BCCI domestic season 2020-21: Slow decline for Buchi Babu, Moin-ud-Dowlah Gold Cup

Not held for the last two years, the COVID-19 pandemic could force the HCA and the TNCA to ignore these tourneys once again.

VVS Laxman in action during a Buchi Babu Trophy match in Chennai on August 16, 1991.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

With many players yet to return to cricket training amidst the yet-to-abate COVID-19 pandemic, States are gearing up for a curtailed domestic season ahead. In usual times, when the season begins by October, the Buchi Babu invitational tournament in Chennai and the Moin-ud-Dowlah Gold Cup in Hyderabad serve as appetisers ahead of the main course, a warm-up for the players ahead of the real grind; this time, these State association events, undergoing a slow decline, may be further pushed to the background.

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Given the packed international and domestic calendars in recent years, prominent India players are no longer attracted by these tournaments as they used to be, when they had lustre. While the Hyderabad Cricket Association has expressed eagerness to accommodate the Gold Cup this year, the Buchi Babu tournament is all but cancelled for 2020.

Hot Weather Tournaments
  • Buchi Babu invitational tournament:
  • Buchi Babu, a businessman, developed cricket in Chennai (then Madras) in colonial India and the tournament was begun as a tribute to him
  • Moin-ud-Dowlah Gold Cup:
  • Moin-ud-Dowlah, a nobleman, turned Hyderabad into a prominent hub of cricket during the 1930s with the Gold Cup which attracted the best players from around India and even abroad.
  • The JP Atray memorial tournament:
  • Begun in the memory of JP Atray in 1992 - an IPS officer and the president of the Haryana Cricket Association - a year after his death, it continues to attract prominent players from around the country in September every year

Both were begun by or in honour of patrons of cricket in their respective regions. While Buchi Babu, a businessman, developed cricket in Chennai (then Madras) in colonial India and the tournament was begun as a tribute to him, Moin-ud-Dowlah, a nobleman, turned Hyderabad into a prominent hub of cricket during the 1930s with the Gold Cup which attracted the best players from around India and even abroad.

Nowadays, these tournaments aren’t even held regularly. The last time the Gold Cup was arranged was in August, 2017, as a 50-over competition. The Buchi Babu tournament, too, was shelved in 2018 and 2019; the Tamil Nadu Premier League, also organised by the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association, overshadows it as it is held at around the same time.

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The JP Atray memorial tournament, on the other hand, has continued uninterrupted in Chandigarh since its inception in 1992. Begun in the memory of JP Atray - an IPS officer and the president of the Haryana Cricket Association - a year after his death, it continues to attract prominent players from around the country in September every year, although in the last few years there aren’t as many recognisable faces as there used to be. This year, given the circumstances, it could instead be held in October or November, or postponed to next year.

Proliferation of matches

According to Vivek Atray, who organises the tournament on behalf of the JP Atray memorial society with the support of the Punjab Cricket Association, “For our tournament, I would say the golden era was about four-five years ago. But I wouldn’t say the golden era is gone or anything, because among the one-day tournaments of India, we are probably among the top two or three tournaments.”

Commenting on the difficulties in recent years, he said, “The matches and the number of States has increased so tremendously. I was also involved in the Chandigarh association; Chandigarh is another team which has come into the Ranji Trophy. The season has expanded and hundreds of matches are played every year. We used to have a slot ordinarily for the end of September, and we would get a slot of about a week from the BCCI and their season would typically begin from October, that was what used to happen till two or three years ago.

“Last year, the [BCCI] told us ‘you do it in the first week of September’, which is actually a very rainy time. But luckily for us, first week of September we did it last year, and it went off well without any rain except in one game I think, and we were able to complete a very good tournament and we got good players this time because we did it in the first week of September. We got good participation and good players. I don’t recall the international players who were there but Wasim Jaffer was there, and some younger players were also there.”

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'Prestigious tournament'

For the Moin-ud-Dowlah Gold Cup, the ‘golden era’ lasted until eight or 10 years ago, according to R. Vijayanand, secretary of the Hyderabad Cricket Association. “In 2014-15 or 2015-16 we conducted 5,500 matches in the domestic season. At that time also, we had the Moin-ud-Dowlah tournament. Now also, we’ll try to accommodate that and the zonals, in our domestic season,” Vijayanand told Sportstar.

“The Moin-ud-Dowlah is our prestigious tournament, there’s no doubt about it. Our staff has been affected by the coronavirus. Our apex body will meet and we are waiting for guidelines from the BCCI, then only can we start our domestic tournaments,” he said.

Says Kasi Viswanathan, former secretary of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association, “T20 tournaments are also held during this period. The associations’ T20 tournaments like the TNPL and the [Karnataka Premier League], all of them are being held at this time. So, it is difficult to get the time slots for these tournaments.”

The Buchi Babu tournament is usually held in August when it is relatively dry in Chennai as compared to other parts of the country. Yet, in the last few years, procuring prominent players has been difficult.

“It depends on the availability of the players. There was some other tournament also going on at that time [in the last few years]. So, that’s the reason why it was difficult [to procure players for the tournament]. Otherwise players’ availability is always good because all those States who cannot play at this point of time – they would have their monsoons – [would want to play]. So that way there should not be a problem,” Kasi said.

Given the ongoing spread of COVID-19 in Tamil Nadu, especially in Chennai – the State registered 82 deaths on Wednesday – practice facilities may not open soon. “People have to start practising, and coming back to fitness. That itself will take about four weeks; even if the lockdown is lifted, they need one month to get into shape. So, that’s why this year the chances of hosting the tournament are very bleak,” Kasi declared.

 

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