Imagine this — there are two nets and about 15 batsmen are queuing up for a few throw downs. Quite chaotic, you might think.
But, before you wonder which competition or coaching session I am referring to, let me clear the air. That was, in fact, the scene at the nets every morning during our T20 tournament.
The four North Zone teams were playing their matches at two adjacent grounds at the same venue and were sharing all the facilities — right from the dining area to the lavatories — among them.
Only the dressing rooms were not shared as makeshift ‘dressing rooms’ (basically covered seating area) were put up for both teams.
The scenes at the nets were quite interesting, both on the eve of the match, and every morning. Firstly, batsmen were not allowed to use spikes while batting for the fear of ruining the surface. A situation that made you wonder whether the same batsmen wouldn’t be allowed to wear spikes during the match.
Then, since there were only two nets to accommodate players from four teams, none of the batsmen got more than a few balls for throw downs, hardly the ideal preparation for a match.
Yet, a set up like this definitely helped in building up the camaraderie between players from different states. Sharing the same net for throw downs meant that a bowler from Punjab was often bowling to a player from Delhi or Haryana, along with bowling to a batsman from his own side.
I wouldn’t blame you if you are wondering why the batsmen didn't have a hit in an open area. Why were they crammed in just two nets?
The early morning dew makes the outfield quite wet. And, of course, bats tend to get spoiled if played with a wet ball.
Don’t get me wrong here, I'm not blaming the hosts. After all, there's only so much they can do. The infrastructure is not meant to accommodate so many cricketers together.
Then, there were 5 matches for every state in 6 days. At times, the team that played the game in the afternoon, which finished at 5pm, was back at the ground at 8.30 the following morning for their next game, which started at 10.
The teams that had back-to-back morning matches did have it easy, but only just.
The morning match would finish at 1pm, with their next match scheduled for 10am the following day, giving a player less than 24 hours to rest and recover. Also, while we all realise that a T20 game doesn’t require as much effort as an ODI. But then why don’t we see T20 tournaments around the world getting over in a week?
Another problem, along with the high fatigue levels, which perhaps lead to injuries, is the very little time to recover.
A loss, which should hurt, is suddenly not that bitter, while a win isn't all that sweet either!
After all, with the next game less than 24 hours away, how long can you mull over a loss or celebrate a win?
Nevertheless, I’m tempted to call this T20 tournament a ‘carnival’ — not because it lacked any seriousness, but for the environment it created.
90 players from 6 states assembled every day, ate together, shared stories and renewed friendships. One rarely gets an opportunity like this.