UP v MP, Ranji Trophy, Group B, 2nd day, Kanpur December 23, 2013

Prasad criticises Ranji scheduling

Nagraj Gollapudi and Amol Karhadkar

Venkatesh Prasad, the Uttar Pradesh coach, has criticised the Ranji Trophy scheduling after the second day's play in Kanpur was entirely lost due to foggy conditions. Uttar Pradesh, currently second in Group B, are playing Madhya Pradesh at Green Park in their penultimate match of the league stage. Prasad was frustrated that his team stood to lose out on vital points necessary to make the knockouts.

"I am not very sure about the thought process of the members on the concerned committee as far as Ranji Trophy scheduling goes," Prasad, a former India fast bowler, told ESPNcricinfo. Prasad said it was a given that in northern parts of India from mid-December heavy fog settles in for virtually the entire day, and that the senior tournament committee, which chalks out domestic fixtures, needed to take heed of the situation.

Former India offspinner Shivlal Yadav heads the committee. A member each from the cricket associations from Mumbai, Punjab, Kerala, Jharkhand and Vidarbha make up the rest of the panel, with BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel serving as convenor. The committee liaises with Ratnakar Shetty, the BCCI's game development manager, before finalising the venues.

According to Prasad there could have been "30-40 overs" bowled on Monday, but the umpires felt it was "slightly dark" and theirs was the final word. "The umpires are the best judge as far as bad light and fog are concerned. But to be realistic the conditions will be hazy in the northern part of the country at this point of time in the year," he said. "It is not about being better prepared. It is just commonsense."

Prasad agreed points were crucial, but said it was more important to get a full match. "We want the matches to go on and the players to get decent time in the middle to help them perform. Every team aspires to make the knockouts," he said.

"I would like personally to get a full game. And that is not going to happen if you play at this time of the year in this part of the country. It is simple. The committee needs to know that. It is not about how anxious I am, how anxious the Railways team is or how anxious Services are. It is about playing the game. Playing all 90 overs. Playing all four days. The committee should look into this very seriously."

Even Railways, ahead of Uttar Pradesh by one point in Group B, have suffered due to the weather conditions. Against Tamil Nadu in the previous round and this week against Services, they have had to make do with delayed starts and bad visibility.

Prasad reckoned the committee could look at playing more Ranji Trophy games in early November to avoid scheduling matches in the period between mid-December and January. "What should happen is the teams in north and central India should probably finish their home matches latest by December 15," Prasad said.

With Uttar Pradesh playing their final Group A match in Lucknow from December 30, a period notorious for heavy fog, Prasad was concerned that another fog-curtailed match would end his team's chances of making the quarter-finals. "That is going to be even worse," Prasad said.

According to Prasad, Uttar Pradesh had played their final two rounds, during the group stages last year, away from home in late December and early January. He said he couldn't understand why that didn't happen this year, too. "Uttar Pradesh could have played Madhya Pradesh in November in the first round instead of Baroda (their first-round opponents). We could have gone and played Bardoa now," Prasad said.

Reacting to Prasad's remarks, the BCCI said its aim was always to schedule matches accounting for all weather conditions. "We try and avoid extreme weather conditions while finalising the schedule. For instance, it rains a lot in the south in November and three of Tamil Nadu's home games were affected last year. So what we try and do is to avoid scheduling matches in the south in November and in the northern and central parts from the end of December," Shetty said.

According to Shetty, it is a bigger challenge when there are more than two teams from one of these zones in the same group. "Then it becomes very difficult to avoid it, especially since it has been decided from last year to let each team play four home and four away games in the league stage," he said. "The funny thing is the weather also is so unpredictable that in the last round - while Services' game at Palam [in Delhi] was affected due to fog, Delhi's match against Vidarbha started on time."

Shetty felt the only possible solution was if both teams agreed to play the match at a neutral venue. "But considering that the last couple of rounds are crucial for most teams when it comes to qualification for the knockouts, not many are forthcoming to lose out on the home advantage."