Aakash Chopra
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Former India opener; author of Beyond the Blues, an account of the 2007-08 Ranji Trophy season

India, look after your young

Four ways the BCCI can make first-class cricket as attractive as the IPL to budding cricketers

Aakash Chopra

August 1, 2012

Comments: 41 | Text size: A | A

Umesh Yadav grabbed three wickets, Delhi Daredevils v Kings XI Punjab, IPL 2012, Delhi, May 15, 2012
In case a player needs to take a break during the IPL to recuperate for national duty, the BCCI must make sure he can do that © Associated Press
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India have slipped to No. 5 in the Test rankings - their lowest in the last five years. Even though rankings mean little unless taken in context, India's decline in Test cricket is apparent. They were No. 1 when they arrived in England last year. By the time they finished their series in Australia six months later, one of the best eras of Indian cricket had come to an end.

In the last four parts of my review of Indian cricket, I examined some of the problems: While there's an apparent dearth of quality openers, the middle-order has showed some promise. Quality spinners aren't coming through the ranks, but there's hope in the seam bowling department. In the final part of this series, I will look at ways to encourage young Indian players to not only play first-class cricket but to mould their games to suit the demands of Test cricket.

Sachin Tendulkar said recently that there's no system to ensure that youngsters like Test cricket, because it has to come from within. Quite true. The general consensus is that the younger generation of cricketers prefers T20 over other formats. But there's a distinction between liking T20 and playing in the IPL. If you take away the glamour and the money from the IPL, many cricketers would give the tournament a miss.

Before you accuse me of it, let me assure you this isn't another excuse to slam the IPL. It is about finding ways to make first-class cricket in India more relevant. Unfortunately the IPL has created several problems for Indian cricket. The solution isn't to abandon or condemn the league but to give first-class and national cricket preference over it. If the IPL loses a bit of its sheen in the process, it will be a small price for India to pay for climbing back to the top.

Bring parity between IPL and Ranji payments
At the risk of upsetting a few players and sounding like a radical, I suggest that to make sure cricketers take the longer format as seriously as the IPL, the BCCI bridge the gap between the money an uncapped IPL player makes and what a first-class player earns in a season. At present the gulf is so huge that anyone in his right mind would happily sacrifice his first-class career to be a part of the IPL. Remember, financial insecurity was the root cause for the exodus to the Indian Cricket League.

There are only two ways to bring parity: substantially increase the money a first-class cricketer makes in a season, and limit how much a player with fewer than 50 India appearances can earn during an IPL season.

No matter how impressive you have been in the IPL, if you can't back it up with strong domestic and India A results, you should not stand a chance of getting picked for ODI and Test cricket

All the uncapped players are likely to go under the hammer next season. It will be worth including in this list players like Saurabh Tiway, Shikhar Dhawan and M Vijay, who haven't yet played 50 games for India each.

Also, set the cap on what a player can receive close to what he would normally make in a first-class season. Franchises can bid higher for such a player, with the amount bid over and above going to the IPL. This cash can later be routed back to first-class cricket and be deducted from a franchise's overall purse.

If the BCCI thinks bringing parity in payments for uncapped players in the IPL and domestic cricketers will make a large dent in their finances (there are over 500 cricketers who play first-class cricket every year), they can at least try to match the IPL payments for the top 20 batsmen, bowlers and allrounders (so 60 in all) in the domestic circuit through a bonus clause.

Such an arrangement will encourage young Indian players to work hard on the first-class circuit to reach that coveted 50-appearances mark, while those who are still only playing first-class cricket will try to finish among of the season's top performers. Some players may lose out on the money they deserve but Indian cricket will benefit on the whole.

Base selections only on first-class performances
Another way to ensure that first-class cricket stays relevant is to make sure national selection is always based on four-day performances. No matter how impressive you have been in the IPL, if you can't back it up with strong domestic and India A results, you should not stand a chance of getting picked for ODI and Test cricket. The moment India start picking players from the IPL, they devalue their first-class set-up, which leads to players losing focus. Yes, there's a need to improve the standard of first-class cricket in India but that doesn't mean IPL performances should count for more. After all how many IPL success stories have made a significant mark in international cricket so far, even in T20 cricket?

Protect Indian assets during the IPL
The BCCI must assume complete control over its contracted players, even during the IPL. If a player is nursing an injury and needs to immediately take a break, the BCCI must step in to ensure he does, while also compensating the player and the franchise.

While it's convenient to expect players to forego large sums of money to remain fit for the Indian team, if we don't want another situation where most players miss the international tour that follows the IPL, like with India's tour to the West Indies in 2011, the board needs to secure the players' interests.

Protect young spinners from the IPL
Part three of my review highlighted the dearth of good spinners in the domestic set-up. It is important to ensure that the few promising ones aren't lost to the IPL. Once identified as future prospects for India, these youngsters must be kept away from the IPL till they are mature enough to handle the demands of T20 cricket without compromising the skills they need to succeed in the longer format. It's for the BCCI to ensure that these youngsters are looked after properly and that they don't lose out financially. Quality spinners are an endangered species and must be protected.

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

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Posted by rajesh_singhSTM on (August 2, 2012, 14:18 GMT)

I have a suggesstion. Close down MRF pace academy. Lets accept it we will never get 140+ bowlers.Infact we dont need 140+ bowlers. We should target making Pollock or Mcrath types of bowlers who decent speed but deadly accuracy type of bowlers . Make a swing and spin academy. Make Kumble spin coach and maybe pollock/Mcgrath coach for medium pacers. Pick up 10 young spinners and 10 medium pacers who show talent and hardworking potential . Make all types of track at academy ( green tracks , spin tracks , flat tracks) and make them practice day in and day out . Then identify 10 test match potential batters (pujara , Rahane ,Zol , Chand , Rohit etc) and ask them to practice batting to these bowlers on those tracks for 2 months a year. BCCI is so rich it can take care of these players financially for missing out T20 IPL.

Posted by venkatesh018 on (August 2, 2012, 10:22 GMT)

There is a simple, straight forward solution to this: Allow players(both Indian and International) only above the age of 22 to play in the IPL. Most of Indian cricket's and world cricket's troubles will go away in one stroke.

Posted by OnlyKaps on (August 2, 2012, 9:55 GMT)

Akash, another terrific one. For within 50 appearances you are going to have one of two things happen: either the player is so good in the longer format that he sees an intrinsic value in pursuing it, even gets India colours or an India contract or (2) he quits and goes IPL , no fears because if hes not good enough in the longer format then he shdnt be continuing there in the first place! It will help ensure a playe doesnt forsake the longer format for the sake of filthy lucre ALONE

Posted by   on (August 2, 2012, 6:35 GMT)

I dont see too many sensible heads around in Indian cricket at the moment. So such articles are like a breath of fresh air. Those from whom we would expect to make balanced views have all let us down. For a few $$ they all scream inane comments during the IPL. What a shame !! Well, i am a fair critic of IPL...though in many senses i hate it as well...but the point is that there has to be a good balance. Players should never be picked for IPL performances. Why cant BCCI pay them well in domestic cricket. Make the matches more spectator friendly too.Players should be picked only for these performances. And ohh i can certainly see some legs falling off from IPL..i am waiting to see how many teams will be financially stable next time around !!!

Posted by mansman on (August 2, 2012, 6:20 GMT)

Take the hot half-naked cheer girls out of IPL and even IPL matches will witness empty stands.

Posted by ashok16 on (August 2, 2012, 5:37 GMT)

No point fighting the market forces and also the fact that fast bowlers are less & less interested in bowling on dead pitches for a long time. There is a way to save first class cricket - create a eight team top division playing round robin and a a finals, relegate the last finisher, and put the rest of the teams in two lower divisions. Have points only for outright wins and use wickets taken (dont recognise runs or runs/wkt) for tie breakers. Allow unlimited recruiting like it is done for European clubs with no salary caps and allow up to four international players. Five day cricket is extremely interesting provided the matches are of high quality and there are enough people in India to actively support a 3 month first class league that is top notch. We need to stop playing the same old music of drab Ranji matches and a zillion trivial teams (Vidharba anyone??). IPL has ambition, time the first class matches get it too. Afterall they have the advantage of class.

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (August 2, 2012, 4:13 GMT)

@SouthPaw: Many Indians don't favour tests much. I am an Indian too and I am not a big test cricket fan. India as a nation love the thrills of ODI and T20 cricket. Even before T20, ODI cricket brought out the best in India. Since winning the world cup in 1983, Indians have been fascinated with limited overs cricket. They were like "hmm, here were have an opportunity to become a good cricket playing nation". Cause historically, India have never been a good test playing nation barring the dominance at home. So it's natural as Indians we choose what we are good in. India will NEVER pay attention to test cricket. It's evident from the empty grounds at Ranji Trophy games and international tests. The people who do come to the stadium are usually free admits or students from schools. No 20,000 or 30,000 like the Boxing Day test or anywhere in England. So yeah test cricket needs saving, at least in India more so because India is the engine room of world cricket.

Posted by vaidyasunil on (August 2, 2012, 2:31 GMT)

India have been very successful in all formats of the game since the new generation players have come into the team. We have won the cb series, T20 and ODI wc because of them. we were able to remain no. 1 team in test cricket because of them.

new generation players like dhoni, gambhir, raina, kohli, praveen kumar, ishant sharma, ojha, etc. got chances to play in the national team, get experience and security because of one person chiefly and he is Greg Chappell. It was because of him that so many youngsters got chance to play in the indian team and prosper by getting the much needed experience.

So more than wright and kirsten it is chappell we have to thank because of whose policies we have reached so far. if greg was not there sachin, dravid, laxman, ganguly, kumble, etc. would have played the cb series, t20 and odi wc and we would have won neither of these...

Posted by   on (August 2, 2012, 1:30 GMT)

Unfortunately, none of your suggestions are feasible or practical. Artificial limits and arrangements like this will never be acceptable especially when there is no financial incentive driving them. Saving the future of Indian Test cricket is an objective with no financial incentives for anyone. Expect IPL to be the first and maybe the only priority of Indian cricketers in due time. The best talent will be honing their skills for IPL and striving to play for IPL. The IPL players won't care too much about winning or losing when playing for National team. Indian cricket will end up like NFL, NHL, NBA or professional tennis in USA. Nobody cares about the National teams for these sports.

Posted by Vindaliew on (August 1, 2012, 23:54 GMT)

I think far more than the loss of the great players, India will mourn the loss of Gary Kirsten - South Africa are currently gaining a lot of confidence and looking very very good against England. Kirsten brought a lot of self-belief, confidence and order to the Indian setup.

Posted by baghels.a on (August 1, 2012, 23:25 GMT)

Till about 2-3 months back Aakash you used to be a part of TV channel featuring as "Expert " pundit discussing IPL matches daily and tom tomming the cause of IPL and you also suggested uncapped players should get as much money as capped players.Wow things change so fast in 3 months !! Anyways in today's society when there is a greater emphasis on self rather than a collective identity,who are we to suggest weather one should forsake money in IPL or not,similarly why the bogey of patriotism be raised every time like eg-IPL has caused India problems or protect the assets etc.Spain and Bazil and other top footballing nations don't play 40 matches in a year,that is done by the clubs.Look Indian Cricket team is a treasure,pls don't devalue it by playing it every 10 months in a year .... Well done Gagan Narang you make us proud.

Posted by suyog86 on (August 1, 2012, 21:32 GMT)

This is an utopian ideal Akash! I like the way you think, and appreciate your sincereness in this article. However, the solutions you have suggested dont seem plausible at this stage. Agreed, if this reward structure had been present since the inception, it would have made a difference. I do believe that the economic argument you make for restoring the image of ranji trophy and first class cricket in India is compelling. In plain words, these 'test' cricket tournaments need better marketing, and more official attention, making them more attractive and shiny, and economically rewarding. I dont think making a certain competing tournament less glittery is the right way to do it.

Posted by S.N.Singh on (August 1, 2012, 20:48 GMT)


Posted by Nampally on (August 1, 2012, 19:06 GMT)

Askash, it is difficult to compete with IPL because it entertains people over matter of half a day. A drawn game at the end of 3 or 5 days is depressing thought for busy people. Hence IPL wins. As for the players, they like to earn huge sums in such a short time. But IPL has developed players with poor technique (baseball swings) & with no focus on basics of Cricket. India has players who are kings of the short format - T-20 & ODI. But their technique is questionable for longer 5 day test specially against good seamers on overseas wickets. Only way to save them is to have 3 separate teams for 3 formats. The same goes for the bowling which requires sustained control in length, direction & guile.Test format Cricketers must not be allowed to play T-20. Your suggestions for better pay scales will then be an added incentive & promote technically sound batsmen, spinners & Seamers.BCCI also needs to set up coaching camps at School, College & Test levels with emphsis on technique +Fitness.

Posted by   on (August 1, 2012, 16:33 GMT)

no matter what we say or what we write the administrators dont give a damn abt anything!they dont plan in advance they just react!thats hw we indians are

Posted by sony_sr on (August 1, 2012, 15:17 GMT)

If we check our history, we have never been good enough to even come to #1 ranking.In last 10 years we got the best middle order of all time (india) and that helped us to get to #1.But we never had the bowling lineup (ever in history and now also) to stay at #1.So dropping down from #1 should not be seen as an issue.it was expected and quite normal. reg the monetary thing also, it doesn't seem to be logical.if first class players need to be paid more, first class matches has to generate that income.ipl players are paid more coz ipl generates more income.you need t20s money but you still say t20 is bad. thats not rite.see if t20 is attracting more people than test cricket let it be.why everybody is losing their sleep over it. which version is attracting more people, it will prosper, and teh others will die. you cannot generate artificial interest in peoples mind towards test cricket. as sachin said, you can't do that, if test cricket attracts enough people, it will stay, otherwise die.

Posted by sixnout on (August 1, 2012, 15:05 GMT)

@Kavindeven...By your theory, you should not be commenting on Aakash Chopra who has played for India and was part of the team that won in Melbourne in Australia. I doubt you played 10 test matches in. Sometimes people like you just love to comment and call everyone a failure. He had a decent contribution there, blunting the aussie attack by batting out close to 30 overs leading to the middle order creating huge century stands.

Posted by cric_follower on (August 1, 2012, 14:39 GMT)

How about spicing up 4-day matches, by limiting the number of overs in the first innings that any team can bat. Reducing the number of teams to 10. Converting domestic teams to privately managed franchises with incentive based compensation from BCCI. The franchises could be given sponsorship incentives if their teams do well. Cost of managing the domestic teams could be shared with the BCCI.

There is so much that can be done, if the people with responsibilities really care about the future of India cricket!!

Posted by Raki99 on (August 1, 2012, 13:14 GMT)

Nothing is Going to Happen. End of the story.

Posted by Selassie-I on (August 1, 2012, 13:14 GMT)

@afs_talyarkhan - well said mate.

Posted by Romenevans on (August 1, 2012, 12:51 GMT)

Akash if you know everything then why you didn't look after yourself? Why you couldn't make it big with those opportunities you got to play for India? The problem with Indian cricket is that those who never done anything they are always ready to comment on current players lol.

Posted by Selassie-I on (August 1, 2012, 12:41 GMT)

@Southpaw, I don't think test cricket need preserving, it has a rich and long history. Yes crowds are dwindling currently but t20 will go the same way as ODIs after people have it rammed down their throats 24/7 and realise that all of the games take a fairly similar line and get bored of seeing batsmen mow bowlers over cow corner for the 700th time off a flat pitch.. people will come back to test cricket, the true representation of a player's skill in an even match between bat and ball. Akash - well written as usual, great ideas but as many on here say there is, unfortunately, a very slim chance that the BCCI care little about anything bar profit and their ever expanding waistlines.

Posted by Bobby_Talyarkhan on (August 1, 2012, 12:10 GMT)

Anyone who believes market phenomena like the IPL are spontaneous and unscripted lives in a land of make-believe. The IPL survives for one reason alone - the patronage of the BCCI. We saw what happened to the ICL - no fairy tale happy ending there. So please - cut out the nauseating hyms to the free market and the "protected" status of test cricket. IPL is a marketing gimmick to maximise television revenues - it has as much to do with cricket as the advertising jingles which punctuate our viewing. Consumers may (with the gentle persuasion of the advertisers) like many things indeed but that does not make those things "cricket"! Test cricket is a corpus of tradition, history, culture, aspiration and achievement which reproduces itself culturally in the lives of people - it has a significance and meaning which has survived world wars, decolonisation and bodyline. No doubt the establishment in all walks of life needs a kick up the pants sometimes - test cricket has always emerged stronger

Posted by Percy_Fender on (August 1, 2012, 11:23 GMT)

I thought the BCCI had appointed a bowling coach by the name of John Dawes from Australia for the men in blue. This selection was made in the midst of the last tour to Australia. Has that been cancelled. Someone could please clarify even if this post has nothing to do with Akash's views.

Posted by   on (August 1, 2012, 11:08 GMT)

The suggestion on letting market forces decide the fate of cricket is indeed worth considering in an era where viewer interest is directly proportional to the chances of a result. That being the case, the BCCI should take a conscious decision to step away from test cricket once and for all so that this farcical approach to the longer version is done away with. Cricketers like Aakash are diehard fans of tests but if the youth of the day don't have the patience to work their way up to the national level, so be it. The fact remains that T20 is instant gratification, both for the fans and for cricketers, who may even go back to doing a day job soon. Let's aspire to be the Top ODI and T20 team in the world and confine tests to history books!

Posted by   on (August 1, 2012, 11:03 GMT)

well intentioned (as always from Aakash) but perhaps a tad impractical to implement on the ground.....how will you create a system that says - XYZ is a great young spinning prospect, I will not let him go to the IPL...will you let him sign a contract and then suspend it for three years? similar is the concern with increasing monies for first class - where will that money come from?

Posted by serious-am-i on (August 1, 2012, 10:37 GMT)

@EnglishCricket: Umesh is still a young player and needs to be groomed properly. SL wickets aren't any fast bowler friendly wickets, so there is no use demoralizing a fast bowler. Umesh should be looked as an asset for next WC in the bouncy tracks and for matches outside subcontinent but he seriously needs an outing in Eng county or Aus county which I highly doubt BCCI would permit.

Posted by SamRoy on (August 1, 2012, 10:09 GMT)

Akash, first of all, India were never the top test team. India are still to beat SA and Australia in a test series away from home. We can say India were one of the top-tier teams which incidentally had the No. 1 ranking. But not the undisputed No. 1. Nobody is currently. SA though, has potential.

Posted by mintugops on (August 1, 2012, 9:49 GMT)

@ SouthPaw : completely agree with you.. suggestions here remind me of the arguments by our politicians against opening up of the economy.. trying to protect what no one wants.. inefficiency and poor quality for the benefit of a small few.. There is a reason why there is so much money in IPL - people want it.. you cant protect poor quality of domestic cricket by imposing quotas / restrictions.. you have to attack the fundamental.. elevate the quality and viewership of domestic first class cricket and if you cant then move aside and let market forces decide what they want

Posted by ansram on (August 1, 2012, 9:30 GMT)

I am a big fan of test cricket, but there is no real need to protect any form of the game. If any sport appeals to the public, it will survive no matter what. If T20 or IPL is what that will ultimately become the most popular games, then that will be the future of cricket.

Does your game have followers? If not, it deserves to go, that is it, plain and simple. If people are not watching test cricket in India, then no matter what you do, this game is going to suffer.

Posted by CricketMaan on (August 1, 2012, 9:09 GMT)

Aakash, you suddenly seem to have lost your sense..bet you wont say this if you were still contracted with IPL..dont blame it for its a 2 month tournament which is outside Ranji calenar. The problem is too many Ranji games, meaningless teams and fixtures. make it short and more competitive, that will take care of pipleline..Rohit or Jadeja scoring a 300 on a placid pitch against a weak opponent or Rajasthan winning the cup by first innings lead on a batting pitch wont produce Test cricketers. get your facts right before pointing to IPL. I'm a BIG fan of Test and equally a BIG fan of IPL.

Posted by Ishaq13 on (August 1, 2012, 8:32 GMT)

Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron, the fastest bowlers produced by India. Handle them carefully. Bring them under the guidence of the West Indian fastbowlers of the past like Anty Roberts / Joel Garner / Mike Holding. Then see the difference. Do not spoil them by making line and length bowlers with speed of 135 km/h. Allow them to find line and length with the speed of over 145 km/h .

Posted by Rukky on (August 1, 2012, 8:13 GMT)

I think young players should think not only about money, but about fame. Yes...i mean fame in International Cricket is more important than fame in IPL. I don't think anyone will remember Mandeep Singh,Rahane, Bhatia,Parvinder Awana and many more if they can't qualify for Indian Test Squad. To become a part of Indian Test/ ODI team they must play good cricket. Because International Cricket is the only one thing which can give you money and fame as well. So it should be decided by them (young cricketer), that what they want to choose, IPL? or Indian Team?

Posted by Riderstorm on (August 1, 2012, 8:05 GMT)

suggestions seem plausible but they can get really complicated with the money involved (BCCI and Franchises are working for just that..). In my opinion, a trade-off would be to maintain a pool of 25 players which is updated at the beginning of every cricket year, looking after them by scheduling their workload appropriately along with IPL. This way the interests of all parties involved is preserved. At the same time, Indian cricket would be in a better state.

Posted by EnglishCricket on (August 1, 2012, 6:40 GMT)

Yadav is such an untalented bowler. Yes he's fast but too expensive and most of the time aims for the stumps. No wonder he hasn't been playing the last few matches against Sri Lanka. Not special or anything just ordinary or less :)

Posted by Jack_Tka on (August 1, 2012, 5:27 GMT)

Agreed on all points except the payment cap on minimum 50 ODIs. I believe, a player deserves his quoted price, ir-respective of the fact whether he's played in the national team or not. Only the first class performance should be the criteria for selection into National Arena, and not the IPL performance. Financial security is a key point and must be taken into account for people grinding it out in First Class cricket.

Posted by CrickFan82 on (August 1, 2012, 4:46 GMT)

lovely suggestions, always long term solutions thats the way to go . Akash Chopra is one of the most constructive criticizers in cricinfo. He has played for India, still plays for Rajasthan if i am not wrong. I find his articles really making a lot of sense and something which i always wonder. am sure there are a lot of Chopras who keep advising the BCCI, but they would only do what benefits their own pockets. At the moment BCCI has to benefit India Cement's gajana. its all right to say no to John Howard but really dont know what Pawar is doing there.

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (August 1, 2012, 4:19 GMT)

Fair points Aakash but I doubt whether the BCCI would even read the heading of your article let alone the entire thing. They are too proud to heed what's best for Indian cricket in the long run. The people of India should be running the country's cricket team. Or, at least elected representatives of the Indian people from each of the country's major zones should run the sport. While the IPL is a tremendous product of Indian cricket, it's still a one off attraction in a calendar year dominated by international cricket. Injuries to key players at the wrong time cost us the series in England followed by poor form and lack of practice in Australia. We cannot let that happen yet again. India is a better team than that. So yes, player management and fitness regimes are vital. The IPL will surely do a lot of damage to our players due to its intensity. The only way we can avoid that is to allow the national players to participate for a set number of games. Then they should be relieved.

Posted by SouthPaw on (August 1, 2012, 4:17 GMT)

Before anything else, please argue why Test cricket needs to be saved. Then give measures to save them. Your arguments above are like 4 points for better handwriting and why print needs to be saved and that print is the "real" medium, etc. and that the electronic media are "destroying" print.

Posted by   on (August 1, 2012, 4:16 GMT)

stop wasting ur time Aakash ji, bcci wont care what you think. First thing they think of is their own bank accounts, if they make profit then they'll do a little.

Posted by   on (August 1, 2012, 3:06 GMT)

Good suggestions all of them. Quite unfortunately that the BCCI is going to ignore all of them.

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Aakash ChopraClose
Aakash Chopra Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.

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