A few days ago , I turned out to play a couple of DDCA 40-over-a-side league games for my club, Sonnet, to get some match practice ahead of the Ranji one-dayers.
Our first game was against ONGC, possibly the strongest opposition you can have in Delhi, as most of their players are either first-class cricketers or internationals. We fielded a strong side too, as a result of which we had about 15 first-class cricketers, including five internationals, on the park.
Under normal circumstances, this would have been enough to ensure a good, competitive game of cricket, but there wasn’t anything normal about this. The track was severely under-prepared: it was way too damp for a one-day game and someone also forgot to mow the grass.
This made me hark back to league cricket in England — the difference being that most of the players in those English club sides are teachers or postmen for most of the week, before donning whites for the weekend. Otherwise, even the thought of playing quality fast bowlers on an underdone wicket isn’t particularly happy, leave alone actually playing them.
If you’re lucky enough to field first, you just need to just put the ball in the right areas and let the ball do the rest. The quality of the ball didn’t help batsmen either as the ball used is what we call “a bat breaker”. It is a typically hardcore, leather ball which doesn’t lose shine or hardness till the 40th over. The pacers had a blast, especially those bowling first.
What was unfortunate is that the match was held at the Kotla, a Test venue, so there was no reason for an under-prepared track, and that too, for probably one of the most high-profile DDCA league games.
I thought it might be an aberration but to my utter disbelief, when I turned up for a game three days later, nothing had changed despite vocal complaints. They had moved the track to the other side of the playing square, but that too was equally wet and green. We lost the toss and the only reason we survived was because our opposition had no one particularly menacing in their ranks.
But the question for me and other first-class players who can afford to say this is whether we should ever agree to play a league game in the future. We’re not asking for world class facilities, but is asking for a proper track and a decent ball too much? (The writer is the Delhi captain and author of Beyond the Blues)