Spurred by India's abysmal overseas show, the BCCI's technical committee sought to refurbish first-class cricket. Calls to fix the mess had already gained ground and none would have resisted change. Unfortunately, what we saw was a shot in the dark.
Points system Earlier, if both
teams failed to complete their first innings in four days, they got no points. The new rule allows them a point each. Also, knockout matches can be extended by a day, in case the first innings isn't completed in five days. Finally, the hosts will be docked two points if they dish out an under-prepared surface.
The chances of the first innings not concluding in four days are miniscule. Last season, only one league match saw such a result, out of over 100-odd matches played. How does one justify a rule which affects only one in a hundred?
In the midst of this, the bane of domestic cricket has been missed - of granting three points for first innings lead, thereby making it of utmost importance. Over the years, we've rarely seen teams go that extra yard for an outright win, since the reward of just two extra points doesn't justify the effort.
This safety-first approach leads to drawn games in the first few rounds and teams punt only when relegation/promotion is on the line. If a rule encourages mediocrity, isn't it time to dump it? Docking points to penalise the hosts for dishing out an under-prepared surface is a noble idea but what about the associations which dish out highways for tracks?
Overruling the working committee's suggestions of playing matches at neutral venues, the technical committee has recommended that matches be played on a home and away basis, like in previous years.
Evidently, when the working committee decided on neutral venues, it did so because of the vested interests of host associations in the pitches' preparation. The decision to subtract points of teams that dish out under-prepared pitches is commendable, but is still only halfway.
The tracks on which Ranji is played are good for batting, the bowlers are mere participants since the odds are stacked against them. Further, batsmen, who've piled on thousands of runs on these batting beauties, are found out of their depth in challenging conditions.
The way forward was a powerful central pitch committee, which should be made accountable for the quality of pitches across the country.
The Duleep Trophy, instead of being played at the end, will now be played at the start of the season. The Irani Trophy will be played at the end of the season, while the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy will be played at a stretch.
Changing the dates of a tournament isn't going to make a difference to the standard of competition or its relevance. The real issue was the cramped calendar. If we can't do away with redundant tournaments, we must make them relevant.
The writer is a former India opener and plays domestic cricket for Rajasthan
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