Not even a single Ranji Trophy quarter-final match produced an outright win. All winners were decided on the basis of the first-innings lead. This happened primarily because there wasn’t enough time to go for an outright win and also there was no intention to force a result.
Neutral Curators = A good batting surface
The BCCI did the right thing by appointing neutral curators for the knock-out matches. It was the second best thing after hosting the matches on neutral venues. Yet, the curators only get a few days to prepare the track. All they could do was to not allow the hosts to prepare a track which suited their needs. But that invariably results in a good batting surface. And in any case, it’s unfair to expect a miracle in 4-5 days of preparation. You can’t change the nature of a track overnight.
Four days not enough
Only the teams which are in good form (both batting and bowling) make it to the last eight. It is rather difficult to take 20 wickets of a team in good form on a good batting surface. W.V.Raman, the coach of the Tamil Nadu team, was quoted saying, “from here onwards (quarter-finals) the teams batting well will win the trophy.” And he was correct in his assessment. Teams go into the match with the intention of batting-out the opposition. Since an outright win isn’t necessary to go to the next round, the focus is on batting for as long as possible.
Teams rarely worry about the scoring rate, which at times, makes the game boring to watch. But you cannot blame the teams for that approach either. The game gets over as soon as one team gets the first-innings lead, however slender it might be. Imagine a team getting a five-run first innings lead. Falling short by a few runs doesn’t mean that the opposition was superior or your team was outplayed.
For starters, it won’t be a bad idea to make all knock-out games five-day affairs. That would give teams a ray of hope to make a comeback even after conceding the lead. Also it will keep the team which has got the lead on their toes. That’s exactly how it panned out for us in the finals in 2007. U.P. got the first innings lead, but there was enough time for us to make a comeback.
There could also be a cash reward (this could be implemented for the entire season) for outright wins. This would encourage teams, once on top, to tighten the noose and not use the last day for batting practice.