Let me make this clear at the outset. I'm neither authorised nor qualified to figure whether the Services were justified in refusing to play their Ranji Trophy game against Jammu & Kashmir, in Srinagar. Or whether the BCCI was right in disqualifying the team. I’m writing this just to share the plight of my fellow cricketers.
A player spends a lot of time preparing for the first-class season. It is therefore, both demoralising and frustrating to be told that his toil during the off and pre-season has been in vain. And that he must wait a year to make a mark at the national level.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what this ban has done. Not only does it mean that players like Yashpal Singh won’t get a chance to score runs in the Ranji this year, it has also put an end to the team’s hopes of making it to the knock-outs (which means promotion to the Elite Division) and any player’s chance of being picked for North Zone.
In these times, a year’s gap pushes you back at least a few seasons because of the intense competition. You are expected to start afresh next season, by which time a lot of players would have cemented their place in different sides.
The Ranji Trophy is also a platform to impress Indian Premier League teams and this ban would now take even that opportunity away from the players. What makes it worse is that not only will players from the Services be deprived of an opportunity to play, but also every other team in their group in the Plate Division will play one match less in the league stage. One match, for teams who don’t qualify for the knockouts, makes up 20 per cent of their first-class season, so players from these teams must perform exceptionally well over four games to be picked for zonal sides.
A cricketing colleague remarked that it was a mess of Services’ own making, that they had no business not turning up for a first-class game. Absolutely right, but what could the players have done once their association informed them that their state was not going?
The sad part about all this is that players seldom have a say in the decision making process. We are just told what to do and we toe the line.
If there’s been a mistake, which there perhaps has been in this case, it demands punitive action.
But while punishing the offender is justified, maybe it’s unfair to make the players pay the price. This is the 75th year of the Ranji Trophy. It’s a pity if cricket and cricketers are the losers in this.