India’s domestic cricket circuit: Large on scale, low on quality | Opinion

A very serious charge that plagues Indian domestic cricket is that, though it is big on numbers, it is uncompetitive and allows mediocrity to flourish

cricket Updated: Aug 17, 2017 09:01 IST
Amrit Mathur
Amrit Mathur
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
BCCI,Indian domestic cricket,Ranji Trophy
The Ranji Trophy -- India’s premier domestic tournament -- tracks are either totally batting-friendly (five triple hundreds were scored last season) or wretchedly under-prepared.(Kunal Patil/HT Photo)

While international commitments roll on (Australia arrive in September followed by Sri Lanka), Indian cricket’s great domestic circus is about to start shortly. There is more domestic cricket played in India than in any other country. The top level is four-day Ranji Trophy with 28 first-class teams (Australia have 6, England 18) and close to 1000 first class players. Then, there are under 14/16/19/23 age group tournaments across formats. Each match is scored live and every ball video filmed.

Inevitably, there are hiccups and glitches while handling logistics of this scale. The quality too suffers. Tracks are either totally batting-friendly (5 triple hundreds were scored last season) or wretchedly under-prepared. India have more than 100 Ranji umpires but lack of quality is a recurring issue.

A more serious charge is that domestic cricket, though big on numbers, is uncompetitive and allows mediocrity to flourish. That’s not to deny progress, however slow, as teams are ‘professional’ and pre-season training a serious affair. States hold matches to select ‘probables’ who are put in ‘camps’. They are then sent to participate in the KSCA, Buchi Babu and Moin-ud-Dowlah red ball tournaments to get match-fit. Most teams travel with full time coaches (some on salaries exceeding R30 lakh), physios, trainers, masseurs and video analysts.

The cricket is evolving. Fielding is sharp as cricketers are fit and athletic. Batting is aggressive because of T20 cricket; bowling led by three disciplined medium pace bowlers.

Ultimately, cricket is about players. Each one, whether the veteran Devendra Bundela (40, captain of Madhya Pradesh), or a youngster is chasing a personal dream. Some play for pride, others for getting an IPL contract or representing India.

In this tough quest, only a handful succeed. In 86 years, from1932 when CK Nayudu’s Indian team first played Test cricket down to Hardik Pandya this July, only 289 lucky players have represented India.

With no regular job, no financial security, no guaranteed wages, the status of a Ranji cricketer is no better than that of a daily wage earner. Yet, he plays cricket. Some say he plays a bigger game by staking his life on a future that is frighteningly uncertain.

(Amrit Mathur is a former sports administrator who worked with the BCCI as media manager. Views expressed are personal)

First Published: Aug 17, 2017 09:01 IST