New format will revive Duleep Trophy, feel experts

The BCCI technical committee quashed the zonal format of what has traditionally been the inter-zonal tournament and the ultimate selection trial till the early 1990s. The tournament will now have four teams which will be nominated by the national selectors.

With the big names missing from the domestic circuit, the BCCI has constantly tinkered with the Duleep Trophy in the 21st Century.   -  R. V Moorthy

While reviving the Duleep Trophy, which had been suspended last year considering India’s international calendar focussing on Twenty20s, the Board of Control for Cricket in India last week announced two major changes in its structures. While enough has been discussed about trying out the pink ball under floodlights, the other major change in the format hasn’t quite been spoken about.

The BCCI technical committee quashed the zonal format of what has traditionally been the inter-zonal tournament and the ultimate selection trial till the early 1990s. The tournament will now have four teams which will be nominated by the national selectors. It is a major step in reviving the relevance of a tournament that had not been serving its original purpose.

“Duleep Trophy had started getting irrelevant, so the new format is good. It will make the tournament competitive, as against the last few editions where players seemed to be going through the motions,” Kiran More, the former India wicket-keeper and chief selector, said.

“The new format will lend pride of lifting a highly competitive tournament. It was also observed that the zonal teams didn’t really play as a team, so this format will hopefully bring back the team spirit and showcase excellent quality of cricket.”

For the last decade or so, before the BCCI suspended it last season, the Duleep Trophy had largely been reduced to either a fitness trial for an injured India regular or a tournament for second-rung players who would knock on the selectors’ door to be considered for India 'A' tours. As a result, it didn't serve its original purpose of spotting an India international.

More isn’t alone in supporting the new format.

“Duleep Trophy has a rich heritage. I could play for India mainly on the basis of my performances in the Duleep Trophy. But its stature has reduced in the recent times, so it is a very good move to change the structure,” said Pravin Amre, the former India batsman, now a renowned coach. “You have to adapt to the changing times and teams selected by national selectors will not only make it competitive but also hopefully will bring the crowd back into the stands. The new structure will give the Duleep Trophy its due, just like the way the Ranji Trophy and the IPL get in domestic cricket.”

With the big names missing from the domestic circuit, the BCCI has constantly tinkered with the Duleep Trophy in the 21st century. In 2002-03, the BCCI deviated from the zonal format and formed five teams – three from Ranji Trophy’s Elite division and two from Plate. Since it didn’t really work, it reverted to the zonal format next year, with an addition of an overseas team. After disbanding the overseas team’s participation in 2008-09, the BCCI recently changed the league-cum-final format to a knockout structure.

While the general feeling among active and former cricketers is a thumbs up to Sourav Ganguly’s technical committee for amending the format, some are apprehensive as well. “We are always apprehensive about any change because we don’t know how it will work. Obviously they have considered a lot of points for it to be tried,” said Sujith Somasunder, the former Karnataka and India batsman. “We need to wait and see how it pans out. If it doesn’t work out, we can always go back to the older format.”

  Dugout videos