Kudos to the BCCI for initiating some positive measures in spite of the fact that these steps were reactionary (and one or two ‘knee-jerky’ such as the sponsorship issue). However, it is disappointing that they have not talked about the scheduling of international matches except for the fact that the national team will play more domestic matches. In my opinion, it is a key area that needs to be addressed and acted fast.
Scheduling is important for obvious reasons:
- Give players enough time to recover from injuries, mental pressure or burn out so that they can come back rejuvenated
- Allow players time to get back to form by letting them play first class cricket and hopefully came back with confidence
- More importantly, it helps keep the public interest alive by limiting International matches. Unless there is some novelty value, the crowds will stop coming eventually. There is no point killing the proverbial golden goose!
- Finally in the long term, crowds will come and sponsors will pay only when the team is winning and playing good cricket since scheduling plays an indirect yet significant role in the teams performance
Here are my suggestions:
Do away quota system for Associations
Do away with quota systems for assigning matches to different cities/grounds. BCCI’s flimsy reason is that a portion of the revenues generated through tickets and stadium adverts will go to the local association. This has no doubt adversely affected the standard of pitches, quality of the stadiums, spectator safety and besides; players have to put up with additional travelling and difficult playing conditions. At least for Tests, grounds should be limited to Mohali, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore and Chennai. Surely, there are other creative ways of allocating funds to these associations.
We need to play exactly 6 home tests each year and at least limit home ODIs to 10 or a 3-team series (like the Australian format). The following stats will make interesting reading:
Year : Tests (home/ away) : ODIs (h/a)
2006 : 12 (3/9) : 32 (7/25)
2007* : 9 (3/6) : 48 (25/23)
* I have included possible future games for 2007. Interesting to note that for this year alone ODIs would have increased to 54 if India had qualified for the Super8s and a whooping 56 if they reached the finals!!
In my opinion, BCCI should aim for 12 Tests (6/6) and roughly 30 ODIs (10/20) each year and no more. But the problem is they have already signed sponsorship deals and telecast rights which are likely to have caveats on how many matches India will play over the next 3 or so years.
The schedules for these matches should be locked in at least 12 months before to enable better logistics management and pitch preparation.
Rotation policy with a difference
While the BCCI has more control over limiting home games, they may have to compromise on the away tours. India may end up playing a lot more ODIs and Twenty20s. The BCCI therefore needs to manage this carefully.
My suggestion is to set thresholds for number of playing days by playing role. This should include both domestic and International matches.
Unless a situation arises where the bench cannot replace a player and all other options are considered he should be given a break. Indirectly this will create a pressure on improving both the quality and quantity of the bench (not overnight, but eventually).
This will also allow untested yet talented players a fairer go to represent India. Unless chances are given, we will never know for sure.
I understand that that this is easier said than done. Thresholds will no doubt be different for fast bowlers, spinners, and batsmen. Throw keepers and all rounders into the fray and it becomes even more complex. I agree, that the equation is not straight forward as there can be many variables like a spinner may not bowl more than 10 overs in a test match in England!
Answers will only evolve over time but it has to start somewhere; and a good place to start is looking at the stats for the last 4 or 5 seasons. If the coach, captain, selectors, team physio and statistician work on this together, a draft version can be created within a week.
I am glad that the BCCI has come out in favour of organising more ‘A’ tours. As Mohan Krishnamoorthy has suggested in his post ‘Two teams :: Mixed signals from the selectors…’ , it is important that ‘A’ teams play nearly the same if not more ODIs and tests as the senior team. Hopefully quality players will come through the system.