Travel, food woes, bad hosts: Ranji neutral venues create more complications | cricket | Hindustan Times
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Travel, food woes, bad hosts: Ranji neutral venues create more complications

The massive exercise of playing at neutral venues, which could be a logistical nightmare, it seems, has not been properly thought-out and executed.

cricket Updated: Oct 24, 2016 15:26 IST
Pradeep Magazine
Apart from this being a logistical nightmare which should have been planned better, the larger point here remains. And that is the need to do away with the home and away matches.
Apart from this being a logistical nightmare which should have been planned better, the larger point here remains. And that is the need to do away with the home and away matches.(PTI)

Far from the glare of the arc lights focused on India’s international engagements and the BCCI’s “intransigencies” against the Supreme Court, a major cricketing exercise is taking place across the country.

The Ranji Trophy championship, which forms the backbone for providing talent to the national team, is being played, involving 28 teams and more than 100 matches. This time around, the cricket administration has decided to do away with matches being played on home and away basis and decided to go “neutral”.

As has been extensively reported and critically evaluated already, the Board felt that the home advantage was being exploited by the host teams and this was having a long-term detrimental impact on Indian cricket.

Instead of punishing the culprits or taking other corrective measures, the Board decided to go for neutral venues where the preparation of the wickets and conditions could not be manipulated by the hosts in their own favour.

Let us for a moment assume that this exercise, recommended by none other than Rahul Dravid and endorsed by a committee which included the likes of Sourav Ganguly, was driven by noble intentions.

India needs players who are bred on conditions that are not designed to exaggerate their strengths and hide their weaknesses. This massive exercise, which could be a logistical nightmare, it seems, has not been properly thought-out and executed.

Reports emanating from some centres where matches are being played suggest that this grand venture is not going down well with the players, as they are facing problems ranging from excessive travel to indifference of the “neutral” hosts.

This has resulted in inadequate arrangements for food being provided to the players, teams having to undergo harrowing travel experiences, dressing rooms not being well-equipped, the ground staff being uncooperative and wickets not always as “neutral” as the Board had planned. The Board could well argue that these are teething problems and a few examples should not be treated as symptomatic of a larger problem.

If, for instance, the Assam team was told to eat just one “vada and bonda” after the end of a day’s play, or the dressing rooms were too dusty, or if at one venue, the groundsman had watered the wicket so much that the match had to be delayed by a couple of hours, these should not be treated as common occurrences.

Similarly, if some of the teams had to travel between two distant poles, resulting in connecting flights being missed or having to travel unscheduled by bus for several hours, this does not mean complete failure of the new system. These are aberrations that can happen and have happened even in the past and making it the focal point of criticism against the Board may not be fair.

However, the larger point here, apart from this being a logistical nightmare which should have been planned better, remains. And that is the need to do away with the home and away matches.

As has been argued in an earlier column as well, punitive measures should have been taken against those host associations which flouted the norms of “fair play”. Action should have been taken against the groundsmen and teams who doctored the wickets.

One corrects the flaws of a system which has its merits and does not resort to solutions which could further complicate the problem rather than solve it.