Beyond the Blues

A rulebook beyond reason

This is the story of a game that was being touted as an exciting encounter, between Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh

Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra
Rain washes out the first day of Tamil Nadu's Ranji season, Tamil Nadu v Baroda, Ranji Trophy Elite 2011-12, Chennai, November 3, 2011

A rethink is needed on rain rules in Ranji Trophy  •  ESPNcricinfo Ltd

This is the story of a game that was being touted as an exciting encounter, between Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The two teams fought tooth and nail for over three days and nearly 300 overs. Batting first, Rajasthan had to deal with incessant showers, poor light and moisture in the track. MP had to deal with the pressure created by the mountain of runs, but more importantly time, for there wasn't enough to overhaul the total and gain the first-innings lead. Since both teams were tied on equal number of points after two games, it was imperative to not concede the advantage. The lack of an outright result pinched, yet it made for some intriguing play as both the important Ts - technique and the temperament - were tested in the process.
Shockingly, though, both teams didn't get even a single point from the hard-fought dual. The rulebook says that if more than 90 overs are lost in a match; both teams share one point each in case both teams fail to complete their first innings. Fair enough, but if less than 90 overs are lost and the first innings is not completed, you walk away with no points.
Despite losing almost a full day to rain, which means 90 overs, teams didn't lose 90 overs of play in four days. They made up for the lost time by extending the post-lunch session by half an hour and playing till the light permitted on the remaining days. While it was a good effort to get maximum number of overs in, it boomeranged. Perhaps, losing more than 90 overs was a better deal, thanks to a rather mysterious rule. How perplexing it is to know that one gets a point for even conceding the first-innings lead, while in this case the teams got none.
Hyderabad were blown away for 21 in the first innings against Rajasthan and then subsequently in the match and quite justifiably got no points. You can penalise a team for playing poorly, but can certainly not reprimand them for not giving any quarters to the opposition. In fact, playing poorly can also fetch you one point, if you concede the lead.
This could well be a classic situation to throw away the match too. If both teams were tied on the same number of points and one team needed the points to either get promoted or stave off relegation, it was worth allowing the opposition to either overhaul the total, or throw away wickets to concede the first-innings lead. This would at least ensure one point which is definitely better than none. Undoubtedly then, there is an obvious flaw in this rule, for it may force people to change the natural course of the match in order to gain a point.
You might say that since both teams didn't get a point, nobody lost out. But little do we realise that it allowed Hyderabad to come even at the points table and are now joint third at the top. A point for each team would have steered them clear of rest. For now though, Rajasthan & MP pay for the absurdity of certain bizarre rules.

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