The Ranji Trophy “Cup” and the Duleep Trophy “Cup”
Posted by Sports Snob on November 15, 2006
So yet another Duleep Trophy final seems to be headed to a dreary draw, with North Zone showing no signs of “showing mercy” on the Lankans and allowing them to bat again. For they know that they don’t need to win the game to win the trophy – the first innings lead will do.With domestic competitions largely consisting of four-day matches, the powers-that-were decided that in case of drawn ties in knock-out matches of domestic tournaments the first innings lead would prove to be the tie-breaker. And this “rule” seems to be a good reason for the rot that has set in to Indian domestic cricket and a large number of batsmen with obscene domestic averages failing miserably at the international level.
What the first innings rule has effectively achieved is to convert two-innings matches to one-innings matches! Result being that teams don’t try to win the game anymore – just gaining the first innings lead will do. The bowlers don’t need to take twenty wickets to win a game – they only need ten. And on the featherbed wickets, batsmen can afford to play on as long as they wish (score triple centuries and boosting averages) and there is no compulsion to work towards a result!
Another fallout of this rule is that there is no incentive for groundsmen to prepare balanced wickets and they can easily get away with a wicket full of runs – once again leaving a huge gap between domestic and international standards. There have been numerous calls to prepare sporting pitches for the domestic matches at least, but why would the groundsmen take the pains to prepare one?
Actually, a fair bit of progress has been made in this direction, with the new format of the Ranji trophy keeping knockout matches to a minimum. What this also means is that we could experiment with a new format of knockout which encourages teams to produce results, rather than deciding games on first innings leads.
In the FA Cup football tournament in England, in case of a draw, the match is replayed and in case of a further deadlock, extra time and penalty shootouts decide the matter. Given the small number of knockout matches (3 Ranji Elite, 3 Ranji Plate and 1 Duleep), we could experiment with the same home-and-away format, with a bowlout to decide the deadlock! For example, suppose the Ranji Semifinal between Baroda and UP at Vadodara ends in a draw, with Baroda failing to capitalize on a 200-run first innings lead. Instead of awarding the tie to Baroda, the match will be replayed in say Kanpur. In case of a deadlock there also, a bowlout will decide. For the finals maybe we could have a single leg in a neutral venue followed by a bowlout if necessary.
For a start this new format will give due respect to the true format of the five-day game – that you must dismiss the opposition twice to get a result. It will lead to teams trying for a win, and thus “normalize” the averages of a large number of “tigers at home”. Sporting wickets will be prepared, thus enabling us to look at a batsman’s “true colors” before calling him for international duty. Also, result-oriented matches means enhancement of spectators’ interests, and I am sure our domestic matches could use some crowds. And a chance to play more matches might mean more money for the board!
Another important thing to be kept in mind is that there should be absolutely no incentive for just a first innings lead. A draw is a draw is a draw. Right now a team gets 2 points in the Ranji league for a first innings lead, with the team that conceded the lead getting none. Both should be awarded a point apiece.
I am sure such a move will be really good for the game, and will help produce better cricket at all levels. It is left to be seen if the board will move in this direction, or continue to sleep and get rich as it has been doing over the years.
– Karthik S a.k.a. Wimpy
(a senior of mine and a good quizzer. Read his blog at http://skthewimp.livejournal.com/ )