Ranji captains, coaches oppose neutral venues

S Badrinath had opposed the neutral-venues system in the 2016-17 season, calling the travel between venues "inhuman" Sivaraman Kitta

The BCCI's season-old concept of playing Ranji Trophy matches at neutral venues has received opposition at the captains' and coaches' meeting held in Mumbai on Tuesday. The meeting was held to receive feedback from the Ranji Trophy captains and coaches after the 2016-17 season, and included discussions on neutral venues, umpiring standards, pay hikes, scheduling, and playing conditions among other topics. BCCI acting president CK Khanna, secretary Amitabh Choudhary and CoA officials Diana Edulji and Ramachandra Guha were present at the meeting.

Choudhary clarified that there were a few who supported the neutral-venues concept, too, which was introduced just before the 2016-17 season. "There were views supporting both the formats," Khanna said. "Instead of making a calculation of how many people were on which side, what was done was that points made to substantiate a certain position on either of the two formats have been collated. They will be brought to the technical committee and then put before the general body which will take a call."

ESPNcricinfo understands that one of the reasons players wanted to go back to the home-and-away concept was to avoid travel fatigue as there were only three days between matches. Last season, players and coaches had also stressed on the importance of continuity of playing on home grounds, and complained about logistics problems while playing at neutral venues, such as lack of proper training pitches and net bowlers. During the 2016-17 season, Hyderabad captain S Badrinath had called the travel between venues "inhuman", saying that the bus journeys, along with multiple flights, were leaving the players exhausted before a game.

"The system is unfair on players, because all they do between games is travel," a coach present at the meeting told ESPNcricinfo. "There's more pressure on players out of form. In some cases, we reached venue on the night before training day, leaving us with no more than one net session going into the game. Even there, some of the associations couldn't help us with net bowlers. So it becomes tough to manage."

Another important talking point at the conclave was pay hikes and contracts for domestic players, as suggested by Harbhajan Singh recently to India coach Anil Kumble. It is understood that many captains supported the idea by saying that the BCCI should compare the salary of India's domestic players with that of domestic players in England and Australia.

Even though only Ranji captains and coaches were present at the meeting, the BCCI covered "every" aspect of the 50-overs Vijay Hazare Trophy, the 20-overs Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and junior tournaments too. It is understood that a lot of captains suggested there be a break between some one-day matches and Twenty20 matches, as most were played back to back last season. The possibility of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy reverting to its original state format from the current zonal structure was also discussed.

The standards of umpiring in domestic tournaments, which was criticised by several players during the 2016-17 season, also came up. Gujarat captain Parthiv Patel, who was present at the meeting, had expressed his unhappiness during his side's Irani Cup clash against Rest of India in January this year. The standards of umpiring had come up during last year's captains' and coaches' meeting in Dharamsala as well, where the suggestion of deploying a referral system was put forward.

With inputs from Shashank Kishore