The dream is shattered yet again. The Men’s World Cup is over. In the next 15 months, ahead of the 2025 Champions Trophy, India is scheduled to feature in only nine more ODIs. But come November 23 — less than 96 hours after Rohit Sharma’s men fell short in the World Cup final against Australia — One-Day cricket will be the buzzword for the domestic cricket fraternity. The Vijay Hazare Trophy (VHT), the inter-state one-day championship, will commence at five different venues across India.
Many avid domestic cricket enthusiasts struggle to comprehend the scheduling of the Vijay Hazare Trophy after the World Cup. They question the purpose of conducting the domestic championship in a format likely to be overlooked for the next two years. That said, the complexities in the scheduling of domestic cricket mirror the intricate administration methods in Indian sports, particularly cricket.
The sentiment is not limited to just fans; a majority of players set to take part in the competition share similar concerns. Although reluctant to speak on the record due to potential backlash from administrators, many players privately ponder the ‘what if’ factor.
What if the Vijay Hazare Trophy was held in place of last month’s Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (SMAT)? What if an Indian player had to be replaced midway through the World Cup? Consider that a standout performer in the Vijay Hazare Trophy might have earned a call-up to the India squad.
All these are valid what-ifs. The Vijay Hazare Trophy, had it been scheduled simultaneously with the World Cup, may have served as an opportunity for possible replacements should the need have arisen.
Instead, the BCCI organised the Mushtaq Ali Trophy to help the Indian Premier League (IPL) franchises identify promising talent. The unnecessary yet irreplaceable thrust on the IPL has led to the Vijay Hazare Trophy being made redundant. With the franchises set to finalise the retention list by November 26, the short window between the SMAT and the VHT enabled the franchises to conduct trials for the players ahead of next month’s auction.
Not a single member of India’s World Cup squad, including Prasidh Krishna, who replaced the injured Hardik Pandya midway through the tournament, is likely to feature in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. Moreover, the next best 15 white-ball players will feature in the T20I series against Australia and South Africa. That further takes the sheen off the Vijay Hazare Trophy. Still, the domestic cricket regulars are now used to being ignored by the powers that be. The players realise that this season’s Vijay Hazare Trophy is all about prestige and the bank balance.
Still, a select group of players will be looking at making a case for a recall in the national team set-up; Jaydev Unadkat is one of them. The Saurashtra captain was recalled in the run-up to the World Cup and even made it to the Test team. But having been ignored in the last few months, Unadkat will have more to aspire for than just defending Saurashtra’s crown.
Ditto with Sanju Samson. The Kerala captain, snubbed for Australia T20Is, will be eager to make a point with an eye on the 2024 T20 World Cup. Meanwhile, Karun Nair, now representing Vidarbha, would aim to make positive headlines with his batting skills and contribute to Vidarbha’s quest for knockout qualification.
Sailing in the same boat is Riyan Parag. Having had a sensational run in last season’s VHT, Riyan continued his silken touch in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. He has also failed to make the cut for T20Is against Australia and will hope to repeat Assam’s last year’s feat of storming into the semifinals, if not progress further.
Baroda captain Krunal Pandya will be eager to continue his side’s fruitful form from SMAT and possibly make a case for a recall into the national set-up.
Tamil Nadu is hoping for the return of Dinesh Karthik to the field from the commentary box to be beneficial for its campaign. Karthik has been given the captaincy and is eager to prepare himself for the IPL while also grooming the next group of Tamil Nadu players. The team has underperformed in the two longer formats in the domestic set-up, but with Karthik leading the way, it hopes to turn things around and achieve greater success.
Just like Tamil Nadu, Mumbai and Maharashtra will bank on veterans Ajinkya Rahane and Kedar Jadhav, respectively, to lead their respective troupes.
Will the Vijay Hazare Trophy generate any buzz beyond domestic cricket loyalists? Or will the BCCI improve scheduling next year, at least? Take your pick!
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