The decision by the BCCI to suspend the IPL till April 15 is a laudable one. The health and safety of a nation are more important than sport and it’s wonderful that the usually much-maligned BCCI has put that before anything else.
The BCCI often gets pilloried for putting revenues ahead of everything else, but with this bold, courageous and correct decision, hopefully, it will have put a stop to this accusation. That will, of course, be too much to ask for in a country that invariably loves pulling one another down. What will no doubt help BCCI to get rid of this tag of being money-minded is if it encourages charity even more, be it through the IPL or any other events under its control.
Yes, there may be a tax angle to that too, but like the Australian and English Boards have an annual Day for a charity at a Test match, something similar would definitely help the Indian Board to improve its image.
The Australian and English boards have a pink day for one Test every summer for fundraising and more crucially creating awareness of cancer with their Jane McGrath and Ruth Strauss days. The BCCI could zero in on a charity that it feels deserves assistance and earmark one or maybe more days in the domestic international calendar where all proceeds of the day will go to the charity.
Whether the IPL will be played at all depends on how quickly the spread of COVID-19 is controlled. Till April 15 overseas players won’t get a visa so it may take a bit longer for the tournament to take off. Foreign players bring a different flavour to the tournament and add to the excitement, so it’s important to have them.
Having said that, for a so-called top BCCI official to comment that “the BCCI has to ensure the quality of the game is not poor. We did not want a Mushtaq Ali tournament,” is an incredibly insensitive statement if indeed it is true. Firstly, it’s insulting to the great man after whom the tournament is named and secondly begs the question that if it’s such a “poor” tournament, then why have it at all? Also, can light be shed on why the quality of the tournament is poor? Surely it’s not simply because there are no international players in it, but also because there are no Indian internationals in it! That is a scheduling issue that the BCCI has to look at.
This year’s domestic schedule has to be amongst the most thoughtless ones in recent memory. The Ranji Trophy was marginalised not only by the international season where India players couldn’t play for their state teams, but also by the scheduling of an India A tour to New Zealand bang in the middle of the Ranji season which deprived some states of the cream of their talent!
There was also the ICC under-19 World Cup which of course is not scheduled by the BCCI, but again some of the promising youngsters who could have played for their states were away in South Africa. Once again there was the mistaken notion of thinking that Indian cricket is the senior Indian cricket team when in fact Indian cricket is club cricket, school cricket, first class cricket, ‘A’ list cricket, junior cricket and these should never be diluted.
That said, Saurashtra deserves heartiest congratulations for winning the Ranji Trophy for the first time. It was a sustained effort over the last decade or so by the team, culminating in this triumph. There were some heartbreaks along the way as the team finished runner-up three times before winning in its fourth appearance in the final.
Mohandas Menon, ‘the Sachin Tendulkar’ of statisticians, has come up with some fabulous nuggets. Nawanagar (HQ Jamnagar) played Ranji Trophy from 1936/37 to 1947/48 and won the title on debut in 1936/37 when it beat Bengal in the final! Western India States Agency (HQ Rajkot) appeared in Ranji Trophy from 1934/35 to 1945/46 and won the title in 1943/44 when it beat Bengal in the final. Kathiawar appeared in Ranji Trophy from 1946/47 to 1949/50. These three sides merged to become Saurashtra in 1950/51 and when Saurashtra became Ranji champion for the first time recently, it beat Bengal!
Also, when Saurashtra won its first national title in the 50 overs Vijay Hazare Trophy event in 2007/08, guess which team it beat in the final? Yup, it was Bengal again!
In the last few years, there have been new champions in the Ranji Trophy with Vidarbha winning it back to back and now Saurashtra. This is a great sign for Indian cricket as talent is now coming to the fore from all corners of the country and not just the metros.
Well done, Saurashtra and let’s hope it’s the first of many more titles to come.