Elite-C tops table, bags trophy

SANJAY RAJAN

IT is only natural for one to resist change. But then, the structural modification made to the Duleep Trophy is related to that of the Ranji Trophy, which was altered this year to the two-tier system (Elite and Plate competitions) from the earlier format of the top three teams from each zone qualifying to the next stage.

The victorious Elite-C team which won the Duleep Trophy. — Pic. V. GANESAN-

This knocked off the concept of zone, and while this year's championship was played between the same number of five teams on an all-play-all league basis, three of the squads comprised players from states that competed in the Elite group and the other two from states that contested the Plate event of the Ranji Trophy. South hosted the event.

While there was a mixed response early on, both players and followers seemed to have got a hang of it by the end of the month-long championship, which was won by S.S. Das-led Elite-C.

The new format has more pros than cons, but missing in it is that sense of belonging which the old format offered, as in my zone... my team... my boys. In the old format, there was a sense of team spirit within the sides, arising from the fact that players know each other, having competed with/against the other over the years. For example, a Sriram is no stranger to J. Arun Kumar, though the former hails from Tamil Nadu and the latter from Karnataka. Zonal system has been the essence of the domestic structure, right from junior cricket.

The new format, however, has made the National selectors responsible for the overall selection. It is they who pick the five sides, and have no option but to do it with the objective of finding out who is good for India. As a result of this, regional factors don't interfere much.

30Narendra Hirwani is being congratulated by teammates for taking the wicket of Plate-B captain J. Arun Kumar. Hirwani emerged the highest wicket-taker of the tournament with 34. -- Pic. K. BHAGYA PRAKASH-

In the past, when zonal committees selected their respective sides, state associations exerted pressure, which would invariably show in the end result. Quotas had to be provided and looked after, which should not be the case any more.

The new format, both in Ranji and Duleep, actually provides the selectors with more options. There was balance in the five sides that were picked, the kind that could not be achieved in the zonal format. Like, for example, bowling attacks in the past were lopsided, either owing to the presence of two or more star purveyors of the same art (both of whom had to be played) or the lack of a bowler of a certain variety. There have been instances when cricketers have withered due to lack of opportunities owing to the presence of a better-quality purveyor of the same art in the zone. These will be negated now and there will be equal opportunities for all.

Elite-B's Amit Pagnis cuts Plate-B's Sreekumar Nair to the fence during the course of his splendid 184 in Chennai. -- Pic. V. GANESAN-

This format saw players from the same state locking horns, and the competition for recognition was intense overall. The absence of the stars and the India-A team (in the West Indies) for most part (this was the case last season too) robbed the championship of its sheen, and sadly none from the Duleep performers got a berth to the tri-series in Dhaka. Elite-C topped with 21 points, while its final round opponent, the J. Arun Kumar-led Plate-B, finished runner-up with 19 points. Their meeting in Kochi was the decider, with both teams on 16 points going into the clash. The toss turned out crucial on the flat-bed and Das' side, on winning it, ran up 426 with Hemang Badani leading the way with a neat 129. Plate-B, despite Vijay Bharadwaj's century, could only manage 322 in reply. The five first innings points from the drawn encounter gave Das & Co. the title.

Elite-B finished third with 18 points, Elite-C fourth with 17 and Plate-A five.

J. Arun Kumar's masterly 178 helped Plate-B to post a formidable total of 527 in its first innings against Plate-A at Bangalore. Plate-B finished runner-up. -- Pic. K. BHAGYA PRAKASH-

As was the case last season, matches were played on uncovered pitches, and much like last season the bat dominated the ball with 17 centuries scored compared to the previous edition's 21. Tamil Nadu's Sridharan Sriram topped the list of run-getters for the second year on the trot. He made 416 runs at an average of 83.20, with three centuries. Sujit Somasundar was second with 388 runs and Wasim Jaffer third with 384 runs.

Leg-spinner Narendra Hirwani emerged the highest wicket taker with 34 scalps including four five wicket hauls, followed by Sairaj Bahutule with 22 and Sarandeep Singh with 20.

Plate-B wicket-keeper A.V.Deshpande accounted for most number of dismissals with eight catches and three stumpings.

Nilesh Kulkarni is caught by Amit Pagnis off Sairaj Bahutule in the Elite-B v Elite-C match in Vijayawada. Bahutule bagged six wickets. He claimed 22 wickets in all to finish second, behind Hirwani, in the list of wicket-takers. -- Pic. N. BALAJI-

The BCCI secretary, Karunakaran Nair, said the Board would evaluate the format. "The managers, match referees, captains have sent in their reports. The new format was introduced on an experimental basis," he said.

The scores:

Plate-A 373 in 131 overs (R. Jaiswal 80, R. Barrington 75, S. Joshi 73, D. Ganesh 72, I. Pathan (Jr) five for 88) & 342 in 107.2 overs (T. Naidu 83, S. Joshi 66, D. Ganesh 63, Pathan (Jr) four for 106) drew with Elite-A 281 in 77.2 overs (S. Sriram 119, D. Ganesh three for 44) & 102 for three in 30 overs, at Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai between March 12-15. Points: P-A 5 points; E-A 3.

Elite-B 350 in 92.5 overs (A. Yadav 59, R. Gavaskar 42, T.P. Singh 64, M.S.K. Prasad 40, N. Hirwani six for 80) & 434 in 142.2 overs (A. Pagnis 184, W. Jaffer 59, M.S.K. Prasad 79, Hirwani four for 129) drew with Plate-B 332 in 109.1 overs (S. Somasundar 116, Sreekumar Nair 95, A. Uniyal six for 92) & four for no loss, at ICL-GNC ground, Chennai between March 12-15. E-B 5; P-B 3.

Elite-A 369 in 120.1 overs (S. Ramesh 42, S. Sriram 109, D. Vinay Kumar 125 not out, A. Bhandari three for 107, N. Kulkarni five for 104) & 13 for one in 7.3 overs drew with Elite-C 398 in 119.2 overs (S.S. Das 40, J. Martin 132, P. Dharmani 105, I. Pathan (Jr) four for 101), at Gymkhana, Hyderabad between March 20-23. E-C 5; E-A 3.

Plate-A 247 in 72.2 overs (R. Jaiswal 63, H. Kanitkar 41, S. Sreesanth four for 90, N. Hirwani five for 71) & 273 in 82.4 overs (R. Jaiswal 50, Yashpal Singh 84 not out, Hirwani seven for 129) lost to Plate-B 527 in 148.3 overs (J. Arun Kumar 178, V. Bharadwaj 91, C. Hemant Kumar 88, C. Atram 48, R. Khirid three for 39, S. Joshi three for 134), at Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore between March 20-23. P-B 8, P-A 0.

Plate-B 569 in 160.1 overs (J. Arun Kumar 106, S. Somasundar 153, V. Bharadwaj 69, D. Bundela 101, Sreekumar Nair 58, Sarandeep Singh eight for 180) & 185 for four in 46 overs (S. Somasundar 51, A. Khurasiya 73, Sarandeep Singh three for 49) drew with Elite-A 469 141.3 overs (D. Gandhi 131, Y. Venugopala Rao 127, R. Kanwat 42, N. Hirwani six for 182), at Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore between March 27-30. P-B 5; E-A 3.

Elite-B 390 in 147.4 overs (A. Pagnis 49, W. Jaffer 76, V. Mane 47, T.P. Singh 43, S. Bahutule 61 not out, N. Kulkarni five for 115) & 201 for seven decl. in 48.4 overs (W. Jaffer 102 not out, A. Bhandari three for 60) drew with Elite-C 247 in 99 overs (Y. Goud 46, N.S. Doru 60 not out, S. Bahutule six for 41) & 155 for two in 51 overs (S.S. Parab 65 not out, J. Martin 55 not out), at Indira Gandhi Stadium, Vijayawada, between March 27-30. E-B 5; E-C 3.

Plate-A 263 in 100.1 overs (A. Kale 98, Rajiv Kumar 61, S.K. Trivedi four for 49, A. Bhandari three for 67) & 182 in 61.5 overs (Rajiv Kumar 55, T. Naidu 75, A. Agarkar four for 40, Trivedi four for 41) lost to Elite-C 278 in 99.1 overs (S.S. Das 73, N.S. Doru 74, S. Joshi three for 72) & 172 for one in 46 overs (S.S. Parab 95 not out, Y. Goud 50 not out), at Gymkhana, Hyderabad between April 3-6. E-C 8; P-A 0.

Elite-B 219 in 80.1 overs (W. Jaffer 62, I. Pathan (Jr) three for 53, Sarandeep Singh three for 53) & 220 in 79 overs (G. Pandey 47, S. Bahutule 49, Sarandeep Singh four for 48) lost to Elite-A 362 for eight in 98 overs (G. Gambhir 44, S. Bangar 57, S. Sriram 130 not out, Y. Venugopala Rao 51, S. Bahutule five for 116) & 78 for three in 24.4 overs, at the Chinnaswamy Stadium,Bangalore between April 3-6. E-A 8; E-B 0.

Plate-A 135 in 54.2 overs (R. Barrington 51, A. Uniyal five for 21, S. Bahutule three for 50) & 244 in 71 overs (Yashpal Singh 93, S. Bahutule four for 44) lost to Elite-B 329 in 101.5 overs (V. Mane 76, A. Pagnis 55, A.T. Rayudu 52, H. Kanitkar three for 24) & 53 for one in 7.5 overs, at Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai between April 10-12. E-B 8; P-A 0.

Elite-C 426 in 149.2 overs (S.S. Parab 44, H.K. Badani 129, P. Dharmani 73, J.P. Yadav 41, Sreekumar Nair three for 84) & 167 for seven decl. in 76.1 overs (K. Pawar 50, N. Hirwani four for 49) drew with Plate-B 322 in 122.5 overs (J. Arun Kumar 78, Vijay Bharadwaj 105, N. Kulkarni four for 103, K. Parida three for 100), at Nehru Stadium, Kochi between April 10-13. E-C 5; P-B: 3.