Snag in Domestic Flight

Though the Ranji Trophy threw up plenty of talents, the fringe players still have a long way to go in terms of international reckoning

Published: 20th April 2014 08:12 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th April 2014 08:33 AM   |  A+A-

When Baroda prevailed in a thrilling final of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy against Uttar Pradesh at the Wankhede last week, it brought the curtains down on the Indian domestic season. That Baroda were only the second team to win a domestic silverware highlighted the dominance of Karnataka. They won three titles — Ranji, Irani and Vijay Hazare– and were the team to beat across all formats.

This domestic season — like the season before — threw up plenty of fresh talents. But are they ready for the big step? “They all have a long way to go. They might be fringe players, but are actually nowhere close to making the India squad,” warned Punjab coach Bhupinder Singh. Not just him but many former cricketers, active Ranji players and coaches, who SS spoke to, seconded Bhupinder.

A player is a product of the system. But going by the system in the country, it is hard to judge or evaluate the talent. Though the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) needs to be applauded for putting the infrastructure in place, the system does need a reality check. Except for Jiwanjot Singh, no other player who made it to the list of top-10 run-getters and wicket-takers in the previous season have had a season to cherish this time. Bad form and injuries hit some, but the rest simply were found wanting for consistency.

Former India opener and Mumbai veteran Wasim Jaffer, though, isn’t surprised. “The standard is definitely de­clining. Many players sc­o­red runs, but none of them could sustain consistency ov­­er a period. So we can’t stra­i­ghtaway put them in the na­tional reckoning. They ne­e­d to grind out for three-four seasons minimum and only then will we know their real pot­ential. Apart from (Che­t­eshwar) Pujara, (Ajinkya) Ra­hane and (Virat) Kohli, sh­ow me one cricketer who has scored consistently over the years. Even in the case of bowlers, we don’t have someone who can continuously tr­o­uble the batsmen with pa­ce or spin. I can’t think of se­­eing any special talent in the past three seasons. It is sad to see spinners trying to contain the flow of runs. Th­e­y are not going for the wickets,” he noted.

rs.PNGFormer India pacer and current Uttar Pradesh coach Venkatesh Prasad explained the system’s flaw. “It is hard to judge a bowler who takes bucketful of wickets on a green-top or a rank-turner. Yes, we need result-oriented pitches. But it will be unfair to judge the talent on such tracks, because there are so many factors, which are assisting them. Though lot of pacers have come out, good spinners are hard to find these days. Teams from so­u­th play at least a couple of sp­inners in the playing XI at ho­me. But when they come up­ north, the whole dynami­c changes. Pacers dominate the scene because of the climatic conditions that prevail in Ranji months,” Prasad observed.

Scheduling is also a factor that is hampering the domestic season. If rain affects the matches in south during October and November, ma­t­ches held in north during D­e­cember and January are aff­ected by fog. “We defini­tely need to do something re­garding scheduling. The fo­rmat is good but it is not a good idea to play matches up north in December and January, where fog will be immense. It is just common sense, to play in south during that time. But some how we are doing so.”

But what has been more alarming to note is the lack of quality spinners in the circuit. A decade ago, the dom­estic cricket was crammed wi­th spinners, who were unf­o­rtunate to miss out on a national berth. But today the sce­nario is the total opposite. Bhupinder notes the dearth of­ spinners is a worrying sign. “Nearly 70 to 80 per ce­nt of matches are pl­a­yed on green tra­c­k­s. So there is little role for the spinners. So ultimately the talent will take a hit. It is very hard to find a spinner who turns and flights the ball these days. Even the selectors say ‘I think we should try him out’ and that’s how they get a chance. Not on their merit. We are picking the bad from the worse. And we are speaking of India,” he noted.

One tournament that definitely needs a rethink is the Duleep Trophy. None of the four matches played in Chennai and Kochi this season yielded a result. In fact, North and South Zone shared the final because of rain. “The form­at is good, but we seriously need to think about the conditions. Every season, it is just about playing on poor tracks and scoring runs. We don’t get result-oriented tracks. It was of zero-value this season,” Jaffer opined. Is BCCI listening?

Has Duleep Trophy Losing Its Value?

This season, the Duleep Trophy failed to yield a single result thanks to poor scheduling. Torrential rains in Chennai and Kochi meant the matches witnessed high-scoring draws. The Trophy was shared by North and South Zone because of washout. “It is still a good tournament. But it needs proper scheduling and we need to play on good tracks. Of late, it is losing interest because of poor pitches. We definitely need to address this issue because it is one tournament where quality is really good,” said former India opener and Ranji legend Wasim Jaffer.

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