the teams are formed out of the best players in the country ...

Posted by   on (June 15, 2012, 8:16 GMT)

nothing will change without the change in Pitches that are currently produced in the domestic leagues. Unless they change them to reslt orientated pitches, nothing will change

Posted by QingdaoXI on (June 15, 2012, 8:11 GMT)

actually Group C should not get a chance to play in Q.finals. it will weakend the tournament. Only top 2 teams from group C should be promoted to play in Group B in next season.For eg. Next year Group A. Rajasthan, Tamil nadu, Mumbai, Haryana, UP, Karantaka, Baroda, Bengal, Delhi. Group B: Railways, Saurashtra, Maharashtra, Punjab, Vidharbha, Gujarat, Orrisa, Madhya Pradesh, Hyd, Services Group C: JK, HP, AP, Goa, Assam, Tripura, Kerala, Zharkhand. See if from group A Delhi, Mumbai, Tamil nadu and Bengal qualifies, if we go with new rules only 3 teams will qualify. and 2 teams from group c will sloip the essence of quarter final.

Posted by sweetspot on (June 15, 2012, 7:36 GMT)

@Smithie - Please give us an example of how DRS is a good cricketing "idea" and how it is used poorly by anybody to the detriment of cricket and how it is used intelligently by others to improve the quality of cricket. That is what this article is about.

Posted by BinduKumar on (June 15, 2012, 7:36 GMT)

I think Rahul Darvid, Anil Kumble and Saurav Ganguly have to be involved more in organizing these things better.. they are fresh and have right acumen to be at that level

Posted by vsvinuraj on (June 15, 2012, 7:10 GMT)

All the matches should be made 5 days and there should be extra incentive for wins... the current system of awarding 3 points based on first innings lead is absurd... often once the team gets the lead... they bat again to bolster their record and does not give the other team an opportunity.. And there should be not toss.. visiting team should always get the opportunity to decide what to do... this will prevent the home team from preparing pitches according to their strengths.... Not sure how effective this will be.. but its worth a try...

Posted by Kushalagr007 on (June 15, 2012, 7:09 GMT)

In Ranji Trophy currently the mindset of all the teams is to keep batting for a longer period of time and take first innings lead as it will give them 3 points from a draw, many teams doesnt take the risk of going for a outright win. I do not agree with Harsha where he says that teams from Group C can come and win the Ranji as Rajasthan have done couple of years ago coming from Plate League, yes Rajasthan have won Ranji Trophy for last 2 years but they have done it with a lot of draws in which frist innings point have gone their way infact in the final of 2011 Ranji agst Tamilnadu they batted for almost 3 days with a Run Rate of 2.5 and made no effort to win the match, if that is the way our domestic cricket is going to be played than I am afraid we are not going to have good test players in the future. And we can see although Rajasthan are Ranji Champs for 2 years now but they dont have a single player who can be assumed a future India Test Player.

Posted by   on (June 15, 2012, 6:55 GMT)

A string of good articles from Harsha. Passionate about progress in Indian cricket. Keep it up!

Posted by Kushalagr007 on (June 15, 2012, 6:40 GMT)

I m still not able to understand how can top 2 teams from Group C be allowed to play in QF when Group C is considered to be consisted of weaker teams that way the standard of cricket will not improve at all and the teams in Group B which have not qualified for QF will be more than happy to get relegated to Group C next year as it will be easier for them to play agst weaker teams & qualify for the QF. So my suggestion is there should not be any QF, top 4 teams from Group A shold play the Semis & top 2 teams from Group B & C should be promoted to Group A & B and bottom 2 teams from Group A& B should be relegated to Group B & C next year

Posted by WickyRoy.paklover on (June 15, 2012, 6:12 GMT)

No mater what hapens,india would keep losng tests outsid india,they might lose at home in cming mnths or at least they can draw matchs cannot win with this line even at home.

Posted by Smithie on (June 15, 2012, 6:02 GMT)

" sometimes good ideas are rendered ineffective by poor use by captains " prime sample is Dhoni and DRS!!!

Posted by Agnihothra on (June 15, 2012, 5:54 GMT)

Sourav and Anil take a bow!!. Hopefully Rahul and VVS(in near future) can start making their contributions towards the game off the field..

Posted by DEV_ME on (June 15, 2012, 5:20 GMT)

The latent objective of domestic cricket should be to infuse pride in the player, of his team, the tournament and the game. I agree that Duleep Trophy and Challenger Trophy do not help in this cause, rather they are detrimental to it. WE only ahve to look at the English county, Aussie Domestic and notice that players are very proud of their domesic teams and contribute for its progress in which ever way possible. And Yes .... put right people in the right place and you will get the result.

Posted by   on (June 15, 2012, 5:19 GMT)

I have a simple suggestion make some kind of grading syst So that top players can get into national team than Only domestic cricket will count

Posted by agam99 on (June 15, 2012, 5:12 GMT)

You put good people in good positions and you get good results.

Can't agree more Harsha..well said. Kudos to Ganguly and co for these ideas. Next we need RD as our batting coach and Anil Kumble as our chief selector. These are the best cricketing minds in India and should be properly utilized.

Posted by shailendra.raghuwanshi on (June 15, 2012, 5:02 GMT)

Nice article by Harsha,The last line "You put good people in good position and you get good results" was very emphatic.Our domestic Cricket needed that reform badly.It will be good if we can encourage fast bowlers by preparing fast and bouncy wicket that will help them in away tours & May change the whole scenario of Indain Cricket...........

Posted by howizzat on (June 15, 2012, 4:38 GMT)

Dulip trophy can be played in a new format having five teams, The top teams from the groups, A B C of Ranji, An Under19 team and a rest of XI team, on a round robin basis without Knock outs.

Posted by Percy_Fender on (June 15, 2012, 4:29 GMT)

The Ranji can be made 90 overs per innings. That will remove the tendency of teams to keep on batting endlessly. There should also be a high financial incentive for outright wins. These two measures will ensure that this tournament gets a touch of limited over games which is so much the popular format. Besides genuine talent will not go un-noticed. If Suriya Yadav or someone else can score a 150 ball 250 against quality bowling on a sporting wicket, he is quite obviously a world beater. The dreariness of Ranji games is the reason that very few come to be noticed. But the most important thing without which no change will be of any use is to have sporting wickets for all games.

Posted by ramakanthjosyula on (June 15, 2012, 4:19 GMT)

Still unsure what the difference between group A and group B is if 3 teams from each group make it to the knock out and 2 from group B at the top are promoted what is it that they are achieving by getting promoted? No article seems to clearly explain what the groups are and how they will be formed

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Harsha Bhogle Harsha Bhogle is one of the world's leading cricket commentators. Starting off as a chemical engineer and going on to work in advertising before moving into television, he is also a writer, quiz host, television presenter and talk-show host, and a corporate motivational speaker. He was voted Cricinfo readers' "favourite cricket commentator" in a poll in 2008, and one of his proudest possessions is a photograph of a group of spectators in Pakistan holding a banner that said "Harsha Bhogle Fan Club". He has commentated on nearly 100 Tests and more than 400 ODIs.

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