BCCI did well for Indian domestic cricket when they decided to scrap the redundant format of playing teams from a particular zone among themselves before the top two could proceed to the knock-outs.
While the system had been in place for long, it wasn't doing any good to improve either
the standard of cricket or the quality of cricketers. In fact, since it's almost a given that a couple of teams in each Zone will be mediocre, the players from stronger teams often walked away with inflated figures, which of course wasn't a true reflection of their actual skill. Some of these performances, at times, went a long way in getting a nod for the Duleep Trophy. After all, it's the number of runs and the wickets that count, however lop-sided the contest may have been.
Even the quality of surfaces provided in certain zones was not conducive to producing good cricketers. What does a batsman learn about playing the horizontal bat shots if the ball doesn't bounce above the knee regardless of the length? Or how do you possibly learn to tackle pace when you play on surfaces where you can lean back and enjoy a cup of coffee before the ball actually reaches the bat?
If not the quality of the opposition, such surfaces are bound to make you an ordinary cricketer. Also, by restricting the games only to the zone, you end up becoming a one-dimensional cricketer. For the longest time, the players from the North were better equipped in tackling the swing, while the men from South could only master playing spin.
Hence, the format was changed to Elite and Plate in which good teams played against each other on home and away basis.
Now, you could learn to play the moving ball in Delhi's winter and also tackle the turner in Chennai in the same season.
If just a couple of changes in a format could reap exceptional results for domestic four-day matches, then why the delay in implementing them in the shorter formats?
At the moment, domestic T20s and 50-over matches are being played within the zone and the top two teams qualify for the knock-outs.
Obviously then, the lapses of the old format are still plaguing the development of these shorter games.
The first round of domestic one-day matches is over in 7-9 days, which is as grueling as it can get. At times you play on two consecutive days, like we did here in Kanpur. Or you could be playing on alternate days, as it's done in North, but the rest day is consumed by traveling.
When the Elite-Plate format has worked well, why the fixation with matches between teams within the zone?
It seems that while we have successfully adopted one format, we are still afraid of letting go of the other one.