On Thursday, Delhi wicketkeeper Puneet Bisht scored a match-winning 49, off 10 balls, in a local tournament final. Last year, he hardly played these games as he was warming the bench of Delhi Daredevils, where he was promised a lot of money.
In his place this year, DD have brought in Karnataka 'keeper CM Gautam. His inclusion followed good batting performances in Ranji Trophy while Puneet had failed. However, others who did much less than Gautam in domestic matches have also pipped locals players for a place in the team. Puneet's Delhi team mate, left-arm spinner Vikas Mishra, has been axed while little-known left-arm spinners Arishit Singhvi of Rajasthan and Sujit Nayak of Mumbai are part of the squad. Both are in their early 20s. None of the replacements, though, have been considered good enough to get a game.
What's happening in Delhi is also the case at other franchises. Most have less than 20% local flavour in the squad. And there are big names among those excluded.
KKR have four Bengal players in the 23 but while Manoj Tiwary has been a regular, two of them have played only in half the games while one has appeared just once despite being handed the India cap this year - pacer Shami Ahmed. The strong Mumbai Indians, with six out of 31 Mumbai players, haven't felt the need to look beyond Sachin Tendulkar and Rohit Sharma.
"The idea of a city-based system was to develop a local fan base and maybe give local players a chance. If you are replacing locals with ordinary players from other places, what is the point? Daredevils allowed not just Gambhir to go but also the likes of Amit Mishra (Haryana captain). Look, how he is doing for Sunrisers," says a Delhi and District Cricket Association official.
Of course, there have been murmurs over the years among franchises that local associations are bringing pressure on them to field their players, but as is evident this year, few franchises are giving in. "Each team wants to win, ultimately. So why should we play locals if they aren't good enough," says a franchise official.
Two teams giving chances to their local players, however, are doing very well. Chennai have given opportunities to more than half of their seven Tamil Nadu players. Three of them have played in all the games so far. Hyderabad have been even better, giving opportunities to all their four local players.
Pune, despite Maharashta having had some good performers in domestic cricket and the presence of India U-19 players, have just one local player. Even that player, Dheeraj Jadhav, now plays for Assam. The Warriors anyway are languishing at second from the bottom in the points table.
Rajasthan are doing well but they have just three locals in the squad with only wicketkeeper Dishant Yagnik getting opportunities. "The franchises aren't breaking any rules. The BCCI has been liberal, asking them to keep just four, young non-Ranji players from catchment areas. That in the case with most teams, whose catchment area comprises three or four states," the official says. "That's the only rule they have to follow, and they do it easily."