TN skipper Mukund not pleased with neutral venues

The Tamil Nadu captain not only sums up his thoughts but in so many ways, represents the thoughts of a majority of cricketers who have been part of the neutral venue circus over the last three months.

"It’s really important to play at home," said the Tamil Nadu skipper Abhinav Mukund.   -  C. V. Subrahmanyam

“Shall I keep naming the cons?” is Abhinav Mukund’s instant response, when asked about the neutral venues thrust upon domestic teams for the ongoing Ranji Trophy season. Two minutes later, he ends with: “Pros? I don’t know any.”

In between, however, the Tamil Nadu captain not only sums up his thoughts but in so many ways, represents the thoughts of a majority of cricketers who have been part of the neutral venue circus over the last three months.

“First of all, every association has to provide balls. Before every game, there is a matter of umpires and match referees coming to the captain and coach and saying, “we need four balls, we need five balls”. There’s an issue with the balls every single game. I cannot have such problem in a knockout game. In a Ranji Trophy semifinal, if you can come and tell me (before the match), ‘I don’t have balls in the ball box’; I don’t understand that. That is point one.”

Hang on, take a pause. In a home and away set-up, the host association (read home team) conventionally provides practice balls. However, this season, since the host association is not even remotely interested in the proceedings, the host associations declined to spend on buying practice balls. Instead of making practice balls available to the teams, the BCCI, after receiving complaints from several teams, distanced itself from the issue, asking teams to arrange for practice balls on their own.

Let’s get back to Abhinav’s assessment. “Secondly, I don’t think anyone actually gives a damn about the wickets that are being prepared. Everyone’s playing safe, which is why people are playing more than 1000 runs, 1500 runs and I don’t see many spinners coming into play at all,” says the eloquent batsman.

“I don’t like this concept mainly because of the fact that there’s no continuity. You play throughout the year in one condition — it’s really important to play at home. These are the kind of things you grow up as a cricketer. So many cricketers who have made debut for us this year haven’t played at Chepauk. That’s such a big thing for me, at least.”

Point taken. One of the primary objective of introducing neutral venues for Ranji Trophy, according to the former (read dispelled) BCCI president Anurag Thakur, was to make more result-oriented wickets. However, that hasn’t reflected in reality, with the percentage of outright results in the league stage (49.56) falling from last year’s 47.22.