Duleep before Ranji — the way to go

East Zone skipper Sourav Ganguly with the Zimbabwe President's XI team, which lost by an innings and 17 runs in the Duleep Trophy in Mumbai. The team, according to the author, proved to be the most expensive guests.-PTI

TOP Indian cricketers — former cricketers included — have a peculiar mindset. They are never satisfied with what the BCCI is doing for the game, but have no ideas of their own on how the game should be organised in the country. Fed up of criticism, the BCCI started inviting captains and coaches of Ranji teams for the Ranji Trophy Captains' and Coaches' Conclave. The idea was to have a healthy discussion on certain aspects of the game to improve the standard of domestic cricket.

One opinion that had majority backing was that the Duleep Trophy should be played before the Ranji Trophy starts, rather than the other way round as is the practice now. The logic behind this particular suggestion was to give the top 75 players from five zones an opportunity to perform in order to be in contention for a place in the Indian side. A very good argument, and it was accepted by the BCCI, but people who chose not to attend the conclave despite being invited to do so made a hue and cry about the `outrageousness' of the Duleep Trophy being played before the Ranji Trophy.

It is interesting to hear their views. For them, Ranji Trophy is the national championship and based on the performances of players in the Ranji Trophy, players should get selected for the Duleep Trophy at the end of the season. By playing Duleep Trophy before Ranji Trophy, the BCCI is `diluting' the importance of the Ranji Trophy, felt these critics.

I have not been able to understand this `diluting' business. How does performance in the Duleep Trophy played after Ranji Trophy in February help a player get into the Indian team? Apart from England, all the other countries have an off-season. The player's form during the season is a total waste if it can't get him closer to the national dressing room. Almost 405 players from 27 associations (15 players x 27 associations) participate in the Ranji Trophy and the zonal selectors are expected to pick top 75 players out of these for the five zonal teams.

This system's big advantage to selectors and the coach of the national team is that these 75 players get a chance to perform so that some of them could be considered for international series played between November and March. The most hypocritical comment came from the West Zone captain Sairaj Bahutule who said that if the Duleep Trophy is played before the Ranji Trophy, players won't feel motivated to play Ranji matches.

The most hypocritical comment came from the West Zone captain Sairaj Bahutule who said that if the Duleep Trophy is played before the Ranji Trophy, players won't feel motivated to play Ranji matches.-P.V.SIVAKUMAR

It's sad but true that many players keep playing Ranji Trophy because of the Rs. 30,000 they get per match. For these players, money is the motivating factor. These players are anything but keen to play for the India `A' team during the off-season, because there is hardly any money playing for India `A'. The BCCI has done the right thing by scheduling the Duleep Trophy ahead of the Ranji Trophy this year.

If at all there is a valid criticism, it's about the selection of the zonal teams. At the international level, the national selection committee is giving a lot of youngsters chances. But glance through the composition of the 75 players chosen to play for their respective zones and one finds on an average two new youngsters per zone have played Duleep Trophy this year. If the intention of playing the tournament in November is to look for fresh talent, why were only 10 youngsters picked? Has the non-performing 33-year-old Jacob Martin any future?

Finally, the BCCI must stop inviting foreign teams for the Duleep Trophy. Zimbabwe President's XI proved to be the most expensive guests. Even a Mumbai or Chennai club team can beat them by innings. It was a terrible outfit which looked either incompetent or disinterested. Aren't we depriving 15 more Indian cricketers from participating in the Duleep Trophy? Getting the National Cricket Academy to play in the Duleep Trophy would be more beneficial to Indian cricket than inviting trifling teams from Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.

Suresh Raina, R. P. Singh, V. R. V. Singh, Piyush Chawla, Shabaz Nadeem and some other boys are the product of the NCA which had played a match against the Zimbabwe national team in 2002. Yuvraj Singh and Mohd. Kaif played in that match. The youngsters groomed at the NCA must get good exposure. Currently, India's cricket politics has created an unfortunate situation. Most of the NCA boys don't get picked for their states. Even the coaches who have cleared Level II and III are not given assignments by some associations.

Hopefully the BCCI, which has been busy in elections, will appoint a Cricket Planning Commission to look into various measures that will make the base of Indian cricket strong. The emergence of talent from Ranchi, Moradabad, Rai Barelli, Ghaziabad and Bokaro has given the Talent Resource Development Wing enough hints to hunt for the talent.

The TRDW project that I presented to the BCCI in 2002 is giving good results, and the emergence of talent from the districts is a good sign for the future of Indian cricket.