If the quality of a country’s cricket can be gauged by its domestic leagues, then Indian cricket lies in shambles. The premier Indian domestic first class tournament, named after the legend from the Golden Age of Cricket finds itself in this situation for many reasons.
This is very evident from the current season, where teams play only for the first innings lead, and don’t attempt to make a game out of it. And the lesser said about the state of the pitches, the better. We have seen only seventeen results out of the 45 games so far, and the pitches have been dead, in many of these games. The major problem is in the current points structure, that gives 3 points for first innings lead, 5 for victories and 6 for innings victories.
A more realistic points formula can be worked out, similar to:
* 3 points for victories, and 4 for wins by an innings
* 2 points for first innings lead, 1 point to the other team
* a point apiece in case of incomplete first innings
Last week, the Victoria – South Australia game and the one between Warriors and Dolphins in South Africa provide a study in contrast to the boring draws in the Ranji Trophy. The two teams declared in hope of a result, and both games produced some good cricket and of course, results. There has been no intent by Ranji teams to declare unless they have passed 550, in a four-day game! Only Tamil Nadu’s Dinesh Karthik had the gumption to declare overnight after the first day against Himachal Pradesh, and won the game after conceding the first innings lead. Other teams have put up huge scores, and spent too much time in the process so that the result was a foregone conclusion: dull draw, meaning batting practice on concrete pitches.
The top teams are virtually the same for many years: Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Mumbai. The other teams have been fighting to stay in the top tier avoiding relegation. The current two-tier system also needs to change, and a more convenient three tier system needs to be put in place. The 27 teams in the super and plate league (including Services who were disqualified this season) can be split into three tiers of 9 teams each, and a home-and-away format will ensure that all teams get a healthy dose of good old first class cricket.
Picture this: Tamil Nadu played all their games this season away from home, and Hyderabad played all but one of their games at home. This obviously leads to heavy home advantages, with flat and dead decks becoming the order of the day. A home-and-away format will make away with the unjust inequalities in pitches, and a revamped points formula may go some way in making the pitches livelier.
That said, there have been some stellar performers in the Super League this season, both batsmen and bowlers. Parthiv Patel, Badrinath, Murali Vijay, Parvinder Singh, Chirag Pathak, Manish Pandey, Rohit Sharma, Arun Karthik and Ajinkya Rahane have batted well enough, but are waiting on the wings. It remains to be seen of they can hold their own in the international arena, when called upon.
Among the bowlers, Karnataka’s Vinay Kumar, Aravind and Mithun have been the reason behind their victories. ICL’s Love Ablish has been Punjab’s best bowler along with M.S.Gony. Tamil Nadu have unearthed a 16 year old left arm spinner in Aushik Srinivas, who troubled and prised out seven Mumbai batsmen last week. Given his young age and with what we’ve seen of him, he should go the distance in international cricket.
Irfan Pathan and Tamil Nadu’s Chandrasekar Ganapathy have been the top all rounders this season, with Ganapathy performing admirably saving two games with the bat and winning one with the ball. There is no dearth of talent, but most of it goes wasted on dead pitches and dull draws.
Unless the BCCI wakes up and revives domestic cricket, India will find tough to fill the void soon to be created after the legends retire.
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