Shardul Thakur: 'Extremely tough on domestic players to play ten games with three-day gaps'

Shardul Thakur throws spotlight on crammed Ranji Trophy schedule after hitting game-changing ton against Tamil Nadu in semi-final

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
File photo - "Next year, the BCCI have to re-look at it, and give more breaks," says Shardul Thakur  •  AFP/Getty Images

File photo - "Next year, the BCCI have to re-look at it, and give more breaks," says Shardul Thakur  •  AFP/Getty Images

India allrounder Shardul Thakur has called for longer breaks between Ranji Trophy games to facilitate better recovery and preparation for players, keeping in mind the lengthy nature of the competition. Mumbai, for example, would've played 10 first-class games in under 10 weeks should they reach the final.
Shardul termed the current schedule - where teams have had just three days between games - as "difficult" with schedules getting "tighter and tighter."
"If boys keep playing like this for two more seasons, there will be a lot of injuries across the country," he said after hitting a maiden first-class century to rescue Mumbai from 106 for 6, as they went on to open up a 207-run lead with one wicket remaining.
"Next year, they [the BCCI] have to re-look at it, and give more [of a] break. When I remember playing Ranji Trophy back in the day, good seven to eight years back, [the] first three games used to have [a] three-day break, and then it was [a] four-day break, and knockouts were played [with] five-day breaks."
With the IPL window only getting bigger, the BCCI has had to force-fit all senior men's competitions over a smaller window than usual. This has led to several prominent first-class cricketers lamenting privately about the relevance of tournaments such as the Duleep Trophy and Deodhar Trophy, the zonal first-class and one-day competitions, which open the domestic season.
Injuries aside, teams have also had to grapple with travel fatigue because of this short window. Gujarat, for example, had their flight to New Delhi cancelled the following day after their home fixture against Karnataka in Ahmedabad.
Then on the second day, their onward flight to Delhi was delayed, and when they finally arrived in the capital, they were stranded in the airport overnight. It meant driving amid heavy fog to Chandigarh on the third morning which left them with no net sessions prior to the game, which was eventually fogged out.
"Now this year, we have seen that all the games have been played [with a] three-day gap. It is extremely tough on domestic players to expect them to play ten games in a row with just three-day gap if [a] team makes it to the finals.
"Also, when nine teams were in the group [in the old format], one team would get a break in [the] round-robin system. Now with only eight teams being in one group, everyone plays each other, so that [extra] break has gone now."
Thakur cited Mumbai's example, while explaining how it was particularly gruelling on fast bowlers. "Yeah, 100% because Mohit [Avasthi] also had an injury in the sixth game." Avasthi was rested by Mumbai from the league stage contest against Chhattisgarh, believed to have developed a hamstring-related issue.
"He played five games in a row. He had a huge workload because Tushar [Deshpande] was also selected for India A," Thakur said. "He was not available. Dhawal [Kulkarni] was playing alternate games looking at his age and workload. Royston [Dias] is fairly new.
"He [Mohit] operated a lot in those first five games, and then he had an injury so he had to miss a game. I think that is because there is not enough spacing between the games."
Tamil Nadu captain and left-arm spinner R Sai Kishore, who has led his side into Ranji Trophy knockouts for the first time in seven years while also crossing the 50-wicket mark this season, agreed with Thakur.
"A few players feel the same thing," Sai Kishore said. "Fast bowlers are extra tired because you travel on one day. For me, I don't train much because of the three-day thing. I bowl directly match-to-match, so the load on my body is fine. I don't strain myself in training pre-match. I am managing myself that way, but it should be harder for the fast bowlers."

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo