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It is time to change the domestic structure

Six different trophies, three different formats, all crammed up into a five-month window-India’s domestic season runs at a breakneck speed. To make matters tougher for the players, only a 3-day breather is granted between first-class matches (in the league phase) and even lesser between the shorter formats, writes Aakash Chopra.

india Updated: Jan 11, 2010 00:46 IST
Aakash Chopra

Six different trophies, three different formats, all crammed up into a five-month window-India’s domestic season runs at a breakneck speed. To make matters tougher for the players, only a 3-day breather is granted between first-class matches (in the league phase) and even lesser between the shorter formats.

Perhaps, one wouldn’t have whined over this ‘cricket congestion’ if it had served the purpose it had unintentionally set. One would assume that a choc-a-block schedule like this might lead to players getting a lot more games to showcase their talent. Unfortunately, this isn’t how it transpires on the ground.

Would you believe if I were to tell you that quite a few teams play only five first-class matches in these five months — a match a month? And those five matches get over in five straight weeks. All hell would break loose if one were to get injured or go out-of-form during these five weeks. There’s hardly any scope of recuperating from an injury in such a short time. Odds often stack up when time runs out. Add another five matches each of 50 overs, yet another set of pressure laden T20s and the team’s fortunes of an unyielding season get sealed.

This is the story of those teams playing in the Plate division which unfortunately do not qualify for the knockouts in all the three formats.

But things are quite different for the teams that make up the Elite division. More number of teams (15) mean more matches, and more matches in turn mean more chances of displaying and polishing one’s skills.

Six teams out of 15 in the Elite division qualify for the knockouts as opposed to two from 12 in the Plate division. Also, players playing in the Elite division get noticed a lot more which in turn brightens up their chances of getting a place in the Duleep Trophy. All of this puts Elite division players on a higher pedestal, something which perhaps has not been taken into account.

In my opinion, talent without opportunities is as bad as having no talent at all. In order to give everyone equal outings, we must change the existing system of distinction between Elite and Plate divisions.

My suggestion would be —divide the 27 teams into three groups/divisions of nine teams each. This set-up would ensure each team plays minimum eight first-class games. Winners could be decided through knockouts.

This order is sure to consume more time and hence might even take a toll on the ‘Duleep Trophy’. Yet, it would be an idea worth a thought. After all, Duleep Trophy is also a knockout tournament and only one team can play three games i.e. the team playing quarterfinals also ends up playing the finals.

Counterparts in Australia and South Africa host 10 first-class games for each team, while the number is 16 in England.

The idea is simply to provide the players with a) equal and ample opportunities to showcase their talent, and b) a less complicated roster which leaves the players the time to recover and get back.

www.cricketaakash.com