‘Home advantage’, which has played a significant part in domestic cricket, could be a thing of the past.
At a time when criticism against poor surfaces in Ranji Trophy has been getting louder, the BCCI is planning to conduct all matches at neutral venues.
“I am going to propose that all Ranji matches should be at neutral venues at the next captains’ and coaches’ meeting. Let us see what their view is. I feel that domestic cricket should be played on competitive pitches. We will propose this at the working committee meeting also,” Anurag Thakur, BCCI secretary, told HT.
Currently, matches from the quarterfinal stage of the Ranji Trophy are played at neutral venues.
Of the 108 matches played so far this season, nine finished inside two days while 17 ended on the third day. Spinners have had the last laugh on underprepared pitches, as hosts won 36 matches and earned a first-innings lead in a majority of the games.
Pitches have come under tremendous scrutiny because of criticism from former players.
Recently, former India captain Rahul Dravid said Ranji Trophy’s purpose was not only to decide a winner. It also had the responsibility of preparing cricketers for the international stage. “If we keep playing on bad wickets like these, we are not going to produce good cricketers,” he had said.
Earlier, there was a view that matches should be played at local venues so that cricket lovers could come to the stadium to cheer their teams. But with matches being played in front of empty stands, the BCCI has had to do a rethink.
There have been instances of the host captain or team management pressurising curators to prepare pitches suited to their strategy, and sometimes they are forced to change the nature of the pitch just days before a match.
BCCI guidelines for pitch preparation are clear but they are not yielding results because captains want to gain a first-innings lead at any cost.
There is hardly any deterrent as the BCCI punishing a captain for such actions is yet to come to knowledge.