A good parameter to determine how serious state cricket associations are about a lacklustre, bland, and apparently irrelevant domestic match is simply the intent and the initiative gone into organising it. Sample this for instance — in the North Zone, all matches are still played during the day, on a venue with two grounds, accommodating two
The facilities, whatever little, are of course divided between four teams, with two of them being forced to sit in the makeshift dressing room made of tent. And if that doesn't speak enough of the abysmal affairs, all four teams and the staff share only two loos. Of course, the show managers thought of cutting down 'undue' work and hassle and so have continued to plan such games year after year. What is put on stake though is -- a) A first-class player's honour, b) Quality of the show, c) The state cricket association's reputation. Clearly then, neither the game nor the player is the real stakeholder in domestic tourneys.
To my utter disbelief and pleasure, the set-up in the Central Zone stands parallel to the one in the North. Firstly, and more importantly, the matches here are played on an international venue, which in turn means state-of-the-art facilities for all players. Instead of going for the easier option of having two grounds and all day matches, they've opted to have only one ground and even have a match under lights. And since just switching on the floodlights makes a cricket match into a spectacle, the stadia too saw a modest turn out. Enthusiastic fans turned up, may not be in huge numbers, but they did, to catch a glimpse of the stars and cheer for their favourite teams.
That apart, there still are potent issues lurking in the backdrop - for instance, the timing of the ongoing domestic T20 tournament, being held only a week before the all-important first-class season. Right now the players are practicing their throw-caution-to-the-wind-skills with the white ball but are expected to switch gears in just about five days for the longer format. Most teams though have identified Ranji Trophy as their preferred tournament and the one that they'd set their eye on, and are hence preparing accordingly.
A catch-22 of sorts --- players have to up the ante in T20, to make sure they catch the eye of the IPL scouts, and also, get back in the groove, well in time for the longer format. It may mean playing a slightly different brand of cricket in the first round of Ranji Trophy, but then so be it. And then, can anyone explain why the knockouts of this tournament have been planned a good five months later in March? Having the league phase in October and knockouts after such a long gap makes little sense.
It not only takes away the continuity but also the charm of the tournament. It's like playing a thriller flick, and asking the audience to wait five months for the climax! And from the organiser's perspective, it's nothing short of shooting yourself in the foot.
Also, what about the T20 specialists, who after this tournament, may not find a place in the Ranji mix, and would be left in the lurch? www.cricketaakash.com