Last year in January, I was shocked by BCCI’s decision to cancel Ranji Trophy on account of Covid. But then, I was equally shocked when I saw that the board found it fit to continue with the Indian Premier League(IPL) and even organised the second stage of the tournament in UAE. Even though this disparity saddened me then, it is not even comparable to what I feel now after BCCI decide to cancel this year’s Ranji trophy too. Even though the IPL is a money-minting machine for the BCCI, I expected better from the richest cricket board in the world.
Ranji Trophy has been the beginning of the cricketing careers of many players. It has been responsible for the development of numerous successful cricketers, now representing India internationally. The young talent pool of India was refined by the Ranji games. There is no dearth of raw talent in India but it needs to be developed to compete internationally. If Indian cricket is a building, domestic games like Ranji are its foundation. By weakening the foundation of this wall, BCCI shot itself in the foot. A weak talent pool would inevitably give fewer choices to the selectors for future matches and they would be forced to stick with the stalwarts. There would be no match-ready backups in case of injuries or if veteran players are rested. The loss is mutual, even the youngsters would be deprived of the opportunity to play for their countries and lose out on cricketing skills.
Indian cricket team and talent
The current Indian test team has a major problem with its upper-middle order. There has been severe criticism against Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane, two players with great experience but going through a lean phase. Their inefficacies were yet again accentuated during the recent test series again South Africa which India lost 2-1. Though they were not the only reason behind India’s defeat, their meagre contribution is something that needs to be looked at. Now, if the selectors need well-groomed talent to replace such players. There are other complexities as well. Ranji games were a source of income for some domestic players who are now in dire straits. Moreover, their careers would be severely impacted by BCCI’s move.
T20 cricket and leagues such as IPL offer only enjoyment to spectators and money to organisers. They do not significantly help and ameliorate a cricketer’s basic skills. There is very little technique involved and virtually no analysis. The only target in mind is to hit the ball out of the park. Patience, timing and techniques hold little value. Moreover, in my opinion, shorter format games have been deliberately made batsmen-friendly. IPL pitches are deprived of all the moisture and grass to heavily favour the batsmen, which allows them to score big and entice masses. Also, by putting limits on the number of overs by a particular bowler, and fielder placements, the field is set for the batter to fire away boundaries just because that power-hitting attracts spectators as well.
First-class cricket or Test matches, as the name suggests, adequately test the players equally, be it batter, bowler or fielder. Playing for six hours a day continuously for five days in itself challenges the stamina of the player. Shorter formats do not test or challenge the player and obviously, that leads to lesser development. There are no learnings from them.
There are many critiques, consisting largely of die-hard T20 or league matches fans, who might consider mine and some former cricketers’ opinions as ‘old-school’. However, let me take a specific example between Sachin Tendulkar, whom I consider a very successful cricketer, and Hardik Pandya. Tendulkar played a considerable number of first-class matches while Pandya has not even debuted in the Ranji trophy. This is the reason why he has not featured in Indian test team regularly, but due to the IPL, he is also being treated like an irreplaceable player. Also, if we introspect, did Tendulkar or Dravid, become highly skilled players by playing IPL or T20s? You have to work hard in the field for a long time to learn cricket. It cannot be learnt in 20-overs.
Legendary West Indian bowler Michael Holding is totally against T20s and doesn’t even consider such matches cricket. I will not go as far as that, but yes, cancelling first-class games and going ahead with IPL is not a good move. Ranji was a platform where budding cricketers practised. It was considered the final stop before international cricket. Repeatedly cancelling it might not affect us right now, but will certainly cause adverse problems in the future. The BCCI needs to review its stance on the issue.
The author is a student at Apeejay School, Noida. Views are personal.