Once, a fiery Sreesanth had bowled a rather fine delivery, and in his follow-through, tried to intimidate the batsman on the other end. Unfortunately for him, the batsman happened to be Sachin Tendulkar. What followed was a flurry of boundaries as the rookie was shown his place in the man’s world. Another game, this time in Mohali, young Piyush Chawla became a household name after foxing Tendulkar with a googly.
This is the story of the Challenger Trophy on two different occasions. The tournament was introduced to give the best 36 in the country a chance to compete under lights. Challenger trophy grew in stature as people started flocking the stadia and even the broadcaster got decent numbers.
Since other 50-over domestic tournaments are rarely played under lights and to packed houses, it was a wonderful opportunity for youngsters. For selectors, it was a chance to know young and upcoming cricketers.
The Corporate Trophy, introduced last year, too had a lot of potential and benefits, both on the field and off it. Tournament rules meant that companies had to start employing players on sports quota. And for big corporate houses like Reliance and India Cements, it meant doing something worthwhile outside the IPL too.
This is the story of two successful fifty-over domestic meets that promised and delivered, yet fizzled out in due course of time. The reason - this year’s edition of the Challenger’s trophy coincides with the India-Australia Test series. The timing of the tournament has defeated the very purpose of its inception. Since playing under lights is no longer a catch for a domestic player, post IPL, the only lure is to compete with the stalwarts. After all how difficult would it be to find a four day window to hold one of the most important domestic tournaments?
And then, bigger is not always better, as was in the case of the Corporate Trophy. All teams play three consecutive 50-over games in three days. How does one expect quality cricket when you play every day? It shouldn’t come as a surprise if some of these teams choose not to take part next year. The point is simple - genuine efforts must be made to sustain a potentially successful property, not only to safeguard its sanctity, but also to keep both the players and the viewers hooked. And if the calendar doesn’t allow a show, dump it, lest it becomes obligatory and lacklustre.