BCCI needs to change replacement rules in Ranji

The BCCI needs to have an understanding with its state units that if one of their players gets called up for national duty in the middle of a Ranji Trophy game then a replacement should be allowed. The recent fiasco, where replacements for Manish Pandey and Shardul Thakur were not allowed by the opposition teams, is a case in point. The replacement, however, should be like-for-like.

Mumbai pacer Shardul Thakur was asked to join the national team during his team's Ranji Trophy game against Punjab. The author feels that state teams should be allowed like-for-like replacements in such cases.   -  G. P. Sampath Kumar

One of the good initiatives that Anil Kumble has started after coming in as the India coach is to insist on an injured player taking part in a Ranji Trophy game to prove his fitness rather than just providing a medical certificate. Match fitness is totally different from general fitness and only by playing a match and thereby proving that he is fit to withstand the rigours of being out in the sun and showing mental fortitude can a player make it back into the national team.

This is a very welcome move and it sends a signal to the player that he should not take his place for granted in the team. Injuries are an unfortunate part of sport and can happen anytime and without notice to the best and fittest of players. He could be in the form of his life, but once he gets injured there is always that little bit of self-doubt about whether the injury has healed completely. Therefore, playing a first-class game before playing an international match is always the best practice.

 

It keeps the player’s — who is not quite sure how the injury is going to react — mind at rest. There is also the soreness that an injury can leave behind and that can take some time to heal and so playing a first-class game will give the player the confidence that he is ready to take on the sterner rigours of international competition.

But the BCCI needs to have an understanding with its state units that if one of their players gets called up for national duty in the middle of a Ranji Trophy game then a replacement should be allowed. The recent fiasco, where replacements for Manish Pandey and Shardul Thakur were not allowed by the opposition teams, is a case in point. The replacement, however, should be like-for-like.

For example, if a pacer is called for national duty and the pitch is beginning to help spin then the replacement cannot be a spinner, even if the team might want one. Or a batsman cannot be replaced with a bowler after a team has posted a handsome total. A replacement, though, is a must as it is not the fault of the team that one of its players has been called for national duty in the middle of a match.

Kumble will also do well to release players who are unlikely to play in a Test match and allow them to play Ranji Trophy games, so they can be match-ready if they need to play the next game. Most times the playing combination is known to the team management as soon as they get to the venue. They will have seen the pitch and assessed if they need an extra batsman or a spinner or a new ball bowler.

Therefore, once that has been done it’s a matter of keeping just the twelfth man in the group and releasing the rest of the players to go play for their state teams. By all means, wait for the morning of the game in case there is a last minute illness or injury that will necessitate a change in plans. If the Ranji Trophy game is starting the next day then it allows the players to get to most places in India.

The domestic fixtures committee and those finalising Test match venues should also see that the state team, where the Test is to be played, does not have a Ranji Trophy match that clashes with the Test match dates. This way, when most of those who are not going to be playing in the Test are released to play for their states, the players — especially the good young ones — of the state where the Test is being played can act as substitutes and in doing so get invaluable experience of the dressing room atmosphere with the Indian national team.

These are small things that can help Indian cricket to a state of preparedness and readiness for whatever the game throws at them. Of course, for that to happen the Indian international season needs be announced well in advance, unlike now, allowing fans to make the necessary travel and staying arrangements and also give time to the state teams to get ready to host the visiting teams.

Things are changing for the better, but they need to change quickly as cricket is no longer the slow moving game it once was and those in charge of it must also move quickly with the times.