Let me say it at the start: Ranji Trophy sucks! Big time!
In fact, let me alter the statement: The whole Indian domestic scene needs a serious re-vamp that is based on cricketing logic and not on regional-voting political-considerations.
The fact that India is able to produce the sorts of cricketers that it does is perhaps despite the clutch of domestic tournaments and — in my view — not because of it.
The Ranji Trophy, the prime Inter-State tournament in India commenced on Nov 3 2009 and concluded on Jan 14 2010. In other words, the single most effective tournament, from which India gets to harvest the next generation of talent, lasts a bit over 2 months! Is that enough? More importantly, is that fair?
What’s more? The Ranji Trophy has 15 Teams in the Super League (split into 2 groups). In addition, the Ranji Plate League has 11 teams split into 2 groups?
A question to ponder first up: Does the BCCI not like even numbers? What’s wrong with a Super League that has 14 teams split in two even groups of 7? And what’s wrong with a Plate League with 12 teams split into two groups of 6 each?
Be that as it may, that is way too many teams to cram into a 2-month window of matches and still expect a good harvest of talent at the end of the pipeline. Contrast this with the Australian Domestic scene. The Sheffield Cup, which is the equivalent of the Ranji Trophy, has just 6 teams in it. The tournament commences in early-October (13 Oct 2009, in the 2009/10 season) and ends in late March (23 March 2010 in the 2009/10 season). The formula is: fewer teams, more space in between games and more opportunities for Australian national players to play a few domestic games even as the International season is under-way in Australia! Each of the 6 teams play each other at home and away. There is a sense of fairness and balance too in the crafting of a proper tournament. We then would not need neutral curators and other such artificial artefacts that the BCCI wants to implement!
No wonder Rahul Dravid talks of a longer gap between Ranji games which might lead to more interesting games and tighter finishes!
But then, as Anand Ramachandran writes funnily on Cricinfo’s Page-2 spoof, for the BCCI, the Ranji Trophy is perhaps an irritation that has to be tolerated — much like a pimple on ones’ backside. The BCCI would perhaps much rather close down the Ranji Trophy and concentrate its efforts and its money tills on the lucrative and glitzy IPL. After all, one can only glitz up the Ranjis so much!
Furthermore, there are way too many domestic tournaments that need to be squeezed into the calendar. Soak this in. Challengers, Corporate Cup, Irani Trophy, Ranji Trophy, Duleep Trophy, Deodhar Trophy.
Hello! What’s going on? Is anyone even aware of the plethora of meaningless competitions that are on offer? There is a mess that needs cleaning up.
But rather than fix the whole mess, I’d like to start by suggesting a few small improvements to the Ranji Trophy which might make it more interesting for the player, the fan and the organisers with the outcome being a richer harvest of the talent pipeline.
- Split the current 26 teams into 4 Divisions: Div-A (5 teams), Div-B (6 teams), Div-C (7 teams) and Div-D (8 teams).
- Each team in each Division play each other at Home and Away.
- Top two teams from Div-A play for the Ranji Finals A.
- A4, A5, B1 and B2 play semi-finals to decide Ranji Finals B. Two losers get relegated and the two finalists stay in Division-A for next season.
- B5, B6, C1 and C2 play semi-finals to decide Ranji Finals C. Two losers get relegated and the two finalists stay in Division-B for next season.
- C6, C7, D1 and D2 play semi-finals to decide Ranji Finals D. The two finalists stay in Division-C for next season.
- Teams in Div-A have more break between games and teams in Div-D have less of a gap between games and that would be “fair game”, I’d think.
But despite all the cramped schedules and the many dull draws, the Ranji Season did produce some excitement and some comfort for the Team India fan. There is certainly a good crop of young talent that is coming through the ranks.
I would certainly like to see some of the following young and talented players go as part of an India-A-Team to England, Australia and South Africa sometime this year.
M. Vijay / Ajinkya Rahane / Abhinav Mukund
Cheteshwar Pujara / Suresh Raina
Rohit Sharma / Mithun Manhas
Virat Kohli / Manish Pandey
S. Badrinath (capt)
Wriddhiman Saha / Puneet Bisht (wk)
Irfan Pathan / Ravindra Jadeja
Ashok Dinda / Abhimanyu Mithun
Sudeep Tyagi / R. P. Singh / Munaf Patel
Iqbal Abdulla / Aushik Srinivas
Piyush Chawla / R Ashwin
Most of the above had a good Ranji season and are knocking on the doors of national selection. It would be good to see them have a taste of conditions elsewhere before they play there in senior colours. Although players like Virat Kohli or Suresh Raina or Badrinath have played in Australia (in the Emerging Players Cup in 2009, for example), it is only reinforcement as well as repeated exposure that will remove fear of alien conditions from their minds.