We, Rajasthan, finished a Ranji Trophy game last week in which the result got decided in the third session of the fourth day -nail-biting, one would say. Punjab had scored a mammoth 597 after batting first, while Rajasthan fell short by 100 runs. Had we batted another few overs and scored a few more runs, the match would have got interesting. No, I'm not suggesting a thrilling run chase with fours and sixes being smashed all round the park- but another possibility, quite peculiar at that.
By the book, if a team doesn't overhaul the first innings total and also doesn't get bowled out by the end of the fourth day, both competing teams walk away with, well zero points apiece. If settling for a draw after 12 sessions is quite unfair already, not gaining a single point is even more disheartening. One may make peace with such an archaic law only if that solitary point doesn't jeopardise the chances of going further in the tournament or avoiding relegation. But if a team's future depends on the outcome of that particular game, I won't be surprised if the team getting adversely affected throws away the match eventually. One would rather get bowled out or allow the opposition to score the remaining runs, since gaining one point is far more important than gifting three to the opposition. What a comedy of errors - first, you bat not to get out, and then later you bat to gladly get out!
Fact of the matter
But, there is a bigger question looming large - is the prevailing points system in India (three points for first innings lead and an extra two for an outright win with a possibility of another point for winning by an innings or 10 wickets) rewarding mediocrity? Also, is this faulty points' distribution discouraging competing teams to refrain from going that extra yard for an outright win? Well, my time spent in the domestic circuit assures me of that indeed being the case.
How can there be equal number of points on offer for gaining the first innings lead and an outright win? First-class cricket in India works on the rather simple but utterly futile principle of securing three points by virtue of taking the first innings lead.
This safety first approach leads to a majority of drawn games in the first few rounds and teams punt only when relegation/promotion is on the line.
Instead of harping about pitch preparation, I'd focus on overhauling the points system.
How about introducing batting and bowling points throughout the match and a substantial bonus (10 points) for an outright win?
Would it work if we put a cap on the number of overs till the batting points are available, post which only the bowling team can get points?
My suggestion would be to have a maximum of five batting/bowling points for every 75 runs and two wickets respectively, though the batting points could only be gained till the 120th over. That way, teams would be encouraged to bat at a fair clip and also declare after 120 overs, for the bowling team could keep getting points for taking wickets.
The same points system should continue in the second innings with a bonus of 10 points for winning the game, while the losing team keeps the bowling/batting points.
The writer plays domestic cricket for Rajasthan.