Duleep Trophy flip-flop points to serious governance deficit in Indian cricket | cricket | Hindustan Times
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Duleep Trophy flip-flop points to serious governance deficit in Indian cricket

The flip flops regarding the Duleep Trophy has once again highlighted the governance deficit within the Board of Control for Cricket in India and the Committee of Administrators.

cricket Updated: Sep 07, 2017 13:30 IST
The Board of Control for Cricket in India cancelled and reinstated the Duleep Trophy with zero explanations offered both times.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India cancelled and reinstated the Duleep Trophy with zero explanations offered both times. (AFP)

If the coach selection process demonstrated that BCCI could execute tricky double somersaults, the drama surrounding Duleep Trophy confirms it has a special talent for taking U-turns at great speed.

Four days after scrapping the tournament — with no reasons offered — the dates, venues and teams for Duleep Trophy were announced, again with no reasons offered!

Duleep Trophy, BCCI’s oldest tournament after Ranji, was deleted from the schedule over a casual cup of coffee, only to be restored after a phone call. Apparently the BCCI’s Technical Committee (led by Sourav Ganguly) was in the dark and the COA, responding to outrage once the decision was announced, stepped in to douse the fire.

The flip-flop points to a serious governance deficit and raises questions about who calls the shots on important technical matters. It also shows cricketing decisions are not fully thought through, a tendency first noticed in last season’s hasty decision to banish Ranji to ‘neutral’ venues.

Playing around with a settled domestic structure is a disservice to cricket and, in this case, an insult to a great cricketer.

Duleepsinhji never played for India, choosing instead to represent England for whom he made 173 in 1929 on his Test debut in an Ashes game. In 12 Tests he hit 3 centuries, averaging 58.5. In 205 first class games he scored 15,485 runs with 50 centuries, including a 333 for Sussex against Northants made in one day.

All this in just seven seasons of sensational cricket. At 27, Duleep was done, run out by illness, a pulmonary condition that also forced him to withdraw from Jardine’s body line series.

By all accounts he was a genius, a meteor streaking across cricket. Post retirement, he became a national selector and served as India’s High Commissioner to Australia and New Zealand.

As with Tiger Pataudi, we wonder what Duleep would have achieved had illness not cut his career short. Tiger overcame extreme disability to play 17 seasons of cricket; was appointed captain at 21 and went on to lead India in 40 of the 46 matches he played. Duleep never got a second innings.

The Duleep Trophy, instituted in 1961 to celebrate the memory of this great, is the highest level of domestic cricket, just one level below Tests. It started with five zonal teams playing knockout games and in 1962 West Indian fast bowlers were included in each team.

In 2002-03, one foreign team was added to the draw, an experiment which lasted till 2008 when the original format of five teams was restored. Later, zones were replaced by teams of colour (Red, Blue, Green) and last year the tournament turned ‘pink’ to trial cricket under lights!

To some extent this chop and change was unavoidable.

Duleep Trophy was originally a zonal tournament but when the BCCI switched Ranji Trophy to groups instead of zones, there was a context issue. Even before that, critics thought players did not identify with zonal teams and Duleep Trophy matches were nothing more than glorified selection trials where players selfishly played for themselves.

Scheduling is another big challenge for Duleep Trophy. With many international commitments and T20 games to be accommodated, it’s difficult to find a three-week window for a tournament which has four-day games.

These challenges require careful thought and long term clarity. Not just for developing a robust structure that promotes quality, but also to honour its past greats.

(Views expressed are personal)