Car on the pitch- a black mark on Ranji Trophy and domestic cricket
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Car on the pitch- a black mark on Ranji Trophy and domestic cricket

The Board of Control for Cricket in India believes that international cricket is flying first-class whereas Ranji Trophy is a cheap award ticket where multiple conditions apply. It’s high time the Indian domestic circuit gets the respect and dignity it deserves.

columns Updated: Nov 09, 2017 08:54 IST
Amrit Mathur
Amrit Mathur
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Board of Control for Cricket in India,Ranji Trophy,Indian domestic cricket
The Delhi vs Uttar Prades game in Palam was halted for a few minutes after a car was driven on to the middle of the cricket pitch and this has highlighted the antipathy of the Board of Control for Cricket in India towards domestic cricket. ((Kamesh Srinivsan/The Hindu))

It might appear a bit twisted but the crazy guy who drove a car into the middle during a Ranji game did cricket a favour. The BCCI rose from its deep slumber to acknowledge domestic cricket was happening. This led to press statements full of fake indignation condemning the act. An enquiry was held and spectators were barred from entering the Palam ground.

It goes against BCCI’s ‘fan first’ policy but Palam, even without this bizarre incident, is not exactly spectator friendly. Located in Delhi’s high security area, the gate at this venue is normally closed and a signboard on it carries a friendly yet chilling message: ‘Trespassers will be shot.’

Like all ‘breaking news’ this incident too will soon fade from public memory and BCCI will move on because domestic cricket is zero priority. The UP- Delhi match was ‘outsourced’ to Palam( the Kotla was busy hosting a T20 International)but nobody senior from the Delhi & Districts Cricket Association (DDCA) was present at the venue.

Ranji is sponsored by Paytm but not one banner was visible at the ground. A key domestic match featuring top stars (Gautam Gambhir, Ishant Sharma, Suresh Raina) had the tired look of a ‘C’ division club game involving two ordinary teams.

BCCI’s apathy for domestic cricket is regularly advertised. The senior functionaries dutifully visit high-profile India matches where their presence is recorded by television cameras. It will be interesting to know how many turn up for non-India, low interest domestic games. For the BCCI, international cricket is flying first-class whereas Ranji is a cheap award ticket where multiple conditions apply.

Domestic cricket is an unwanted football kicked around in different directions. If the BCCI actually cared it would not have scrapped the Duleep Trophy, only to suddenly restore it and change its zonal structure.

Ranji goes under the knife every year. First the points system underwent a change. Last year, teams were banished from ‘home’ and exiled to lead a nomadic existence under the ‘neutral venue’ formula. This season the groups were rearranged, matches were reduced and the promotion-relegation system abandoned. This erodes its competitive nature as teams know poor performance will not invite any penalty.

But this is tame compared to the damage inflicted on the women under 19 championship where the inclusion of sub standard teams resulted in 136 wides bowled in a 50 over game!

For the BCCI, domestic cricket is an unnecessary burden and matches are conducted reluctantly to fulfill a ‘duty’. Facilities at first-class venues are basic and matches are neither promoted nor advertised. This year, four rounds of Ranji are over but not one match has been telecast.

Another glaring example of the step-motherly treatment to domestic cricket is the unfair deal handed to first-class cricketers. Ranji players are without any financial security but the BCCI refuses to give them contracts as is the practice in mature cricket nations like England, South Africa and Australia. Forget contracts, players are yet to even receive their full match fee from last year.

In the end, it’s not a matter of money but of dignity and respect. Domestic cricket is crying out for reform and players deserve a better deal. It would be a blessing if the weirdo who strayed into Palam can attract attention to this side of Indian cricket.

(Amrit Mathur is a senior cricket writer and has been involved with IPL in official capacity)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author

First Published: Nov 09, 2017 08:53 IST