The Ranji one-day matches for North Zone were conducted in Himachal Pradesh this year. The choice of venue is based on a rotation policy and this year it was their turn to host the games. The state needs to have three grounds to hold this tournament because three matches are played every match day as we have five state teams and the Services in the north zone. We played our first two games in one of the most picturesque cricket grounds in the world – the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Ground in Dharamsala.
The snow-covered peaks in the backdrop add to the charm of playing cricket in this mountain city. The hotel we chose to stay in was about half an hour's drive away from the ground and driving in that kind of terrain can be a bit of a bother for some, but once you set foot on the ground, everything else fades into oblivion. I must mention here that a lot of thinking and hard work has gone into building this facility and other associations can take a cue on just how much can be achieved if one has vision and the passion. The track is also almost ideal to play cricket on as it offers enough for everyone in the business. It won't be long before an international match or a national camp is held here.
The tournament finishes in nine days as the matches are held on every alternate day and if the rest day in-between includes travelling, it can get gruelling for the players. Contrary to popular belief, a one-day match takes a lot out of a player and the lack of adequate rest and time to recover can lead to injuries and fatigue. One might suggest a player-rotation system but with selection for the Deodhar Trophy, the one-day zonal tournament, at stake one can't afford to take a break because in the end it's all about the numbers: how many runs and how many wickets a player took.
As I mentioned earlier, we played our first two games at Dharamsala and the third match was held at Una which is three hours from Dharamsala. Since the hotel at Una is adjacent to the city's bus station we tried to spend as little time in Una as possible. The incessant honking of the vehicles deprives you of much needed sleep after the game.
Here comes the most annoying feature of our scheduling. After playing the third game at Una we went back to Dharamsala to play the fourth game before coming back to Una to play the fifth and final match. Basically we played three games at Dharamshala and two at Una, which is absolutely fine, but what irks me is the fact that it wasn't scheduled in a better manner, so as to avoid such to-and-fro trips that only adds to the player's fatigue.
Why did we play the third and the fifth game in Una? Why couldn't we finish our games in Dharamsala before shifting base to Una for the last two matches? And we weren't the only team doing the shuttling between Dharamsala. There were other teams too. Only a small amount of commonsense and understanding would have saved us the ordeal. But is anyone listening?
Playing the Ranji one-day matches takes you to the old days of playing matches within the zone and keeping an eye on other teams involved because only two qualify for the knock-outs. Domestic competition ceases to be a national event for these few days. Only when your team qualifies do you ask about the other teams qualifying from the other zones, as you would eventually be playing against one of them. The general consensus among the players is that now that we have the Elite and Plate groups in the Ranji Trophy we must continue with the same format for the shorter version as well. There are always at least a couple of teams in every zone which are pushovers, but they help boost the individual performances of players, which might be enough to fetch them a place in the zonal side. But this fails to deliver a true reflection of their talent.
PS: Please send the questions you would like me to answer in the next post. Tx :)

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