Saturday, August 20, 2011

Prescriptions

Managerial opinion writing is rampant in Cricket. I invariably find myself hesitating - usually to a point where I  decide not to write - when it comes to a post which suggests what India should do. I'm usually more interested in what India or some other team are doing. But once in a decade defeats are once in a decade defeats.

Having justified what follows with that throwaway line, here is what I think India need to do to ensure that they stay competitive in Test Cricket. I don't expect most of this to actually happen. But if Plans are to be offered, then this one is at least as good as any other.


1. First Class Cricket
First Class Cricket needs to be an end in itself, and not merely a selection trial for prospective India players. A 5-7 match season (as it currently is for the majority of India's first class players) is too short. The Duleep Trophy, which is currently played more or less as a selection trial, is a bizarre knock-out tournament in which all teams do not have to play the same number of matches to win the tournament. The Irani Trophy, played at the start of the season is a legacy tournament which serves no real purpose.

There is room for clarity in this muddled First Class season. The Duleep Trophy should be scrapped. In its place, the Irani Trophy should be extended to include 3 teams, Test Match length games. These three teams should be - (1) The Ranji Trophy Champions; (2) The first choice Test team, except members of the Ranji side, (3) An India A side. Each of these sides gets to play 2 games between October 1 and October 20.

The Ranji Trophy should be a two division league as it is now, but not as a Plate and Super League. It should be divided into 2 Leagues - a Western League and an Eastern League.

Western League (13 teams): Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Mumbai, Mahararashtra, Gujarat, Baroda, Saurashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir, Services

Eastern League (14 teams): Haryana, Delhi, Railways, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Tripura, Bengal, Assam, Vidarbha, Orissa, Bengal, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu

In the 135 (or 136) days from October 20 - March 15, these two leagues will play a round robin first class league of 4 day games. Each team will play either 12 or 13 four day matches over 4 months. The winner of each league will compete in a 5 day Final for the National Championship (commemorated by the Ranji Trophy) in the final week of March.

This would give India's players a full first class season from October - March. Ranji Trophy games should be scheduled one of two ways:
1. 4 day matches, with 90 overs played per day, with provision for the use of lights.
2. 3 day matches, with 120 overs played per day, with provision for the use of lights.

The points system in the Ranji Trophy should be changed to provide no points for a draw. Recently, the BCCI has tried to induce teams to be positive by increasing the difference between the points scored for first innings leads (3) and points scored for outright wins (5), and by offering a bonus point for wins by an innings or by 10 wickets. A far better incentive would be to have

2 pts for innings victories or 10 wicket wins.
1 pts for an outright win.
0 pts for draws and defeats.

In addition to this, they should also require associations to prepare result wickets - wickets which make gigantic first innings totals very unlikely.

2. Centrally Contracted Players:
The First Class Calender will provide for 16-17 First Class Matches per player per season, excluding Test Matches. In the past 10 years, India have played 47 Test Matches at home and 56 away. India tend to play Home Tests most frequently in October, November and March.

Ideally, India should play a 3 Test series in November, and a 3 Test series in March. In both series, the 2nd and 3rd Tests should be played back to back. India's Away series should be organized around these games. 

India's Centrally Contracted players should be required to play a minimum of 5 and a maximum of 8 first class games in the season, including at least one Irani Trophy Match. They should also be allowed to play a maximum of 5 IPL games (excluding sudden death knock out games), over a span of no greater than 2 weeks in the league phase of the tournament. The IPL should be limited to a 6 week period between April 10 and May 25.

3. Selection:
A squad of 15 players should be selected for each Test tour. Further, 15 other players should be paid and retainer as standbys. This includes requiring them to remain prepared (in peak fitness) to play at very short notice. Only 12 players should be selected for Home Tests.

4. Cap on the amount of cricket:
Every single India player should be allowed to play no greater than 12 Tests, 20 ODIs and 5 T20 games in the calender year.

5. Player Development
As suggested by Gary Naylor, the BCCI should sponsor two fast bowlers to play a full season of first class county cricket (not T20 or IPL) every season. County teams would be happy to get free talent (the BCCI would pay for these players contracts), and the players would get some serious bowling under their belts in varying conditions.

None of this is likely to happen. But it would allow India to have a very powerful Test team, both Home and Away.

World Champion teams are never the result of a system. They are the result of a serendipitous assembly of outrageous talent and ability (Such as Hayden, Ponting, Martyn, Gilchrist, McGrath, Warne and Gillespie playing together). The idea is to ensure that when such talent doesn't find each other, the Test team is still competitive and hard to beat.

4 comments:

  1. What is scary is that of the 422 players who were named in the 27 cricket association squads for Ranji Trophy 2010-2011, not even 15% and either India or India A prospect. Just 6% constituted of players below 21. In India where cricketers peak and fade by 30s it is important for BCCI to make it mandatory for state teams to field at least 1 U-19 and 2 U-21 cricketers every year. http://sidhantapatnaik.blogspot.com/2011/08/question-grassroots-not-ipl.html

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  2. Got your two penny worth in?

    So disappointing.

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  3. Well done site-very interesting/informative..

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  4. Personally, I would like to see teams like baroda& Saurashtra& Gujarat, Mumbai& Maharashtra, AP& Hyderabad being united; but that's not likely to happen either.
    On the other hand the cap on cricket may actually happen.

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