Ranji Trophy 2012-13

Too much play, too little time for Ranji Trophy

One week into the tournament and we are already three fast bowlers short, thanks to the cramped schedule

Sidharth Monga

November 8, 2012

Comments: 9 | Text size: A | A

Ajit Agarkar bends his back, Mumbai v Rest of India, Irani Cup, 1st day, Nagpur, October 1, 2009
No time to recover: the tight schedule means a niggle is enough to keep Ajit Agarkar out of Mumbai's next match © ESPNcricinfo Ltd
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We're only done with the first round and the unforgiving Ranji Trophy schedule has already claimed three casualties. Irfan Pathan, who played the Champions League in South Africa and seven days of continuous first-class cricket after that, is out with a knee injury. Ajit Agarkar has picked up a niggle that is not serious, but the three-day gap doesn't give him enough time to recover and come back to captain Mumbai. Delhi have already rested Ashish Nehra, and will keep rotating fast bowlers to manage their fast bowlers' work load.

The Himachal Pradesh bowlers, who bowled through the whole of the final day of their match to push for an outright win, have not bowled a single ball in the nets in the three days since then. The second round begins on Friday, exactly a week after the first did, and except for one occasion, all league matches will be played three days apart.

The most frustrating part for the players is that even minor injuries will force them out of games. "The worst part is I have picked up a niggle," says Agarkar, who is travelling with the Mumbai team but not playing, "which I know is not serious, but I don't have the time - in three days - to turn around and recover to play the next game. I know if I had about five days, I would still have had a chance. Three is very demanding, especially when it involves a day of travel. Not an excuse, you have to get on with it, but it is tough."

The damage is not limited to injuries. So much cricket only discourages people from bowling fast. "I am worried about the quality of fast bowlers coming through," Agarkar says. "You can already see how few guys can bowl close to 140kmph for long periods of time. You will find it even more difficult [with this schedule]."

Aakash Chopra has seen bowlers start the season bowling at 135kmph and being reduced to trundlers by the end of it. As captains, both Chopra and Agarkar know the schedule is counterproductive to the attempts to shift domestic cricket towards an outright-win culture. Not many teams want their bowlers to bowl 80 overs on the final day when all they have is an outside chance for a result.

"Sometimes it does dictate your thinking," says Agarkar. "Pitches dictate it firstly, but there might be times when you might want to keep your bowlers fresh once you have taken the first-innings lead as opposed to going for a difficult outright win. Recovery time really matters."

Sanjay Bangar, another captain, thinks otherwise. "Most teams probably tend to treat the fourth day as a resting day," Bangar says, "but if you are in a position to force an outright result, and even if you don't end up getting an outright result, even three or four wickets help the quotient aspect. That can help when you are tied with a team at the end of the group stages."

 
 
"Sometimes it does dictate your thinking. Pitches dictate it firstly, but there might be times when you might want to keep your bowlers fresh once you have taken the first-innings lead as opposed to going for a difficult outright win. Recovery time really matters." Ajit Agarkar on how the Ranji scheduling affects teams' thinking when it comes to going after outright wins
 

The ideal break between matches, says Agarkar, will be four days ("six is a luxury") and then a gap of about 10 days mid-season. However, the Ranji Trophy in India goes on as if a chore that has to be got out of the way. The Indian winter is limited, and the number of tournaments - Irani, Challenger, Duleep, Ranji (first-class and List A), Deodhar and Syed Mushtaq Ali - huge. It is a huge credit to the BCCI that it can organise so many matches smoothly. The Ranji tournament alone involves 12 first-class matches being played simultaneously.

The obvious choice here is between a fewer tournaments organised properly and many of them done apologetically. Players would rather have the former, but not many will say that on the record. Chopra is one who will. In fact he did so when he presented the BCCI with a paper on what can be done to improve the standard of domestic cricket in India. "Unclutter the schedule" was one of the main points of action. That, also, was the end of the story.

By unclutter, Chopra meant - and he is not alone to mean thus - that Duleep, Deodhar and Challenger could be done away with to allow Ranji the space and time it deserves. Not many will have noticed, but the domestic season this year started on September 21 with the Irani, Challenger and Duleep. It took us until November 2, however, for the real deal to begin. March 10 to 22 will be kept aside for Deodhar and the business-end of the Syed Mushtaq Ali, the latter being the domestic T20 tournament whose winner is not even considered for Champions League qualification.

If some of those other tournaments are done away with, it could free up close to two extra months for the proper scheduling of what can then become a marquee tournament. Both the players and the few, dwindling followers will take that over injury-weakened sides refusing to go after anything resembling bold victory pushes with the ball on the final days of matches.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by prashnottz on (November 9, 2012, 4:08 GMT)

And regarding Pathan, its misleading to talk about champions League... Over the 15 days that the CL was conducted, Pathan bowled a maximum of just 20 overs. That is what players usually do on a single day of a test match.

Posted by TATTUs on (November 9, 2012, 4:05 GMT)

How can you blame the schedule after just one match?! Ridiculous. These guys are coming after a long break and are either former test players or aspirants. So how can you complain after a 4 day match?

Posted by dariuscorny on (November 9, 2012, 3:42 GMT)

i dont know the detractors are why ranting about the proposed schedule of Ranji this season?3-4 days must be enough for the players to get into the groove,had it been a 1 week gap between successive matches ,it wud have taken years to complete 1 season.....complaining always doesn't help....

Posted by prashnottz on (November 9, 2012, 3:33 GMT)

@Pramod.. agree.. This is just shoddy journalism.. I did a quick check and this season the most matches played by a FC player will be still fewer than that would be played by his English counterpart, who has actually 20 days lesser in his season. Rough calc - Indian FC - 88/180 days, Eng county player 89/150-155 days.

Posted by soorajiyer on (November 9, 2012, 2:45 GMT)

@Thomas Cherian - very well said. The whole structure with so many teams is a joke really.

Agreed it has become better. But then too many teams and quality is diluted if anything..

@Pramod - the point they are making is the packed schedule leaves no time for body to recover. There is just 3 days between two first class games. No other country has this kind of schedule as I understand. Plus you add in Champions league, IPL - the time lost is huge. So BCCI is making up with packed schedules!

Posted by   on (November 9, 2012, 1:45 GMT)

@arvindram, county has the championship and one other tournament. That's all. Not like deodhar, challenger, Irani, Duleep etc. Also county matches happen over a small geographical area of max Karnataka and Maharashtra combined. So conditions are similar and travel is less.

Posted by   on (November 8, 2012, 18:34 GMT)

Cull down the number of teams-Gujarat has three teams, Maharastra-3 teams, it is time these are reduced to one teams each, so also Hyderabad and AP...too many teams

Posted by arvindram on (November 8, 2012, 16:53 GMT)

How do English cricketers do it every summer? Isnt the county schedule as hectic as this? Are we seeing only the players who are past their prime or not in the best shape/fitness complaining?

Posted by   on (November 8, 2012, 16:48 GMT)

from just one match , how can you say the scheduling is gruelling?? I am quite confused... whether they are packed or not, a match takes 4 days.. we can make reasonable comments only after 3-4 matches, ryt?? Anybody can get injured in a match. So does that prove anything?

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