Curators need to buck up

Co-ordination is an important attribute for success when too many components are involved in any system. Hence, it is extremely critical for the curators and selectors to work in tandem for the betterment of the game.

The new domestic season in Indian cricket kicked off with the N. K. P. Salve Challenger Trophy in Rajkot, and the expectations were high like it normally is at the start of every season. The format of the Challenger Trophy sported a new look with the National champions of the 50-over tournament facing off with the India ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams. The matches were watched by all the members of the new selection committee at the new stadium in Rajkot. Niranjan Shah, a seasoned and popular administrator who has managed the Saurashtra Cricket Association for decades, was keen on getting a feedback on the new stadium. He was also proud to explain in detail the facilities at the venue.

The stadium, no doubt, has come out well enough, but there was nothing new about the vital ingredient of any venue — the pitch. It was a belter of a track, giving bowlers no chance whatsoever. The bowlers may well have preferred a highway or an autobahn to bowl on rather than the one they got at Rajkot.

The high scores clearly indicated the extent to which the pitch favoured the batsmen despite one single strip being used for all the matches! The administrators of the Association cannot be faulted for their propensity to play it safe, but the curators (read members of the pitches committee) have to take it upon themselves to set things right. It is all right to venture into preparing reams of procedures and reports, but at the end of the day, it is the behaviour of the pitch that matters the most.

At a time when Indian cricket is on the threshold of a major transition it is of paramount importance for the people in charge of pitches to realise the huge role they have to play. Unfortunately, their mantra seems to be to leave things as they are lest it might put their jobs/positions in jeopardy.

I am sure the selectors would not have gone back any wiser after seeing the Challenger Trophy, but the tragedy is that they cannot ignore the performances in the tournament. The likes of Pujara and M. Vijay are seasoned performers in domestic cricket and obviously, it was not a surprise to see them plunder runs in favourable conditions. But how is one going to get even an inkling of the ability of the bowlers on placid pitches? How will the selectors gauge the temperament of batsmen when the conditions are not anywhere close to being challenging? Sandeep Patil and Co. are expected to pick the best possible team for the country but they are seriously handicapped if they are to go by the numbers players put up in domestic cricket. Agreed, the selectors are paid handsomely and as such are accountable, but aren’t the members of the pitches committee paid too?

It will not be a bad idea for the BCCI to make the members of the selection committee assess the pitches across the country and grade them. Their grading should then be the benchmark for staging the most important matches of the Indian domestic circuit. After all, the selectors are expected to pick teams that will bring laurels to the country and who better than them to decide what attributes they are to look for while picking the players. However, in order to do so, they should also be included in the scheme of things with regard to the surfaces on which players play in important games that form the basis for selection. Co-ordination is an important attribute for success when too many components are involved in any system. Hence, it is extremely critical for the curators and selectors to work in tandem for the betterment of the game.