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Weak teams need to be competitive

india Updated: Feb 14, 2010 23:59 IST

“To improve the standard of cricket, India must reduce the number of teams playing in the Ranji trophy,” Wasim Akram had said a couple of years ago, when asked about Indian domestic cricket. He’d observed that India were sacrificing quality for quantity.

Well, I beg to differ with him on this. While I acknowledge that it’s imperative to have a strong domestic set up, one also needs to understand the dynamics of this country. We are a nation of a billion people with cricket as our religion. Obviously then, we need a bigger platform to accommodate its students. Wasim’s comments perhaps stem from his appreciation for the strong Australian and the South African domestic models where only six teams compete. While the set up has proved to be a success in these countries, in India, it might well filter out talent from the heap rather than identifying and nurturing it.

Let’s face it, a total of 27 teams in the Ranji Trophy amounts to just about 297 playing members from a pool of thousands across the length and breadth of the country. Trimming these figures down would mean snatching away crucial opportunities.

Quality, undeniably, is a huge concern, and the BCCI has, by and large, taken measures to ensure just that. State teams can now field up to three professionals in the playing XI. The onus is on state associations to make use of this opportunity along with the funds provided by the BCCI.

Talking quality, teams in the Plate division are often criticised for the lack of it. Some feel that they deserve to be kept in that division for their sheer non-performance. At one level it’s absolutely just that they bear the repercussions of not improving as a state team but at another level their poor standard isn’t good for the health of the game in India.

Also if the teams in the Plate division don’t progress, the Zonal one-day matches, which are currently in progress, will also lose relevance.

I’d stick to my suggestion of having three groups of 9 teams. Instead of just a couple of teams swapping places, a good idea would be to have three teams getting relegated and promoted every season. Teams who don’t show any signs of improvement in terms of results and producing good cricketers should not only be relegated but also be slapped with a financial penalty.

The process is quite straightforward-if you don’t have a good enough team to compete then you must hire professionals to make one.

Assam did exactly the same thing in the ongoing first-class season and was successful. They not only topped their group but also qualified for the quarterfinals. With that, they have ensured a place in the Elite division for the next season. It’s time for others to follow suit. www.cricketaakash.com.