Domestic cricket is run by rote on a template

October 28 2017

Just as the three-match India-New Zealand 50-overs series is about to end on Sunday in Kanpur with the two sides going into it at 1-1, the Ranji Trophy season is warming up.

The supply chain from domestic cricket, whatever the standard of it, is steady and youngsters are taken care of by none other than Rahul Dravid once they get to India A and Under-19 level. Dravid more or less functions like a football coach with sweeping powers and stricter accountability.

There was a time the national dailies used to report the Ranji Trophy matches like unofficial Test matches and the collegiate finals in top universities like a big domestic event.

It was said in the 1960s and 1970s that it's easy for a cricketer to get into the India side but not into the Bombay Ranji Trophy team! Bombay were in a league of their own till the mid-1980s and the rest were fighting for the next best spot, the runners-up.

It's a tragedy the Ranji Trophy coverage has become near footnotes in most newspapers. Only those interested in their state teams or to know about the headline grabbers try to find out who are all performing.

What used to be, at a conservative length space for one Ranji Trophy match report, today brief scores of some 10 matches are squeezed into a black-bordered box. Depending on the mood of the reporter and space a small intro is written on some days to highlight the individual performances.

The khalifas of Indian cricket stopped playing in domestic cricket years ago even if they are free from national duty.

Some gave the argument that they had little to prove by playing a Ranji match and they would only be denying a promising youngster an opportunity to play in it. Today another excuse will be added, why deny a poor chap some good money by way of a hefty match fees.

The cricket board and national selectors have found a new way to force players to go back and play in domestic cricket by their resting, rotating and dropping policy. Most of them must be cursing their luck, more than their abilities.

Domestic cricket is run by rote, a template provided by visionary administrators of yore. They keep tinkering with it once in a way and it still keeps going without many glitches whether anyone watches it or ot.

The Ranji Trophy has become wide open with no team is fearful of a team like Mumbai as had been the case years ago and any team from among 10 top teams can entertain hopes of winning the national championship.

Rajasthan, who were not good enough to be in the elite league, came from Plate league to win the Trophy not once but twice. That was the time Lalit Modi was the chief of the state association.

Still, Mumbai's record is awesome, winning 41 times from 46 finals, some 90 percent winning record. The next two best teams are Karnataka with eight wins and Delhi seven.

What is also disproved is that a talented player can get to play for India only if his team is among the top metro teams. In fact, these players can take a team, that is not doing all that well, to the top.

Mohammad Kaif, Praveen Kumar, Suresh Raina, Rudra Pratap Singh, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Piyush Chawla and Kuldeep Yadav are the best examples of a side which has done well despite its awful governance politically and administratively.

Also, look at the promising players coming out of Gujarat, Baroda and Saurashtra, let alone Karnataka. Not to be left out, youngsters from Tamil Nadu, Hyderabad, Kerala and Hyderabad are also trying to catch the eye of the selectors.

For all its ills, the board has done a lot of good for the players by way of central contracts and pension for the old-timers. 

Many senior cricketers say they have a decent post-retirement life thanks to the pension which comes in handy for their medical expenses and a decent living.

One big problem is today's cricket administrators do not know the class and contribution of cricketers of yesteryears. Some veterans are made to run around begging for their legitimate due.

Take the case of Devraj Govindraj, the lanky fast bowler of 1970s, who played along with the stalwarts of the era, and was part of the victorious tours to the West Indies and England under Ajit Wadekar in 1971.

He is back home after spending over three decades in England and is running around to get his one-time payment of Rs 25 lakh all first-class cricketers got for playing 75 matches. 

Neither the board officials nor the Committee of Administrators (CoA) have obviously heard about him because he played when they were nowhere near a cricket field.

Govindraj, 70, is fast losing patience and hope.

(Veturi Srivatsa is a senior journalist. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at

  • Source
  • IANS