Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy: A race against time for most state units

State associations are facing various challenges as they attempt to speed up the preparations for Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, which begins on January 10.

Some state associations across the country are yet to decide on their staff and team composition besides arranging a training camp for the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.   -  VIJAY SONEJI

If things go as per plan, Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy is set to begin on January 10, next year across cities. While this comes as a big relief for the domestic cricketers and the coaching staff, this is a race against time for most of the state associations.

Even though a few have already started training camps and the basic preparations, some are far from it. For instance, Mumbai Cricket Association is yet to appoint a coach for the season, and with the COVID-19 protocols in place, the players haven’t had any opportunity to train.  It’s quite a similar story for many units, who were waiting for clarity from the Board before planning for the season.

However, Mumbai Cricket Association secretary Sanjay Naik told Sportstar that the coach and the selection committee should be picked in a couple of days. "We haven't got the permission from the state government for training. We are hoping that in a day or two, we get the permission to practice at the indoor facility at least so that our boys can have some training. Otherwise, we have to look for a different location where cricket is allowed. We are working on it and we will have a solution within a couple of days," Naik said.

“At the moment we are trying to talk to the authorities and we will take a call on the training sessions and other things accordingly,” Vidarbha Cricket Association chief Anand Jaiswal told Sportstar. The two-time Ranji Trophy champion side has decided to go ahead with the local coaches after the exit of Chandrakant Pandit. “Even though Pandit left, we have our other coaches. Since only the senior coaches will be allowed in the tournament, we can use the coaches from the other age-groups as well,” Jaiswal said.

VVS Laxman to attend Bengal team's preparatory camp  

One of the worst-hit states in the COVID-19 pandemic, the Maharashtra state government has not allowed outdoor sporting activities yet, making the job difficult for the three associations - the VCA, Mumbai Cricket Association and Maharashtra Cricket Association to start any sort of activities.

While the Mumbai Cricket Association hopes to get things sorted within the next week, it could be a challenge for the state units to put things together in such a short notice.

Even as cases continue to spike in Gujarat, the Saurashtra Cricket Association has already started its camp in Rajkot in a bio-secure environment, under the watchful eyes of Sitanshu Kotak and Niraj Odedra. “We have started the practice sessions following all the Standard Operating Procedures suggested by the BCCI. All the players underwent multiple rounds of tests and everything is being taken into consideration. We are just glad that finally cricketing activities have started,” SCA president Jaydev Shah said.

Domestic cricket season to begin with Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy on January 10  

The other two state associations from the state - Gujarat Cricket Association and Baroda Cricket Association - have also started conducting camps and have also hosted a few friendlies. “We have adhered to the SOPs given to us by the BCCI. We have made sure that we tick all the boxes and continue our training and practice sessions following the government guidelines,” Baroda’s CEO, Shishir Hattangadi, said. A former Mumbai Ranji Trophy captain, Hattangadi also insisted that the selection committee is expected to meet next week to pick the squad for the Mushtaq Ali Trophy.

Bigger squad

Youngster Priyam Garg will lead Uttar Pradesh in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy next year.   -  Twitter

 

This season, Goa has roped in erstwhile India pacer Ashok Dinda as a guest player and the team - coached by Dodda Ganesh - has been practising at its facility in Porvorim. According to the Goa Cricket Association secretary Vipul Phadke, the association plans to finalise a ‘bigger squad’ in the next few days. “Since the teams will be inside a bio-bubble, it will not be possible for us to make any changes to the squad later, so we plan to name a squad of 20 players, which will be of help,” Phadke said.

Uttar Pradesh has started its camp in Kanpur and has been joined by Suresh Raina - who quit international cricket in August. While his presence will be a boost, the Uttar Pradesh team is set to be led by youngster Priyam Garg.

Ranji Trophy champion Saurashtra to start white-ball camp on Friday  

The Cricket Association of Bengal, too, is starting its camp on Thursday at the Jadavpur University grounds in Kolkata. While there are still doubts whether head coach Arun Lal - who is 65-year-old - will be part of the camp, the CAB has roped in former India batsman VVS Laxman for the camp. Having successfully conducted the Bengal T20 Challenge at Eden Gardens recently, the CAB is confident that things will fall in place. “We will have a meeting with the medical committee and will follow all the protocols during the camp,” CAB chief Avishek Dalmiya said.

Even though the Board has not made things official yet, chances are high that Kolkata could be one of the venues for the Mushtaq Ali Trophy and the state association is ‘ready’ to host the tournament across the four venues.

‘Nothing has been decided’

Irfan Pathan was the mentor for Jammu and Kashmir last season.   -  V. V. Subrahmanyam

 

While most of the associations are trying to get things in order, the Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association is yet to take a call on the camp and the coaching staff. Last season, the team reached the quarterfinals of the Ranji Trophy under the coaching of Milap Mewada and mentorship of former India pacer Irfan Pathan.

But JKCA CEO Ashiq Ali Bukhari stated that no decision has been taken on the coaching staff yet. “We just received the circular from the BCCI on Sunday and we will have to take a call soon. Nothing has been decided yet,” Bukhari said. “Now, it’s winter in Srinagar, so we will have to hold our camps in Jammu. We are trying to organise everything quickly,” Bukhari said.

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Even for the state associations from northeast, it remains a challenge to arrange everything in such a short notice. Even though associations like Sikkim and Meghalaya had already started their preparations weeks back, some units were waiting for the BCCI’s communication to go ahead with planning. “The time is less and we have to organise the camps at IG Park in Itanagar. There are challenges for sure, but we have to start somewhere,” an official from Arunachal Pradesh Cricket Association said, indicating that the association is likely to continue with Sanjeev Sharma as the coach.

“Since the time is short and we don’t know if there will be a longer season, we have to stick to our old set-up and get things sorted. The players have not had much training, but in such times, every opportunity counts,” the state unit official added.

Even a few weeks ago, not many state bodies were optimistic about the season, but now, they hope to overcome the odds and play some cricket.