Tag Archives: Domestic Competition

Indian Cricket Strategic Roadmap…

Vish Krishnan has already talked about mental strength as the first anchor points. This is an excellent starting point towards the formation of a strategic roadmap for Indian cricket.

Everyone has a view. Vish Krishnan has. I do too. The Indian cricket fan on the street has a view. These range from a “kick them all out” to a more phlegmatic “take the pains with the gains” approach.

Price Waterhouse Coopers, India too have a view. They came out with a plan to augment self-belief in the team.

Narayana Murthy (Infosys guru and noted visionary) came out with a statement on “sticking to process and not giving up“. He seemed to echo the words of the legendary Australian Rugby wizard John Eales: “Courage even under intense pressure and sticking to the game plan” was his mantra. Narayana Murthy felt that the Indian team management gave up on their “process thinking” and started to concentrate far too much on immediate outcomes when under intense pressure.

A few others commented on this blogsite on a few other aspects including fitness and so on.

Here is (what I think is) a fuller list of things that Indian cricket needs to concentrate on to bounce back (this includes the three dot points in Vish Krishnan’s earlier posting):

  • Improve Mental strength at all levels
  • Skills improvement
  • Better Player management
  • Develop fast Pitches for local competition
  • Implement a Player Endorsement Management Program
  • Improve Fitness levels
  • Revamp the domestic competition
  • Improve Fielding: When will Indian cricket learn that this is important
  • Have a vision and stick to it.
  • Better management of Indian media.
  • Improve situational awareness capabilities of all players.

All of these require much more indepth analysis and elaboration. Let us construct this list and then develop these further. Please comment on other headline items. We will then address each of the above in turn.

Player Endorsement Management

A quick word of clarification on “Player Endorsement Management”. At the moment, poster-boys like Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Dhoni and Pathan are brand ambassadors for a huge plethorta brands each. I have absolutely nothing against players making money out of cricket. As I was saying to a friend of mine over a heated email exchange, I do not begrudge them their earnings. The market decides how much these guys get paid. Not you and me.

There are numerous stories of the litany of players who fall by the wayside in their attempts to get to the top of their profession. I know of several sportspersons from my school who made a choice to strike it out in cricket. A good friend of mine (name withheld for obvious reasons) was an excellent soccer, cricket and field-hockey player. He represented South Indian schools in soccer and cricket! He represented state juniors in cricket, soccer and hockey. He had to make a choice. He chose to focus on cricket. Five years and two injuries later, he was virtually on the road, with a drug addiction to kick off as well. He tried to get to the top. he fell by the wayside. But these players in the Indian team persevered despite the trials and tribulations and despite the politics-riddled system that they had to either fight against or work with. They fought the odds to get to the top. And they stuck to their self-belief to reach the top.

Good luck to them for what they get paid. I can’t begrudge them their right to get paid whatever just as I can’t begrudge the CEO of a top company getting what he gets paid. He is worth what the market says he is worth.

If Kelly Slater gets paid hell of a lot to ply his surfing trade, good luck to him. If Lance Armstrong gets paid a heck of a lot to ply his cycling trade, good luck to him. If Roger Federer gets paid what he does to ply his tennis trade, good luck to him. Similarly Tendulkar, Dravid or Ganguly… These are the fruits of individual life choices. We should not begrudge what people get paid.

We each made a choices to be what we wanted to be knowing full well that we would get paid (or not) in comparison to an insurance salesman, a retail executive, an IT professional or a cricketer or a soccer player. There — right there — we lost my right to whinge. At least, that is what I think!

All I can then ask for then is that there are checks and balances in the cricketing system.

  • There are no jobs for life.
  • There is a performance-based system in place.
  • The players give off their best.

That’s about it.

Yes, they played badly against Bangladesh. They probably played worse against Sri Lanka. But there are a multitude of reasons for these terrible losses. And we need to get to the bottom of these.

I agree that Indian fans would be disappointed. But asking for Dravid’s head on the guillotine (figuritively or really) or sacking 15 players from the team or some such drastic measure is not right. Just as constructing a temple when the team wins is not right. It is a game. We have to learn to accept the spills with the thrills…

But there have to be chacks and balances. And one is desperately needed in the area of player endorsement management, in my view.

No sponsor is going to make a cricketer their brand ambassador without exacting their pound of flesh in terms of player-time-commitment. The more time players spend with sponsors, the less time they have to polish their own games. And this is where the BCCI must step in. As the “employer” of the players, they would be well within their rights too impose a simple rule that states that no contracted player can enter into more than 10 (say) sponsorship deals. This could well sort out this issue of player-time-commitments, in my view. This rule could also be expressed in terms of total-lapse-time-contributed-to-sponsors. This will ensure that players do not over-sell themselves and their time. They would be able to exact more money (perhaps) from each of the sponsors and will also have time to spend on their own games.

But we are perhaps getting a bit ahead of ourselves. Let us agree on the main heads and we can then start expanding on each of these to develop a roadmap.

One issue is non-negotiable in my view: A strategic vision and a roadmap is urgently required. This inglorious and embarassing bombing-out has highlighted the necessity. In that sense, it is a blessing in disguise.

Like much of India (in my view) there was more spin and less substance to the cricket team. This inadequacy was exposed rudely. Like the rest of India will get a rude shock (my prediction) in the near future, the Indian cricket team has received this rude shock. It is opportune. Rather than wallow in depression, it is time to sit up and use this as a positive opportunity to chart a cogent progress pathway.

Views?

— Mohan

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Ranji and Duleep Trophies to be revamped

Some time back I had suggested that the domestic competition in India needed an overhaul.

Yesterday’s Times of India had reports indicating that, starting next season, both the Ranji Trophy as well as the Duleep Trophy would be overhauled!

But I believe the proposals, while along the right lines (in terms of rationale and objectives) is a bit flawed.

Ranji Trophy:

The technical committee of the BCCI, chaired by Sunil Gavaskar, considered the current Ranji format. Currently we have 27 teams in the competition with 15 in the Elite Division and 12 in the Plate Division. The suggestion on the table is to split this into three groups (Group A, Group B and Group C). I am sure they will come up with some catchy names for these groupings — such as Plate, Cup and Saucer! However, each group will consist of 9 teams that will play each other once only — and that is problem number 1 with this proposal. The top-two from each group will qualify for the next round — and here is problem number 2. The six qualifiers will split into two groups of three each and play a round robin league. The top-two from each group will make the semi-finals with the winners playing in the finals.

Firstly, I think nine teams playing a league is about 3 too many. The strength of the Australian Pura Cup competition is that 6 strong teams play each other home-and-away. This is a tough competition in which the nations’ best play off against each other to produce stronger players. I think they should have collapsed 3 of the teams and streamlined the competition into having 4 leagues of 6 teams each.

Second, and more importantly, I don’t get the point of having the top two teams from each league play off in a round-robin tournament before which the semi-finals and finals would be decided. For example, what’s the point of having Mumbai, Bengal, Saurashtra, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Orissa play off? You’d want Mumbai, Bengal, Karnataka, Baroda, Delhi and Punjab (say) play off in the top six.

A better re-structure of the same plan would be:
– Have three groups of 9 teams each: Group A, Group B and Group C.
– Play the league phase where each team plays the other once in each Group.
– Create 3 Super-Groups, Super Group A, B and C of 4 teams each.
– Super Group A consists of the top 4 teams of Group A
– Super Group B constsis of the bottom 2 teams of Group A and the top 2 teams from B.
– Super Group C constsis of the bottom 2 teams of Group B and the top 2 teams from C.
– Each of the teams in Super Groups A, B and C play each other home-and-away.
– The winner of Super Group A wins the Ranji Trophy.
– The top two teams from Super Group B advance to Group A for the next season.
– The remaining two teams get demoted to Group B.
– The top two teams from Super Group C advance to Group B for the next season.
– The remaining two teams get demoted to Group C.

This is a slightly better option than the one suggested. Of course, an alternative is to increase the size of the Super Groups to include 6 teams and not just 4.

Gavaskar’s suggested modification may work if the Groups A, B and C are seeded (and I am not sure if that is on the cards), but then there could be quite a scrap regarding the allocation of the seedings and the random allocation of teams to Groups.

A ladder-system (as in the English soccer league) is a much better alternative.

Having said this, it is certainly a step in the right direction.

Duleep Trophy:

The Duleep Trophy is also set to undergo an overhaul. And I think this is a good step. The regional basis for selection of teams is set to be thrown out. And that is a terrific move. Hopefully, with this, zone-based selectors will also go?

Anyway, from 2008, the Duleep Trophy will do away with zone-based teams. The trophy will feature 4 teams (instead of the current 6). Currently, the championship features 5 zonal teams and an overseas team. In 2006-07, Sri Lanka A made the Duleep Trophy Finals! In 2007-08, West Indies A will visit.

The three teams that will take part in the Duleep Trophy will be selected from amongst the best players in each Group — nine teams — of the Ranji Trophy games (Group A, B and C).

This is, in my view, a good move. The Deodhar Trophy will also be restructured along similar lines.

— Mohan

Another domestic competition strategy…

 

After reading Mohan’s article on how to improve the Indian domestic cricket competition, I thought I’d put my own ideas together. This is what I think needs to be done –

  • Create a new domestic cricket competition
  • Create six new teams to play in this competition
  • Operate this in a sports franchise model – similar to NFL or NBA
  • Get companies such as MRF, Sahara etc, bidding for these teams and owning them
  • Each team recruits its own players. BCCI will eventually have to work out salary caps etc.
  • Each team has 15 players, of which 4 can be overseas players.
  • Make sure that not more than one team make the same city its home.
  • Each team plays 2 Twenty20 games in a week – One on Saturday and one on Sunday
  • Each team plays the other team twice – basically one home and one away game
  • In week 6, the top 2 teams play a best of 3 finals – split over 2 days.

Ok, What are the advantages of doing this?

Well for starters, these franchises will recruit the best players nationally and internationally. Each team will also prepare the pitch to suit their home team’s strengths. For example, if MRF chooses to own a team, they may include players from its Pace foundation and prepare fast and bouncy tracks for its home games. This will get players playing on good tracks.

Playing against and with quality players will also improve the overall standard of the players playing in the tournament.

If this model works for Twenty20 games, we can even try this for the regular one-day format in a few years.

What happens to the current domestic competition?

 Several changes have been recommended on how to make the current model better. But the model I’ve suggested can co-exist with the current Ranji/Duleep trophy models. This tournament can probably (but doesn’t have to) replace the current Challenger trophy one day tournament which consists of 3 teams – India Seniors, India A and India B.

Why Twenty20? And what about revenue ?

Twenty20 cricket games have been good crowd pullers wherever they’ve been played – It is not going to be any different in cricket-mad India. Players like Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly, Sehwag, Dhoni are big crowd magnets and if we add other international stars to these games, spectators are bound to turn up in large numbers. So will the television stations, wanting to broadcast these games. One of the main reasons these games are so popular is because they just last around 3 hours – and people do not have to sit  around a complete day (or five) to watch a game to its finish. Because these games are so short, they are very lively and full of action.

Ticket sales, television and franchise merchandise should be able to cover the revenue part.

When do we find time to host this tournament in a busy international calendar? And what if some of the players are called up to play for the national team?

BCCI will have to work out when this tournament should be played. Domestic matches are always going to clash with international fixtures and players selected for national duty will not be available to play in these tournaments. Unfortunately, that is the way it works – but it does give opportunities for other players to step up and make an impact on these matches.

Is this going to improve the standard of cricket in India?

People will argue that Twenty20 is not “real” cricket and a twenty over game is not really going to improve anyone’s cricket. Sure, Twenty20 is a different breed of cricket, and some of the players’ weaknesses may not be as apparent as in the longer version, but as I said earlier – playing with and against quality players will help in improving the standard of all players playing.

 

There may be few flaws in the model and it may not be suitable in the exact form that I have proposed, but it is a sound model which I am sure can be made to work…

-Mahesh-

Revamping the Indian Domestic Competition…

[I had blogged this in my other blog, but I decided to re-post it here today].

In recent times, I have heard many people suggesting that the Indian Domestic Competition needs an overhaul.

A good first-step was taken a few years ago, thanks to a movement led by Sunil Gavaskar. The traditional zonal-manner in which the Ranji Trophy tournament was organised up until then was scrapped (the zonal format has been persisted with for the one-day championship, by the way!). After Sunil Gavaskar’s intervention, we saw the Ranji league divided into two leagues:

* the Super League consisting of 15 teams in two divisions of 8 and 7 each, and
* the Plate League consisting of 13 teams in two divisions of 7 and 6 each.

It is not clear why the Super League has two divisions of 8 and 7 each. It is also not clear why the Plate league has two imbalanced divisions of 7 and 6 each. Some things are best left without much questioning, I guess!

This was a good first step.

However, I do not believe that this format will throw up top-notch cricketers of the future. Indian cricket continues to be vibrant and strong at the grass-roots level. The maidan, area, sub-district and district level league competitions are strong and vibrant. Talent is nurtured at these levels. The poor facilities (dust bowl grounds and sorry pitches) do not encourage physical flexibility/agility and good fielding habits. But this is all changing — slowly, but perceptibly.

Where India loses out is at the elite level.

If we see the Australian scene there are a few teams that slug it out in a near-International-standard cricket competition. The main reason is that the Ranji leagues have too many teams. The better players emerge from a competition with only a few teams that slug it out. The best players need to play against each other. This is why the Australian league is one of the strongest.

So, here is a suggestion on a revamp of the system:

While I can understand the need for teams like Orissa, Assam and Bihar to participate in the national competition, we need to assemble a competition with fewer and better teams to slug it out. A smaller and stronger competition will unearth the best players.

After the Ranji competition is completed, why not create two Super-Six Divisions?

The First Super-Six Division will consist of the top-6 teams from the Super-League — three from each Division. We could get them to play a home-away Ranji-Super-Six-Championship-League.

The Second Super-Six Division will decide who gets relegated to the Plate Division. The bottom 4 teams from the Super-League and the top 2 teams from the Plate Division can play in the Second Super-Six Division. We could get them to slug it out in a home-away league to decide who gets relegated (2 bottom teams) and who stays in the Super league (top 4).

A change is required to unravel the best players in Indian domestic cricket. This is but one suggestion…

— Mohan