On Saturday, the BCCI grandly announced several changes to the domestic cricket structure, the most important of which were the reduction of the Ranji Elite Group to 10 from 15 and the announcement that the home and away policy for venues would be done away with.
The impression given at the media conference was that these were the high points of a much-needed revamp. But, when you read between the lines, you get a different picture. At the moment, the changes to the Elite Group will only come into effect for the 2008-09 session. It is an “an unnecessary wait,” say first-class players, because it effectively means this year’s Plate Season becomes redundant.
“The teams for the Duleep and Irani Trophy this year will be picked on the basis of the season gone by,” said a player. “So it makes no sense not introducing the change this year and taking the top 10 teams from last season into the Elite. If the Board thinks that is unfair, as otherwise, 13 of 15 would have stayed, then this is unfair to all the Plate teams this year.”
Why? Because the Plate teams compete to get into the Elite Division. Since five teams will have to be demoted at the end of this season, the existing teams in the Plate Division will have no motivation.
BCCI CAO Prof Ratnakar Shetty, while justifying the decision to effect the change only next year, admitted there was a problem, one they would try and work out in the state captains and coaches meet here on April 20. "A suggestion will be put up to demote seven teams instead of five from the Elite at the end of the season and promote the top two from the Plate," he said.
The rotation puzzle
Again, where the home and away policy is concerned, the fine print states: “BCCI will do away with Home and Away rotation and allot venues for Irani Trophy, Duleep Trophy, Deodhar Trophy, Ranji Trophy Semi-finals and Finals and One day All India Knockout.”
Well, the BCCI allocates venues (on a zonal rotation scheme) for everything but the Ranji in any case. Ranji games are all played on a home and away basis. The release effectively means the change will come into effect only for six matches — the semis and finals of the Elite and Plate.
Shetty clarified the Board was not changing the format for league matches and added that what had changed was the zonal rotation policy for other major tournaments. "Venues of all these, except the Irani, were rotated on a zonal basis. It has now been scrapped.” Unfortunately, that will not solve the problem for the country’s biggest event, the Ranji Trophy. Not at the moment.